Friday, October 19, 2012

Pitchcraft: The 4 Magic Elements of an Elevator Pitch

This morning I ran a workshop for my local Wharton alumni networking group on the art of the elevator pitch. In the spirit of Halloween, I called the workshop, "Pitchcraft: The 4 Magic Elements of an Elevator Pitch". (N.B. I have since learned that the title, "Pitchcraft", has been trademarked and is owned by Katherine Sands, who first used the term in 2001. I called my talk "Pitchcraft" because the talk was very close to Halloween and I'm a Harry Potter fan.)

Elevator pitches became popular during the dot-com boom. Entrepreneurs only have 30 to 60 seconds to make a great first impression on potential investors. That's about the same amount of time it takes to ride in an elevator, hence, The Elevator Pitch. (Note, a typical TV commercial lasts 30 seconds).

Do you have an elevator pitch? I developed mine at a workshop similar to the one I ran today and came away with a pitch that got results. As soon as I tried it out at networking events, I could see the light go on in the listener's eyes. That is what we are all aiming for. If you don't see that light of understanding, rewrite and edit your pitch.

If you'd like a copy of my one-page "Pitchcraft" handout, contact me at: I'll send it to you for free. I'd also be happy to work with you on developing and polishing your pitch.

Here's my pitch:

I am Wyn Lydecker, owner of Upstart Business Planning. I craft business plans that answer the questions investors, lenders and customers ask most often. While investors typically fund only 1% of business plans, 60% of the plans I’ve done have raised some sort of capital – ranging from $35,000 in debt to $10 million in equity. I work with inventors or entrepreneurs who need an expansion or start-up plan.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Love Teaching Entrepreneurs

Last night I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker in an adult education course at Norwalk Community College on writing a business plan. The course is being taught by an attorney, Cliff Ennico, who has a couple of decades of counseling entrepreneurs, in addition to owning his own businesses. Cliff also was the co-host of MoneyHunt, a PBS TV show, that was somewhat like today's Shark Tank.

I've got to say that I was blown away by the ideas that Cliff's students (all women) have for businesses. When I heard their executive summaries, I thought, "This is what makes our country so great, people with entrepreneurial spirit and great ideas that fill needs."

I was also glad to see that these women were going to the trouble of taking a class that would teach them the basics of starting a business and writing a business plan. The plan is your road map to success and also your marketing tool to raise start-up capital. The planning process is valuable because it makes you think through the details.

You can learn more about Cliff and what he does for business owners at his website:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why I Like Michael Phelps

I hate hype. I tend to be a skeptic. I scorned the hype around the IPOs for Facebook, Zynga, Groupon, etc.
But I feel differently about Michael Phelps. Maybe it's because of my father, who was a lifeguard, a swim coach and a champion surfer many years ago. My dad qualified for the Olympics, but in those days, a lifeguard was considered a professional, and only amateurs could compete. My dad always wished he could have been in Olympics.
But he told me stories all through my childhood of how he worked so hard to be a champion swimmer and surfer. He made me revere having a dream and working hard to achieve it.
Phelps has worked hard to make swimming cool for kids. It was not a sport that was admired or thought to be cool. He changed that. He has not been into glorifying himself. He inspired two of the young swimmers who were in these Olympics who won gold themselves. And that made him happy.  
Phelps's mom just sent him to swim to use up his energy when he was a kid. His mom didn't send him to a special training camp or to live in a place to work with the top coach in the world. The average, everyday coach noticed young Michael's God-given ability. And then, the coach nurtured that talent.
Phelps came up from obscurity and achieved something no other human being has achieved. He has given hope to every underdog who loves to swim. That is a great gift.
The New York Times ran an article about Phelps which is a great summary. Worth reading. 
I believe individual achievement is something good, not bad. Without the ability to achieve and the ability of us to recognize and appreciate achievement, underdogs would never go anywhere. We all need hope. Michael Phelps has given thousands of kids and other people hope.

How to Get Your Article Published

No doubt, you have an idea for a great article. It could be an opinion piece, or it could be about your life, your business or lessons you've learned. You could be bursting to share your news with the world, or maybe someone has told you that you have to get some articles published to raise your profile and attract customers or followers. Whatever the reason or the topic, you need to follow a few simple rules so that the publication you're targeting (electronic or traditional print) will want to publish your article.

I was reminded of following the rules a few weeks ago when one of my clients told me that he had interested a publication in a topic for an article. He sent me links to the publication and then a draft of his article. Immediately, I could see that though the content was excellent, it did not follow the style of the publication. He agreed that I should edit and rewrite the piece to conform to the e-publication's style. But he warned me not to change the meaning of what he was trying to convey.

During the process, I had to get him to clarify several points, and by doing this, I got deeper, more meaningful things the article could convey to its readers. I also learned what the main point was that my client wanted to make.

He sent the piece in, and it was just published.

You can achieve the same result by following these five rules:

  1. Have a single point you want to make, and then add meat to the point and use examples to make the point come alive. 
  2. Study the possible publications that you could target. What do they publish? Does your idea for an article fit what they look for?
  3. Ask yourself if the article will truly be interesting and useful for the publication's readers.
  4.  If the publication has guidelines, ask for them, read them, and follow them. If not, study the publication and follow its style and word count.
  5. Have someone else you trust read and edit your piece. Make sure it's all correctly written so that the editor doesn't have to work hard.

Good luck.

Oh, and here's a link to my client's article.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Developing a Website: Be Strategic

I just completed the development of a new website for Bond & Company ( as part of a complete marketing communications project. Bond & Co. is a financial executive recruiter with an unconventional approach to recruiting, which results in better hires after fewer interviews. In building the site, Company owner Rich Bond and I took a completely strategic approach, applying one of Rich’s principles: to think of what the customer (or the person doing the hiring) wants. Rich says all people listen to their favorite radio station, WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”). That idea guided us. We worked together to develop a new USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and then the content and navigation for the site. As part of the process, we asked: 
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the pain they experience when hiring?
  • How does Bond & Company alleviate that pain and solve the target's problem?
  • What big idea do we want them to get right away?
  • What else do we want them to learn about Bond & Company?
  • What actions do we want them to take?
Armed with the answers to these and other questions, we created the content. We also crafted informational materials that will help any manager do better hiring and will help candidates present themselves better.

Rich brought in a wonderful graphic and website designer, Liz Dobrinska, owner of Innovative Images, LLC, to give the site a fresh new look that would brand the company visually, make it easy to navigate and incorporate the latest approaches to website design (including video).

A project like this is immensely rewarding to work on because all parties are working toward a common goal and are willing to listen to each others’ ideas and try new approaches. By taking a strategic approach, applying the best principles of marketing, and tapping Rich’s deep knowledge of the recruiting business, we wound up with what I believe is a site that clearly communicates what Bond & Company's unique value truly is. 

What does your website communicate? How well? Is your site achieving its goal?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How To Impress a VC

Clients often ask me how to impress a Venture Capitalist (aka "VC"). I tell them to make their presentation short - no more than 10 PowerPoint slides. Practice, practice, practice telling their story. Do not read it. Start with something grabby: an unusual, powerful fact about the need in the market or a question that will get the VC thinking about some problem or pain in his/her own life that their product or service solves.

Recently, I've started following an online columnist for Forbes, Peter Cohan, who often writes about the same topic - getting a VC to listen and take interest in investing in your company. Cohan makes good points and shares excellent insights from successful entrepreneurs and investors. You can tap his wisdom at his blog Forbes: The Startup Economy by Peter Cohan. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can Rap Teach Management?

"Investor Uses Rap to Teach Pithy Lessons In Business" . I must admit, the headline caught my eye. When I read that the investor in question was none other than venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, I knew I had to read the entire article, which ran in the The New York Times on Monday, February 20, 2012.

Horowitz is my favorite VC blogger (ben's blog). He always makes so much sense, gives excellent advice and writes very, very well. So it was quite fascinating to learn that he perceives rap lyrics as purveyors of sound business advice. Horowitz is a co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz.

He claims that rap lyrics help connect emotion with business because most of the songs are about business. The poetry is very direct. Themes in the songs include leadership, collaboration and vulnerability. Horowitz says he uses rap lyrics to make points. (see: He also says it's good to connect rap culture with the culture of Silicon Valley. There are very few African American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Yet, when I mentored entrepreneurs as part of my work running the Small Business Resource Center at Norwalk Community College, I certainly worked with no shortage of African Americans. They were starting mostly low-tech businesses right around the time of the dot-com boom. I hope Horowitz is right and that rap can break through the cultural divide and provide sound business guidance to a very wide audience.

Unemployed? 10 Tips For Getting Hired

One would think that in this terrible economy with the soaring unemployment rate that it would be easy to fill a job opening. Not so. I've recently helped an organization screen over 100 applicants to fill one blue-collar-level job. As I've done this, I've realized that I could help those of you out there who are looking for work by sharing a few tips. If the advice seems obvious to you, that's great. If it doesn't, then read, learn and apply the advice.

1. Answer the ad carefully. It may seem simplistic, but when you answer an ad on Craig's List or in the newspaper, let the employer know why you are interested and what you can offer. Check your spelling and grammar. Do your sentences make sense? Read your email over carefully, or have someone else check it over before you hit "send".

2. If you get a response from the potential employer, answer promptly. If they ask you specific questions, answer them carefully.

3. Be reachable. If we like you, we want to be able to call you or email you. One guy gave his parents' phone number, and they referred me to a girlfriends' number, which only had a message machine. His emails bounced back because his inbox was full. Another candidate had a voice mailbox that was full.

4. Project a professional image. One voice mail had a rap song answer, instead of a ring. The rap song started, "Who the hell is this, paging me..." Not an image that is good to project if you want a job. Another showed up for the interview wearing a dirty sweater.

5. Be on time to your interview. On one day of interviews, the first candidate showed up a half hour late. The next one didn't show up at all and apologized later when he realized that he had forgotten the interview.

6. Respond quickly when asked for references. We had one great candidate, but it's been days since we asked him for references, and we still haven't heard back.

7. When asked to talk about yourself, keep to the relevant facts. The interviewer doesn't need your whole life story. Be prepared to say why you'd be good for the job. Cite relevant experiences in your life that you will be able to draw upon and apply to the job.

8. Make eye-contact in your interview. This can be difficult, but if you're looking all over the room, instead of at your interviewer, it makes the interviewer wonder what is wrong. Practice with a friend, if this is hard for you.

9. If you're on social media, make sure your postings are professional and show good judgement. If you're on LinkedIn, have a photo and a complete resume with no mistakes posted. If you're on Facebook, and the profile is public, don't say stupid stuff. Think!

10. Write a thank-you email. The candidate who impressed us the most wrote a thank-you email expressing his interest in the job.