Mentor Office Hours Testimonial

Gangplank’s guest-blogging series illustrates the array of personalities and experiences embodied by our community. All invited participants – past brownbag speakers, anchors, new members, City of Chandler employees and others – share their Gangplank stories. Interested guest posters should send a draft to our Director of Operations.

By Brandi Walsh, co-founder of Local Lily

“Do you want me to tell you it’s awesome or do you want my feedback?,” asked my professor and mentor in college.

I didn’t need someone to tell me it was worth at least a passing grade. I needed someone to help refine my work and make it better. In the last 10+ years I have come to realize that mentors are valuable at all stages of project development and most critical during the initial planning and execution.

My Co-Editor Beth Hickey and I have made the pledge to ‘live local’. Our blog makes the shift to spend local easy and enjoyable by sharing our favorite independent businesses and experiences in Arizona. Like any business, funding and growth are essential to our efforts.

At the time my Co-Editor Beth Hickey and I decided to create Local Lily, we were fortunate to have crossed paths with Francine Hardaway at a few Gangplank Brownbag Lunches.

Through the Gangplank mentoring program we have created a relationship with Francine that provides us with seasoned, unbiased feedback on our focus and strategies. In some instances, this means we have changed course early on and shortened the learning curve and saved us mistakes.

Recently, we met with Chuck Reynolds and are looking forward to adding his expertise to our efforts. While Francine provides us marketing and strategy related council, Chuck can offer ways to improve other aspects of the Local Lily user experience. We have also sat down met Chris Conrey to discuss the opportunities and constraints of developing an App.

We are excited and grateful to have these Mentors and all of the Gangplank resources available to us. It is a generous donation of everyone’s time and talent to assist entrepreneurs such as our selves to achieve great things.

Running multiple startups

There are few more upfront and honest about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Jonathan Kressaty, Gangplank’s youngest Anchor, owns three businesses in addition to a backlog of freelance projects. In his brownbag, ‘Running Multiple Startups’, Jonathan cuts through the crap to give you an honest description of how he runs his companies, as well as tips for budding entrepreneurs.

A Mentoree Experience

Gangplank’s guest-blogging series illustrates the array of personalities and experiences embodied by our community. All invited participants – past brownbag speakers, anchors, new members, City of Chandler employees and others – share their Gangplank stories. Interested guest posters should send a draft to our Director of Operations.

By Craig Keeling, co-founder of Bright Pattern Design

I’m certain that the few hours we’ve spent with the mentors at Gangplank have saved us some massive mistakes—mistakes that would cost a lot of time, money, and possibly business relationships.

We’re starting our business for the same reason I imagine most people do: We want to get paid to do what we like doing. Putting everything in place to make that possible is a lot of work. And when you’ve never done it before, it can quite easily crush all the enthusiasm and momentum you’ve built up to get things off the ground.

It’s obviously important to work with people who motivate, inspire, and push you to do good work, but internal dynamics aren’t enough. Mentoring for us has turned out to be a crucial step in our formation process. Our organizational structure is now more stable and our marketing strategy is heading in the right direction, thanks to Akira Hirai, Ed Nusbaum, and Francine Hardaway.

At the most recent Phoenix Design Week, the designer Von Glitschka talked about the importance of being well-read. His presentation included the quote:

“Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else’s head instead of with his own.”
–Arthur Schopenhauer, Philosopher, 1788–1860

Imagine being able to think with a smart person’s head AS WELL AS ask them to elaborate! Unless you’re well-connected and can go back in time, that’s not very easy to do.

We hope to meet with as many of the mentors at Gangplank as we can. The more smart people we can borrow to further our understanding of business, the smoother ours will function in the future, and we’ll be able to focus more on doing what we love—the reason we started in the first place.

More reasons to mentor

The more the merrier – that’s our mentoring philosophy for 2011.

We started out with 2 mentors in September 2010, growing that to 8 by December. Already in 2011, we’re up to 17 mentors.

If you’ve been waiting to check out the program, now’s the time.

With the addition of more mentors (and a goal to triple the number by 2012), we’ve changed the structure to make it easier for potential mentorees to choose who they would like to see.

Mentors are now divided into areas of specialty, which currently include:

  • Early Stage
  • Product Development
  • Design & Marketing
  • Operations
  • Technology
  • Legal
  • Finances

Gangplank’s mentors range from successful entrepreneurs to investors and business executives, who enjoy the opportunity to give back to the Chandler community. Gangplank mentors dedicate 3 hours a month, in 45-minute sessions, to helping entrepreneurs succeed in their business ventures.

“A lot of people feel like mentoring services are unobtainable because of the cost involved,” said Chuck Reynolds, a Gangplank mentor who specializes in WordPress and SEO. “Free mentoring lowers the barriers to access, letting more good ideas see the light of day.”

Read about our knowledgeable mentors by visiting our mentoring page and clicking on any of the areas of specialty. Appointments can be booked by emailing the Director of Operations.

If you’d like to contribute to our community as a mentor, email with a little bit about your background and what areas you specialize in.

There is no substitute for hard work

Your startup success ingredients list should look something like this:

  • 1 part well thought out idea
  • 1 part industry specific skillset
  • 1 part capital (don’t need much, but need some)
  • 1 part luck
  • 1 part timing
  • 3 parts monetization strategy
  • 10 parts marketing strategy
  • 5 million parts HARD WORK

I have been associated with Gangplank since the beginning and in that time I have undergone the arduous task of transitioning from client services to a SaaS model with our specialized WordPress Hosting company Also in that time I have seen good product/business ideas floated around Gangplank fall by the wayside, some terminated for good reason, some just never got the energy put behind them that they needed to get over the hump. That “hump” referring to everything that comes after the excitement of launching a proto-type and gaining your first 10 users.

Search Engine Rank Monitoring

Chase Granberry at AuthorityLabs (another Gangplank anchor) is reaping the benefits of years of hard work, after a short stretch of finding his way. When his company first launched we all watched in dismay as he was a bit hesitant to really pursue it. After a few months when he zero’d in on the pitch and had a saleable (saleable != perfect) product he threw all his energy behind it and years.. yes YEARS later he has a viable, growing, and profitable business.

WordPress started as an idea nearly 5 years ago, was proto-typed in year 2006 and sat idle until early 2009 when we re-factored it, rebranded and spent nearly 8 months re-building it. Since then we have spent nearly every hour of nearly every day improving it, marketing it, and scaling it. Now, more than a year after launch and nearly 2 years of solid work, it is a viable, growing, and highly profitable business.

DesignWard Andrews from Drawbackwards (another anchor company) has been working diligently on a new site/service named for a couple years now. His goals for the site are lofty but easily within reach as Ward is a tried and true executor of good ideas. The time and energy I have witnessed him spend on DORG, working around the obligations of his marketing agency (and Call of Duty), are to be admired. The time is paying off, as evidenced by the exponential growth in traffic to his site over this last few months.

What’s the common denominator to the success of all these endeavors?  Hard work, in ample quantities. Hard work like I hope your dad taught you about. It takes a commitment to succeed that cannot waiver due to laziness, frustration, or even lack of skills (as they can always be learned, and Gangplank is full of smart people to help and guide you). Capital played a small part: Both AL and were bootstrapped (funded by revenue) for the most part and DORG was built from existing service revenue. Money is not a substitute for work.

A few other “startups” in Gangplank got to the working proto-type phase, but then flailed when their owners either lost interest, pulled the plug, or felt lost on the marketing side of things.  It’s okay to fail for various reasons, but it is never okay to fail (IMHO) for lack of willingness to put the energy in.

Ed Nusbaum has a saying that goes something like: “an overnight success, 8 years in the making”.

So to the point of this post.  If you have a idea for a new business or product, you will need to execute it. That involves more hard work and time then you may be willing or have the ability to put in. Be prepared to make that time and energy investment, as it is the primary factor of success. An aggressively executed “ok” idea is going to net way more success then a “great” idea that never gets acted on.

@strebel on Twitter

National Mentoring Month

A critical piece of the success formula, regardless of whether it is personal, academic, business or achievement related, is the presence of a mentor at key stages of development.  The role of a mentor is to help you recognize your potential, encourage you through difficult situations, facilitate the necessary steps towards success and stretch you beyond your comfort level.

January is National Mentoring Month.  If you had a mentor that helped you get where you are today, consider sharing the story with others by posting a tribute to them online.  Take the time to personally thank them for the difference they have made in your life.  Consider passing it on by mentoring someone else.

Ever wondered who were the mentors to some of America’s most prominent individuals?  Check out Who Mentored You.

Gangplank is always looking for new mentors.  If you know someone that would be a great mentor for early stage ventures, product development, design, marketing, operations, technology, legal or finances please drop an email to our Director of Operations.

If you need a mentor in the above areas please check out Mentor Services.  Make a resolution this year to be mentored and help mentor someone else!

Ten Things To Do For National Mentoring Month

  1. Become a mentor in your community.
  2. Learn more about mentoring.
  3. Partner with a mentoring organization.
  4. Tell 5 friends about National Mentoring Month.
  5. Think about the mentors in your life and post a tribute to them online.
  6. Read the latest research and find resources on mentoring.
  7. Serve your community on MLK Day of Service by deciding to become a mentor.
  8. Make a donation to a mentoring organization in your community.
  9. Go to YouTube on Thank Your Mentor Day™ (January 25) and make the National Mentoring Month videos the most popular of the day.
  10. Explore ways to help children succeed academically through mentoring.

EventDay has big night

EventDay hasn’t launched yet. In fact, it won’t be introduced the world until early next year.

But Gangplank anchor Scott Cate doesn’t much care. Called upon nearly two months by Microsoft to write a web-based registration app for their UndergroundPDC party in L.A. on November 9, Cate immediately went to work, using code from his eventual EventDay product to construct what was really a beta version. Deadlines were met and then just over a week ago, Microsoft called again. They wanted Cate to handle the entire registration process, including staffing and running the registration tables at the event, to be held at Club Nokia in L.A. Live.

Cate knew his app was ready. He had the equipment. He now needed about 12 people to staff an event six hours away and he couldn’t hire just anyone. He need people on short notice with enough tech skills to quickly process people, presentable enough to impress the top brass and sociable enough to do additional tasks the event might require.

Katie Charland overheard Cate talking about this and told me. Having more spare time than I’m used to, I offered to go and figured I could round up some helpers in L.A. Three texts to my music producer friend Kyle Townsend later, we had seven people, including me, ready to go. Cate found a few more helpers and we took off to L.A. on Monday morning to prep the equipment, scout the location and plan out the Tuesday night event.

Prep went well, all the workers showed up on time and Microsoft was extremely happy. How many other places would have helped EventDay pull something like this off on such short notice? Not many.

Good work, Gangplank.