Unleash Your Inner Company

Unleash Your Inner Company

by John Chisholm
Unleash Your Inner Company

Unleash Your Inner Company

by John Chisholm


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Unleash Your Inner Company distills John Chisholm’s four decades of successful entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley into ten steps to discover, launch, and scale the ideal business for you. You will learn how to:

• Mobilize your passions and perseverance to reinforce each other and achieve your goals
• Discover unsatisfied human and customer needs in those areas where you have natural advantages
• Match those needs with your resources and strengths (your “STARS”) to assess which needs fit you best
• Improve those fits by acquiring and developing the right resources and strengths; differentiate yourself by being not better, but different, from competitors, even well-established ones
• Innovate by combining things you already know in novel ways
• Partner with firms and individuals so you and your business can focus on what you do best
• Evaluate your options and choose the best one for you
• Launch and scale up your successful business, uniquely tailored to you and your strengths.

Along the way, you will discover:

• That you have many more resources and advantages for success than you realize
• How and when to choose a co-founder and team members
• How to avoid competitors, and thus gain time and space to get established
• How to find, nurture, and ride positive feedback loops within yourself, with your team members, and among your customers
• How to build and maintain your self-confidence despite setbacks
• If, when, and how to raise money
• How to evolve and scale your business, no matter how modest, into a large enterprise, if you so desire
• When to comply with, or circumvent, or oppose regulations that impede the formation or growth of your business
• What you can learn from Apple, Google, Facebook, and Uber.

You will learn from the author’s mistakes—as many as he was able to squeeze into the 400 pages of this book—so you don’t make the same ones.

Regardless of your background, location, interests, and passions, the timeless and universal insights, principles, anecdotes, and exercises of Unleash Your Inner Company will inspire and guide you from your first steps, through every kind of obstacle, to the ultimate success of your venture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632993083
Publisher: River Grove Books
Publication date: 08/28/2020
Pages: 430
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

JOHN CHISHOLM, CEO of San Francisco-based John Chisholm Ventures, has three decades of experience as Silicon Valley entrepreneur, CEO, and investor. He founded online software companies Decisive Technology (now part of Google) and CustomerSat (now part of Confirmit). He has invested in dozens of privately held companies and mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs on five continents.

He is president and chairman of the worldwide MIT Alumni Association, a trustee of MIT and of the Santa Fe Institute, and a contributor to Forbes. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Read an Excerpt

Unleash Your Inner Company

Use Passion and Perseverance to Build Your Ideal Business

By John Chisholm

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2015 John Chisholm
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-211-8




* * *

It doesn't get easier. You get stronger. — Anonymous

In the first half of 2001, the dot-com bust, I would often wake up around 2 a.m. with sweat-soaked sheets sticking to my skin. CustomerSat's second round of financing, long planned for that January, had refused to come together despite a flurry of meetings as we ran out of cash. Those nights I would get up, shower off the sweat, and try to get back to sleep. When my executive team and I finally grasped that the Series B round was not going to close, we huddled to decide what to do. First, we cut our salaries, then several weeks later those of all our employees, by 10 percent; I cut my own salary and that of my CFO by 50 percent. Debating and agonizing over every individual, we laid off 40 percent of our workforce. In our all-hands meeting immediately after, as I explained to our remaining employees that this was the only way we could keep together and stay afloat, my composure collapsed and I broke down sobbing. Our employees stood stunned, sympathetic, and embarrassed.

After many consecutive quarters of profit and growth, our recurring revenues had dropped that first quarter of 2001 by a whopping 20 percent. Our first customers to stop paying were themselves dot-com companies, like highflier Webvan, who would file for bankruptcy in July2001 just sixteen months after their initial public offering (IPO). Later, even Fortune 500 companies discontinued our online survey services or simply stopped paying. To help us get through, one of our Series A investors lent me $300,000 — -for but not to the company — meaning that I, the CEO and founder, would be personally liable for repaying the loan. The cash would last us ninety days. Later I would pay back the investor — to whom, despite the arrangement, I was deeply grateful — by mortgaging my townhouse in Menlo Park, California.

The next quarter our revenues fell again. To make payroll this time, we factored receivables, a costly maneuver, and cut salaries by an additional 10 percent. I reduced my salary to minimum wage, the legal limit. Our company moved into the second floor of our building and rented out the more attractive ground floor to another start-up. That company quit paying us rent after three months, came in late one weekend night, cleaned out their offices, and vanished without notice. The nightmare would not end.

After those fitful nights and drastic actions of the first half of 2001, we could finally see profitability ahead in the third quarter. Then, on September 11, terrorists viciously attacked US targets including the World Trade Center. Enveloped in smoke, dust, and debris, the twin 110-floor towers crumpled and collapsed. With much of the US northeast communications grid down, just accounting for all our employees took hours of emailing, phone calling, and pleading to know who had heard from whom. Our VP Sales Russ Haswell was marooned in London, unable to get back to the United States; our client invited him to stay at their home. The next day I was finally able to broadcast the message, "All CustomerSat team members are safe." The US West Coast escaped the full brunt of the horror, but even in Silicon Valley, every company I knew had customers or suppliers who lost employees or family members in the attacks. Our client Akamai Technologies lost its brilliant cofounder Danny Lewin on American Airlines flight 11. Our salespeople were calling insurance and other firms in the World Trade Center; tragically, their phones just rang and rang. After the dot-com bust, September 11 was the final blow for many start-ups.

We broke even in the third quarter, a milestone and quiet relief. A very small profit followed in the fourth. The going stayed tough through all of 2002 and the first half of 2003, during which time we didn't hire a single new employee. But we made it through. CustomerSat stayed profitable and grew nearly every quarter until the company was acquired in March 2008. Only a fraction of Internet companies survived; even fewer went on to successful exits. Why did CustomerSat do so when others did not?

* * *

Unleash Your Inner Company distills three decades of real-world lessons I have learned about entrepreneurship. During that time I have founded, grown, and sold two online software companies; cofounded a third; invested in a dozen privately held companies, several of which have had successful initial public offerings (IPOs — also known as "going public"); started and run consultancies in strategic marketing and entrepreneurship; and mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs on five continents. My mission today and for the past five years is to help aspiring entrepreneurs achieve the freedom, independence, and ability to do what they love through entrepreneurship. This book is part of that mission.

Unleash Your Inner Company offers unique guidance and perspective for anyone who wants to start and grow a business:

• Entrepreneurs are not interchangeable like batteries or light bulbs; the best opportunity for you is unique to you.

• You have many more resources than you likely realize to start a company and make it successful.

• Positive feedback loops pervade multiple aspects of your start-up and life; find, nurture, and ride them.

• Psychology is an essential part of strategy.

• Any business, no matter how modest, can be evolved and scaled into a large business, if desired.

This book provides a proven, step-by-step process: (1) Identify/ develop your passions, (2) Generate/refine customer needs in those areas, (3) Generate possible solutions to those needs, (4) Inventory your resources, (4a) Generate additional needs suggested by your resources, (5) Match needs with resources, (6) Acquire/develop additional resources, (7) Determine your advantages, (8) Match needs with advantages to select the best fit, (9) Launch, and (10) Scale up.

This ten-step process, explained in greater detail in chapter 2 figure 2.4 and the flowchart in figure 2.5, guides you in finding and creating the best start-up for you, whether you choose mobile apps, construction, robotics, hairdressing, management consulting, gourmet food, enterprise software, or any other field.

In Unleash Your Inner Company, you first discover the essential roles of passion and perseverance and how to develop them. You see how to identify dozens of unsatisfied customer needs among your passions, develop solutions and build the advantages as required to satisfy those needs, and determine which needs you can satisfy most successfully. It doesn't matter whether you have a product or service in mind or not; here we start with customer needs, which precede products and services. By following the steps in this book, you vastly improve the likelihood of your start-up's success.

This is the only book you need to start the right business for you. Unleash Your Inner Company shows you how you can take your future into your own hands, follow your passions, and spend the rest of your life contributing to the world in the way you love best.

* * *

Why did CustomerSat survive and thrive while others did not? More generally, why do some companies do so while others do not? I don't believe we were smarter than any other company execs. We did act very quickly to minimize damage to our company. But if I had to choose a single factor, I believe that underneath it all we cared more deeply about our business: about every customer, the coolness of our products and technology, each of our employees, and each other. Among our team members who went through the dot-com meltdown together, there was very little turnover — very strong employee loyalty — for many years. And we did not give up as quickly as others did. In my view, it was this combination of passion and perseverance that got us through.

We hear much more today about passion, which sounds easy and fun, than perseverance, which sounds hard. Your passions are what you care most deeply about, have the highest expectations for, have powerful and compelling feelings about, or that give your life meaning. They may include your job, team, company, family, sports, school, hobbies, communities, faith, travel, investing, gaming, gadgets, or virtually any other subject or activity. Perseverance is persistence in purpose, ideas, or tasks in the face of obstacles or discouragement. Passion (an attitude) and persistence (a behavior) usually go together. But you can have one without the other: passion can be fleeting; perseverance can be uninspired. Without passion, perseverance is drudgery; with it, working long hours becomes effortless. Successful founders and teams have both. Various terms have been applied to the combination of passion and perseverance: flourishing, grit, and the term that to me best captures how time flies and organizations click when the two qualities come together — flow.Figure 1.1 illustrates perseverance, passion, and flow.

You and your start-up need passion and perseverance for several reasons. With passion and perseverance, the following are true:

• You are more likely to be first to reach or discover the limits of what is currently possible or convenient in your chosen field. This means you can recognize customer needs before others do. Passion and perseverance thus help you get your new venture off the ground.

• You're able to break through or find ways around obstacles. Layoffs, salary reductions, factoring receivables, and moving to downsized, more modest offices are hard and humbling actions to take. Passion and perseverance empower you to do whatever it takes for your venture to survive and grow.

• You're in it for the long haul and don't plan to quit. Ventures usually take longer than expected to reach their goals; the short term can turn into the long term very quickly. I ended up running CustomerSat for over a decade. Perseverance keeps you going for as long as it takes; passion makes the journey as important to you as the destination.

• You stay motivated. Perseverance and passion are contagious and motivate those around you, including coworkers, customers, suppliers, and partners.

• Your strengths and advantages are amplified.


Passion and perseverance reinforce each other. Practicing the piano, designing circuits, or rock climbing until you are so good that you grow to love that activity are examples of perseverance driving passion. At the same time, your passion makes you want to spend time on that activity, driving you to ever greater proficiency and outstanding performance, further building your passion ... and so on.

Similarly, being so deeply engaged by activities such as woodworking, cooking, or sailing that you become unaware of the passage of time demonstrates passion driving perseverance. As you spend more time in the activity, you refine your skills and deepen your knowledge, again further building your passion.

This reinforcement creates a positive feedback loop, just one of many you will seek or create in your new venture. Positive feedback makes magic happen. Whenever you see results or performance that is far above the norm — in sports, the arts, crafts, science, innovation, business, investing, or any other realm — positive feedback is working its magic.

Think of passion and perseverance as the north-south and east-west axes of a mountain. If you only move along one of these, your climbing options will be limited and difficult; reaching the top may be impossible. In contrast, if you can move along either axis, in any direction, you are much more likely to find a route that gets you to the top. Passion and perseverance together give you that flexibility and keep you going indefinitely. They positively reinforce each other.

Any number of initial motivations can get this positive feedback started: looking good in front of your peers; being an expert, named the leader, or the unnamed but de facto leader; achieving some specific milestone; winning her heart; providing for your family; making your first million; proving someone wrong; revenge; or surviving. Some of these motivations are more sustainable than others and some have undesirable side effects, but any or all of them can help you get started. I started both of my companies after being fired from previous companies — my first time was in high school while working for my hometown newspaper — and proving my former employers wrong was surely part of what motivated me. But if what drives you is not or does not fairly quickly become doing good — solving problems, addressing customer needs, or in some other way making the world a better place — it won't inspire others or be sustainable, in my experience.

If you are not passionate about your new venture, its chances of success are slim. Even with passion, starting a successful venture is hard. But it is achievable and you can do it. Yes, you. This book shows you how.


Your passions harbor your best opportunities for new ventures. For example, I've been a math geek since junior high school and both of the companies I started involved analyzing data. The following list offers a few such possible passions:

People: Family, friends, coworkers, teammates, teachers/coaches, club members, neighbors, children, teens, and seniors

Activities: Working, studying, reading, cooking, sports, fashion, gardening, hobbies, shopping, and travel

Things: Home, food/health, electronics, home appliances, mobile devices, the Internet, sporting goods, vehicles, tools, money, and pets

Media: Books, news, photos, maps, games, social networks, video, animation, and virtual reality

Arts: Music, film, dance, theatre, painting, sculpture, literature, design, ceramics, and criticism

The sciences: Research, analysis, discovery, math, physics, chemistry, life sciences, environmental sciences, astronomy, and cosmology

Engineering fields: Civil, mechanical, electrical, computer science, materials, transportation, architecture, biotech, space, and nuclear

Business disciplines: Marketing, sales, customers, planning, accounting, marketing, sales, manufacturing, purchasing, distribution, strategy, and communication

One or more of your passions may be listed, but please don't think yours have to be among these. Recently I became deeply interested in Africa after reading Dark Star Safari (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), Paul Theroux's detailed account of his overland trip from Cairo to Cape Town. The vivid picture of African life and landscape painted by Theroux has hooked me on visiting the continent. That could be the start of a new passion for me.

If nothing comes to you, that's okay. You can become passionate about something. In that case, the exercises at the end of this chapter under "If your passion is not well defined" are for you. Warning: they require perseverance. After a few hours of exploration and practice, you will have advanced a fair distance in a field of your choice. In a few weeks, you will have learned a great deal about it; in a few months, you will have become an expert. The more you learn and master the topic or activity, the more it engages you. Over time, the process becomes more like play than work. When it takes on a life of its own, so that you are drawn to it, it has become a passion — and a strong candidate in which to start your new venture.


If your current field or the field you become passionate about isn't very popular, so much the better: You will have less competition. Few of the more than 100,000 health and fitness apps for the iPhone will survive. Conversely, I can't think of anything less sexy than Municipal Sewer & Water. That trade magazine is full of articles on automated flow control, remote monitoring, real-time alerts, hydraulic modeling, hydroxyl radical fogging (controls odors), and ultraviolet disinfection. The entrepreneurs applying these techniques and technologies in water and sewerage are doing good: improving water quality, sanitation, and public safety, while reducing manual labor costs and taxes. So don't let what is merely popular blind you from other opportunities.


Excerpted from Unleash Your Inner Company by John Chisholm. Copyright © 2015 John Chisholm. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Passion and Perseverance (Step 1): A Positive Feedback Loop,
2. All You Need Is a Need and Advantage: Roadmap to Creating Your Business,
3. Let a Thousand Needs Bloom (Steps 2 and 3),
4. Don't Listen to Your Customers; Discover Their Goals,
5. Think Big; Start Focused,
6. The Future Is in Your STARS (Step 4): Skills, Technologies, Assets & Accomplishments, Relationships & Reputation, (Inner) Strengths,
7. Growing Your Mind from the Inside Out,
8. You're a Technologist. Know It,
9. Different Is Better than Better,
10. Listen to Your Resources (Step 4a): What Additional Needs Do They Suggest?,
11. Look, Mom ... I'm Inventing! Mixing and Matching Technologies,
12. 1 + 1 = 3: Choosing a Cofounder and Team Members,
13. Matching Needs to Your Resources and Passions (Step 5).,
14. The Freedom of Frugality.,
15. Mind the Gaps (Step 6): Ten Ways to Develop and Acquire Resources,
16. Avoiding Competitors (Step 7),
17. Where Do Your STARS Shine Brightest? Recognizing Your Advantages,
18. Partnering, Rightsizing, and Upsizing,
19. Creating Positive Feedback Loops among Customers (Network Effects),
20. Choose Your Best Opportunity (Step 8),
21. Five Pricing Principles,
22. Designing, Customer Testing, and Launching Your Minimum Viable Solution (Step 9),
23. Don't Waste Time Raising Money,
24. Scaling Your Business (Step 10),
25. Regulations: The Hidden Roadblocks to Your Success,
26. The Ethics of Entrepreneurship: Making the World More Positive-Sum and Abundant,
A. Unleash Your Inner Company: The Process,
B. Visualizing Numbers of Combinations,
C. Creating Financial Models of Your Business: Projecting Income, Cash Flow, and Balance Sheet,
D. Unleash Your Inner Company and the Business Model Canvas,
E. Making the Modern Regulatory State More Resilient, Humane, and Friendly to Start-Ups and Innovation,
About the Author,

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