Category: Business Development

Computationally Expensive (within project planning)

When I first started working at foursquare I heard this term as a way of explaining that some things were not possible (right now!) but could be built in the future (soon!).  It is one of my favorite terms for a lot of reasons, but mainly because of the challenge of overcoming whatever obstacle is in the way.

For different groups to understand what is possible and what is not, a matrix of sorts is needed to quantify why things may or may not be possible.  Things like an overall Company vision and roadmap contribute to why and when things are happening, but scoring things can also bring some much needed transparency into the process.

At first glance this seems like an excuse as why not to get something done – simply blaming “its too computationally expensive” – but as you can see there are a myriad of reasons.

I am far enough away from the time when this was first discussed that I have started to think about the issues that came up in another way.  You can easily plot the overall Difficulty and Impact of a project by plotting them on a graph similar to the one below.

Each dot represents a potential project or feature

Scoring would work such that;

Green = justification for immediate completion
Yellow = decide based on subjective views
Red = justification to wait

You can see how almost any discussion between groups, such as BD and engineering, could be plotted on this graph.  Something that has extremely high impact but is technically very difficult (red) may not get the hours/work necessary in light of other projects.  However something that is high impact and low difficulty (green) could get prioritized right away.  Using this methodology brings in some objectivity that may otherwise be absent from a discussion.

There are many subjective reasons why something may end up in a specific area or color, but this at least lets you plot all projects accordingly.

As an organization grows, this allows you to weigh the ideas and complexities of partner requests with that of folks who have longer term (cross quarter) projects currently in motion.  Things like engineering hours, PM resources, and design may play a role in the score and color of a dot.  Previously running projects have probably the highest impact, but provide justification on a high impact low difficulty project being pushed off a month.

Everyone in the organization should understand how a suggestion or feature improvement could affect the overall goals and timeline of a Company.

I don’t think I will stop contributing grand ideas to the product and eng. teams here anytime soon though 😉

As an aside I was reminded of this recently while watching @cooperb give his talk about our infrastructure stack on MongoDB.

Get to the “ask” early

In most meetings the last 5-10 minutes are used to go over the “ask” or the crux of what folks are there to talk to in the first place.

I have noticed a common occurrence where someone sets up a meeting or call to go over something new or propose something interesting, but they only cover this within the last part of the meeting time. This sets you up to have very little time to present your request, while spending significant time setting up and getting ready for your big “ask”.

Commonly after introductions are made via email and calls or meetings have been setup, folks never dive into the crux of the issue until there is little time for healthy discussion. It can be daunting to go into a big request at the early stages of a conversation or relationship, but you should strike the right balance. Even setting someone up with a brief agenda early, including the “ask” within it can be helpful. This way both parties know that eventually you will bring up the request sooner or later. This can also help in letting them digest the request first, while you setup the story behind the rest of your discussion.

There are a few different types of meetings that happen and each can be handled differently. Sometimes in a sales meeting you need to set up the product or proposal the right way, or give proper background. Other times in a proposed partnership you need to go over some of the important details that pertain to your proposal. Other meetings are used to brainstorm something entirely new, but there are one or two key points that must be a part of the final product. In any of these cases it is always prudent to make sure there is plenty of time to discuss the price, requirements, or demands that you have.

The “big crescendo” at the end of a meeting can sometimes be a surprise to the audience and does not leave them with enough time to process the demand as well as ask questions.

I recommend bringing the “ask” as upfront as you can without harming the story you are there to tell.

The Business Breakfast

This post is definitely a joke, but it hit such a chord with my friends I thought I would open up the dialogue here – what to eat at the business breakfast?.

To be honest, I have never given this much thought. To my surprise a group of friends I was recently with had this conversation with had thought about it, and the opinions were all over the map. The conversation was sparked by Jon Steinberg who wondered aloud about the implications of food ordering at a breakfast meeting.

Folks have come back and brought up this discussion again letting me know what they had for breakfast at some meeting. The strong convictions of people actually thinking about this were very surprising. I order what I want because I am hungry, and feel it does not really reflect on me at all. But, since I have been posting about much more serious topics like how to setup a meeting and the go between I thought it was time for something a little bit lighter.

So what do you think?

French Toast

Hands down this breakfast got the most negative responses – for the record I think its a fine choice as it allows control over your meal and shows you can be healthy.

Results on French Toast:

“The worst possible breakfast to order at a business morning meeting. It shows a lack of serious approach and a immature attitude.”
“Too messy”
“It is desert for breakfast which is just unacceptable”

Eggs Toast and Sausage

This is the go to for many a diner meal – but not ok for a business breakfast.

“Its shows you are all over the place without much structure”
“It is a non-starter as its too messy”
“Middle of the road, average joe, 9-5 type of employee”

The main take away for me here was this one was not too bad, but didn’t really get anything across either.

The egg white omelette

eggwhite omlette

This one may take the cake for worst order at a business breakfast – key quotes below.

“No chance of getting a deal done, getting the job, or showing you are a good candidate”
“Prepare to be walked all over”
“Weakness shown all over the plate”

What about regular cereal?


Well it turns out this one got some pretty interesting opposition as well.

“What are you? 5 years old?”
“Very Zen – shows calmness”
“No way, cereal is not the way to go at any breakfast meeting ever”

So what is the consensus on the go-to item to get for the business breakfast? The item that is universally acceptable and promotes the best message? None other than oatmeal.



It turns out that oatmeal got the least opposition from the group – commentary below.

“Oatmeal with fruit says you are there to eat breakfast, healthy, but still ready to do business”
“Clean, concise, and concentrated”
“Best option across the board – its clean and simple to eat and projects the best picture”

So what did we leave out? Let me know in the comments.

I have provide some visuals to help represent the conclusions we came up with. Visuals provided by ShutterStock.

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