Author: John Tough

Three Industrial IoT Sales Traps to Avoid

Three Industrial IoT Sales Traps to Avoid

With the digitization of traditional industry, software solutions are increasing their focus on the energy and industrial verticals. At the Invenergy Future Fund we are seeing many pitches a week for companies seeking capital to grow their business. As part of our diligence, we like to sit in on a few sales calls – usually to prospective customers that we introduce. Through those calls, we have seen three common mistakes that start-ups make while pitching traditional industrial firms. We list them below to serve as a guide of pitfalls to avoid:   

1) Buzzword blockers: Many sales decks pitching the operations, maintenance and security divisions of traditional industries read the same… some newly formed version of technology (MACHINE LEARNING! ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE!) could dramatically improve business results. The problem is that these buzzwords talk about your company’s solution, and not the customer’s problem. The customer does not necessarily care how the problem is solved, just that the results will improve. To paraphrase a statement I recently heard from an energy executive: “what makes this solution better than the 20 other AI software companies I have been pitched this year?” As a growing start-up you are better served cutting the jargon and delving straight to results and focusing on how you will get to a proof of concept within the customer’s desired timeframe. Remember, your technology is merely a tactic to serve the customer. The real product is the problem you are solving for the customer.

2) Hubris hurts: Energy and industrial firms have been solving maintenance, throughput and security problems for decades. Yes, the technology environment is changing. But within these Fortune 500 companies there are seasoned executives who have developed impressive IT and software systems based on an accumulation of historical technologies that manage billions in assets. No new technology solution is going to completely rip & replace existing software. Start-ups that expect to dramatically replace existing software architectures and make generalizations about weakness of existing solutions simply have not done their homework. Respect the reasons that current solutions are in place by identifying existing strengths and demonstrating new, complementary capabilities. The professionals who made those architecture decisions were operating with then-existing resources and are likely still somewhere in the organization.

3) Deliberate (business) development: In-the-ground or under construction assets have detailed, expected lifetime performance metrics based on the technology and environment for when the asset was implemented. Given those strict performance expectations, a large company will only trial a new, unproven technology on a select number of assets whereby the test will not materially impact overall results. It takes time for the prospective company to identify those sites for your software and it takes time to encourage the internal P&L owner to take on the potential risk. Bake that “discovery period” and longer sales cycle into your revenue projections. The beauty to this structure is that if the software does work as expected, then the concrete data enables implementation across the rest of the asset fleet within a surprisingly abbreviated timeline. As a result, the longer sales cycles of the energy & industrial world can actually be a feature, not a bug of the purchasing decision.

We hope you find these insights helpful. If you are a software company targeting the Industrial IoT segment looking to scale your business, please reach out as we would love to share thoughts, make some introductions and help further optimize the industry.

Joining the Invenergy Future Fund

Joining the Invenergy Future Fund

This post is a bit late but with the whirlwind first few quarters behind me, I finally had time to reflect on joining the Invenergy Future Fund. We had our first close in May and the team has been going full steam since 2016…

When I review potential venture investments, I look for a special team with leading & complementary industry experience that is targeting a big market by addressing a specific, impactful problem. Using those parameters, the Invenergy Future Fund was a personal investment that was too good to pass up.

What is the Future Fund?

The Future Fund is a recently launched venture capital firm focused on making early stage investments in technology companies that address the application layer of the energy & industrial verticals. Our belief is that significant existing and ongoing investments in distributed and modern energy infrastructure enable and require a new host of businesses to maximize, control and secure these assets. These software solutions will be capital light, require domain expertise, and will also be scalable from energy into other industrial verticals. I am especially excited because while our focus is targeting a specific area where the Venn diagram of software & energy overlap,  businesses that succeed in our spectrum will achieve success in other areas of the industrial vertical.

Who are the People?

Succeeding in venture capital in the energy & industrials verticals is not easy. You need experience as an investor through multiple cycles, operating experience, and a deep industry appreciation. With Amy Francetic, Juan Muldoon and myself I humbly believe we have a strong core to execute our plan. Amy is a rockstar with both energy investing experience through the CET and operating experience in high growth technology companies and I am excited to learn from her. Juan – who first found me late last summer- is brilliant, and tireless and has a special way of digging into key company drivers… and risks.  Cameanna Eberly is also a core asset to our team keeping the ship running smoothly. And, alongside us we are fortunate to have Michael Polsky (CEO, Founder of Invenergy) and Jim Murphy (President of Invenergy) to guide us and ensure we see the forest through the trees. I was lucky to have Michael as an investor in Choose Energy and know that his perspectives on the future tend to be accurate. Finally, our team is lucky to have access to Invenergy resources and engineers and operators to help us evaluate and understand opportunities in the increasingly high pace energy and industrials environment. The people and our close resources are undoubtedly are the greatest edge.

What’s next?
We have made one investment in Aquilon Inc. and are continuing to review investment opportunities. If you know of early stage companies with software solutions that have an application in the energy and industrial verticals, please let me know. My email is john@invenergyfuturefund.com or you can find me on Twitter @JohnJTough

 

Becoming dispensable

Becoming dispensable

On a recent RECODE/DECODE podcast where Kara Swisher interviews Frances Frei, the SVP of Leadership & Strategy at Uber. Frances is a renowned leadership coach with a special skill at turnarounds and an unparalleled optimism and belief in an individual’s redemption potential and trajectory.

In the podcast Kara and Frances cover Frances’ 3 key to modern leadership:

1) Making others better as a result of your presence. This is usually a “catch-all” line, but the impact needs to be internalized: are you as a leader actively focused on improving those around you?

2) Having strong performance outlast your presence. Replace yourselves as quickly as possible. Leadership is about a leader serving their team and creating a condition for them to thrive with a goal to become replaceable as soon as possible. Having this leadership goal implies the leader is confident there is another role for them in this organization or another one.

3) People feel your high standards and your devotion to them. Communicate this through asking questions and digging deep.

The one that stood out to me the most is item #2:. Younger professionals that rise to the executive ranks earlier than they expected tend to have a problem with becoming dispensable. A natural tendency is to retain information, become important to many stages of the company and not lose the opportunity to give input for what each group is doing.

I fell for this mind trap when Choose Energy was growing but I was lucky in that Kerry Cooper was my CEO giving me strong advice how to combat the problem. Similar to what Frances Frei says, Kerry’s coaching was persistent in that successful leadership was creating a structure that would thrive beyond my presence. It took me a while but ultimately through improved corporate communications, better delegating and transparent KPIs, we created a structure that was successful independent of our cumulative influence.

VC Operating experience 

VC Operating experience 

I like to joke that if I could, I might just go back to a younger “me” and punch him in the face.

I had a dream job as an associate at Kleiner Perkins. I was working at a storied firm, had access to world class mentors and investors, and had premier investment opportunities literally walking through the door.

One of the main problems I faced? Saying no. Saying no in venture capital is hard. I saw hopeful, brilliant and dedicated individuals dedicating their lives efforts to potentially transformative ideas. And as a VC, you have to say no to most individuals and companies you meet with. But saying no when I had not been on the other side of the table as an operator myself felt disingenuous. I was giving advice to entrepreneurs, and passing on investments, without having my own personal start-up peaks and troughs. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “the credit belongs to the man actually in the arena”. And while I was respectful to each entrepreneur, I believed that to give better feedback and to better earn the entrepreneur’s confidence, trust, and counsel, I too needed to have my own experience(s) in the arena.

There is an ongoing debate about whether you need operating experience to be a great VC. There is no correct answer to that question. What I do know is that I personally needed the start-up experience. I felt I needed to earn the entrepreneur’s respect and that my advice and feedback would carry more weight if the start-up management team knew I had been in their shoes. I want my entrepreneurs to know that I have experienced those growth problems… been told no before (many times) and have personally felt the rush of success and the dreary despair of failure.

And now, with over 5 years of experiencing managing the growth of a start-up I am both proud of and humbled by the lessons I learned along the way.  I’m thrilled to deliver those lessons (and new ones!) to the firms I will meet with and invest in going forward.

Saying thanks

Saying thanks

Over the course of 4-5 years with a start-up, I got a first-row seat into the ups and downs of scaling a company. One of my main takeaways was that you have to enjoy the journey. If you only seek the destination you won’t last the trip.

And to enjoy the trip you have to work with people who make the miles a bit more enjoyable. You don’t have to like them and hang out on the weekends, but you have to respect them. Respect their perspective, their experience, and their contribution. Respect enables trust and trust is a prerequisite for a healthy and long-standing relationship.

During my tenure I worked with some world-class professionals. In some cases our trust was more or less immediate (out of necessity!) and in others, it took a few crucible events to crystallize our bond. While there are too many names to write down, I do want to acknowledge the significant positive impact a few individuals had on me during the process:

Kevin Stevens & Jonathan Crowder: My “go-to” team from Dallas. No job was too complex or big for these men. They taught themselves operational finance, product management and the essential of programming. Whenever we were busy I knew they could pick up the slack. And when times were tough, they knew how to strategically engage and re-position the argument to identify channels for growth. Big things ahead for them as they take on the Texas market.

Kerry Cooper: Kerry brought institutional leadership when we needed it most. She brought excellence in hiring, in thinking about the customer, and in establishing operational procedures & OKRs. At the respective moments, most of those traditional managerial were relatively new to me. In addition to management lessons, I also learned from Kerry how to engage a mentor network, voice my opinion more effectively and to be willing to have an open and honest debate and feedback. I was lucky that her experience from Levi’s, Walmart, and ModCloth brought valuable lessons to my career.

Jay Webster: Early on Jay gave me the flexibility to explore growth, taught me how to simplify strategy and most importantly how to execute.  Within my first few weeks I was stunned at how much accomplished rolling out to new markets and testing new partnerships. I also appreciate his lessons from many start-ups on how to better pitch VCs and how to engage a board room. Finally, I still marvel at how he could perfectly match interpersonal strength with candid feedback – truly an exceptional leader.

Ethan Wais: My first hire who was always the smartest guy in the room. He saw the future faster than most and worked on timelines faster than most. His insatiable appetite for knowledge and identifying alpha showed me the true ethos of the Bay Area and how the area truly does attract the best talent.

Simona Golebiowska, Leo vonP, Lindsay Hoffman: The can-do team that executed within every role the company needed – and those needs changed quickly! We moved quickly, tried everything and enjoyed the failures and successes. Each brought curiosity and can-do attitude to every growth and operations problem and I loved those days knowing that no mater what came up, this team could handle the attempt. Most individuals cannot match a start-ups fluid needs and this team (and others) handled every turn and speed.

Sai, Jake & Jeff & other eng team: The evolving engineering team had great leaders throughout (Paul Butler, Chris Hanson) and at the end Sai, Jeff & Jake brought all of our various projects and products together. If the first few years were about getting the infrastructure in place, the final 12 months were about increasing monetization. The team’s need in the final 12 months to understand the infrastructure while building applications and products to accentuate growth was stunning. One of my biggest regrets will be not knowing what else this engineering team could have done with another 12-24 months of runway.

Mike Rudolph & Erica Hennes: The marketing team that got it. Over budgets weren’t huge but Mike’s experience and Erica’s hustle seemed to accomplish every task. With Mike and Erica running the marketing group, we had immediate transparency, clear product requirements and a strong backbone to ensure the company was being truthful on expectations. Mike’s direct method of communication and ability to orchestrate multiple campaigns while still diving into the numbers and understand data analytics (with thanks to Michael Michonski!) was exceptional.

David Yi: Epic part time CFO. David taught me a lot about business economics, how to better understand the LTV / CAC trade-offs, how to manage capital raises and how to better manage both being acquired and getting acquired. Every start-up needs a David and we were lucky to have him.

Robin Swanson: The backbone of the Dallas office and a constant reminder to place the customer first. Robin was tireless in her work ensuring our day to day operations remained strong and was the big smile we all needed.

5 M&A Insights from the Choose Energy sale

5 M&A Insights from the Choose Energy sale

As I wrote about last week, Choose Energy was sold earlier this year. Beginning in 2015, Choose Energy had multiple casual M&A discussions. But, we did not formally engage until we knew we were ready as a company.

With a few months delay giving me a bit of clarity, I wanted to share some advice / insights that stand out to me about the process and how to prepare for our own deal:

  1. M&A is hard. Very, very hard. Finding the right buyer, at the right price at the perfect time in their strategic initiative game plan is rare. Choose was lucky in that the company had inbound interest. And even then, not easy. (Jason Lemkin at SAASTR has documented just how hard this can be for companies with ARR type revenue and how they should aim to sell at local maximums.)
  2. A clear internal deal champion at the acquirer is required. And you need that individual and their team to have a clear path to continued success after the deal.
  3. Deal fatigue is real. – for both sides. I have raised Series B & Series C capital from a combination of strategic and VCs. Those processes are time consuming. M&A is double or triple that. Have a great team in place, hire great advisors and have an experienced CFO. (We were lucky to have David Yi, a serial KPCB CFO) The amount of work is unexpected, even for someone like me that expected it. To get through it you really do need to create a bond with the acquiring team and “gang up” on the advisers. Part of their job is to be fall guy so the buyer & seller can rally around a common enemy 🙂
  4. Be prepared for regulatory requirements. For companies in the energy & industrials space that capture proprietary data and engage with federal and state level regulatory bodies, be prepared! Good process as you grow the company saves you from some major headaches down the line as lawyers dig through diligence and process documentation. Again, hire a great CFO, even part-time.
  5. Enjoy the ride. There is something very odd about the completion of a sale. You go from being independent and controlling the asset to suddenly having a disbanded board and an entirely new organization structure, reporting structure and incentive structure. Even if your acquirer provides barely any oversight post acquisition, there is still a mental change. For me, this was one of the oddest feelings… and I liked our acquiring team! Enjoy those last few months of corporate independence.

Once a deal is complete there is an entirely new set of issues to address around corporate communications for employees, customers, service providers, and regulatory agencies. I will write about that experience in the coming weeks.

If you enjoy this, please share!

Choose Energy is acquired, hat tip to Jerry Dyess

Choose Energy is acquired, hat tip to Jerry Dyess

Last month Choose Energy was sold to RedVentures.

I joined Choose Energy as the Director of BD in June 2012 in coordination with the Series A investment from Kleiner Perkins. I was the third employee and first non-engineer. The range of highs and lows we experienced as we grew the company from under half a million in annual revenue to over $10M in ARR were dramatic. There were many unique components to the CE growth that I am look forward to diving into over the next few months. But now that the deal is done and public and was successful from both a financial and educational perspective, there is one major thank you I need to give:

Thanks you, Jerry. Jerry Dyess is the Founder & CEO of Choose Energy. At first glance Jerry doesn’t “match” the Silicon Valley CEO fit. And frankly, early on in his tenure at Choose, he didn’t. Based in Plano, Texas with Louisiana heritage Jerry (admittedly) never felt totally comfortable in a San Francisco board room. Instead of board discussions he preferred customer conversations, employee engagement and products that drove immediate revenue and feedback. Jerry never explicitly stated this but if I had to summarize four of his main mantras, they would be:

  1. A small company grows into a big company through many small steps
  2. Revenue follows value provided. (A relationship that many SV firms tend to believe is the inverse)
  3. Hire the best people and get out of their way
  4. Stay lean. Excess cash causes problems. See point 1!

With the deal now in the rear-view mirror, what I am most proud about and thankful for is working with Jerry from the first days after the Series A to final day of the sale. Jerry is the consummate entrepreneur and I have no doubt that the ultimate success of Choose Energy was driven primarily by his product vision, his employee and customer empathy, and his market understanding. He transformed as a leader and I am proud to say I worked alongside him as his Chief Revenue Officer in our final year. In today’s transient workforce, I would like to believe that our enduring run at Choose Energy was pretty special.

And I can’t wait to see what he does next.

my lessons from bill campbell

my lessons from bill campbell

When I began working at Kleiner Perkins I made sure to introduce myself to many of the executive assistants in the office. I knew that I was going to intermittently look foolish and lost in the coming weeks and wanted to learn some of the daily routines and protocols to the extent possible. That openness helped me bridge into some great relationships with men and women I still speak to frequently. One of the early dividends of those relationships came when, working heads down at my desk, Kendall (now at FBN) in her boisterous way introduced me to “Coach”. I was young and hadn’t fully learned the recent history of the Valley quite yet and didn’t know who Bill Campbell was. Yeah, dumb I know.

I ended up speaking to Bill for a few minutes. We spoke about learning from the more established KPCB Partners around me and to do my best to spend time with the founders to expand my horizon into the operational side of the business. He never once mentioned his stature and who he had worked with. So, when the conversation ended and I did the obligatory Google search, my jaw dropped. A Silicon Valley legend, 100% down to earth, connecting, listening to young me. There was nothing of significant value I could have provided Bill in that moment – but he was simply curious about what the youngest looking guy in the building was doing. The curiosity – the curiosity to really meet me (albeit very briefly) made me feel special. I can only imagine how good of a coach he was to those who received hours of his time each month. His combination of grounded personality and curiosity was a real treat.

The one main lesson I took away from this is that if THE Bill Campbell is spending time, slowing down his day, to talk to a young me, then surely we can all take the time to better connect (truly listen and engage!) with those around us. (Oh, and the other lesson is to always befriend executive assistants 🙂 – thanks again, Kendall!)

getting into venture

getting into venture

Fall 2010

August– Met with Professor Ellen Rudnick about different initiatives at Chicago Booth to promote venture and entrepreneurship. She introduced me to the Chicago Innovation team leaders. Met with the senior leaders there and quickly realized the program was significant more scientific than business model & scaling, where I wanted to focus.

August- Found a way to reach out to nearly every second year student that had some VC exposure and even some recent graduates

September- Met with (now former!) Professor Linda Darragh, who was launching the Impact Investing Summit in Chicago. She was looking to find companies that had both economic and social returns to present to a group of social impact investors. Met and reviewed 20+ companies over 2-3 months and then prepared them for “demo day”. My first real venture and early stage advisory experience. What a THRILL!

November- Applied to Hyde Park Angels and got very lucky to get in in the final spot. During that time it was still run by Ira Weiss (now leading Hyde Park Venture Partners!) and Sam Guren (epic venture investor!). Within months was the head associate for the business services vertical and we were reviewing businesses, meeting with entrepreneurs and analyzing multiple deals every week. Truly an amazing experience that shows an early VC the importance the requirements of vision, analytics, compassion and interpersonal requirements within the VC space.

Silicon Valley Exposure

December- Selected to participate in the Chicago Booth west coast VC trek. This opened my eyes. It was only 3-4 days but it was a magical trip. We met with a dozen venture and start-up firms over 3 days and got an abbreviated insight into the world of VC across multiple different industries and stages of focus. I was beyond hooked… I almost instantly confirmed all my intentions, and knew it was where I wanted to dedicate my career. The combinations of audacious ideas, big bets, the criticality of leadership and teamwork… I loved it.

Day 1: We met with three venture firms and two start-ups….. AirBnB (a month after they closed their Series A) and Optimizely (still pre-seed investment). We were all too focused on the Battery Ventures meeting later in the day to pay attention to the two leaders of these companies trying to tell us to drop out of b-school and join them. Whoops

Day 2: We met with 3-4 more venture firms. One that stood out was Charles Tai from Charles River Associates. He mentioned this report called the “PWC Moneytree Report” and said it listed all the venture firms. I took a mental note. My unstructured and competitive senses simultaneously told me that list was my gameplan.

Day 3: More VC firm meetings. The general theme was “give before you get” and find way to be proactively providing value to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and good things will happen. In a separate meeting another VC told us about how one of his “spray and prey” investments made visual word clouds. Terrible business? Likely. Great way to summarize the data gathering of the trip? Absolutely.

And so, I took my 10+ pages of notes and brought the keywords into the software…and boom… suddenly I had a soft, visually-engaging content way to introduce myself to everyone on the PWC Moneytree Report. Just an icebreaker. And here it is.

January 2011: Reach out to about 80 firms on the PWC 100 list. Found 1-2 partners at each firm where I could make some interpersonal connection. Here are some stats, as I tracked everything in a funnel, like a sales process! (I will be expanding on each stage with some incremental posts but this is the skeleton structure)

Outbounds or Introductions: 110+

Each inbound was light and easy and tried to have a basic connection with the VC based on either their investments overlap in my sector interest or some overlap in their personal interests that were listed on their site or public profiles (Twitter, blogs). I would state my case that I wanted to enter VC and recognized the need to get involved and provide value over the next 24 months of school. I essentially was shopping free help.

It has been well-documented how VCs like to have a set of longitudinal data on an individual for consideration to join the investment team. Mark Suster talks about this with his hires. He needs to see multiple years of data points and experiences to understand the candidate’s performance over time and their general responsiveness to all types of life issues. I couldn’t agree more with the importance of following an “individual’s trend”. Consider these outbounds as merely day 1 of a multi-year process to a formal job in VC. Having an online presence helps share some of your earlier data points, so continue to contribute your interests and general thought processes and action items, when applicable.

Reply engagements & communications: 70

There is conventional wisdom that most VC firms do not hire associates or interns. Many of my initial feedback emails from VCs were quick notes saying as such. But, maintaining a cheery attitude and willingness despite there being no job at the end of the experience is still a great way to keep the conversation flowing. In fact, both places that I ultimately received a job offer from had never had an associate before.

In these meetings I would indicate my area of focus and how I believed my sector interests, perspectives, and growing network (and huste!!) would be a complementary value to the VC firm. And with that background I would offer to be helpful in ANY way. I would always prepare (an hour + for each call) about the person and their investments. I would come with an idea to provide value to them and a specific portfolio company or two. And would always offer to do more for a potential next call.

One of the biggest surprises here was who responded. Very big name VCs would engage or pass me along to a partner in the fund after a few sentences appreciating the word cloud. Amidst all of the “we are not hiring” emails or non-responses seeing how very senior and reputable VCs treated me well when they didn’t know me yet was a nice touch of class and inspiration.

If I was paying it forward they were paying it backward.

Follow-up meetings (in-person or with more materials): 25

These were some pretty in-depth meetings where I would do whatever I had previously offered and then a boatload more. I was of the mindset that I was a free agent and with every meeting I was leveraging prior meeting intelligence gathered around industry terms and market trends. And with that positive feedback loop my conversations became increasing substantive and resulted in a number of referrals.

For any of these meetings I would say “happy to chat over the phone, or I will be in the SF area next Thursday” and if the VC agreed to meet in person, I would buy a flight that day and try to convince a few others to meet in person at the same time.

Take a meeting with everyone. Your goal is to get smarter with every meeting and to ultimately create a mini echo chamber so that in the off chance two VCs you have spoken with know each other (it is a small world in VC)  you can reference your communal relationship and begin to establish more credibility. And, if you are really providing value to these individuals, that positive contribution will be recognized and communicated as a method of thanks. Again, do this work even if there is not a job at the end of the tunnel with a specific firm. At worst, your learn and gain experience and gain a bigger network!

It was exhausting but a real thrill.

On-site broad partner “discussions” (interviews): 4 

They are never really called interviews but more exposure to other partners in the Fund to see compatibility. In general my approach here was ALWAYS to provide value and assume that they were busy and could look to me to be a mainly independent asset to supplement their work and go target and find industries that they were not fully into yet.

For my interview with the KPCB team I proactively analyzed two to three big industry trends and used an investing framework I was learning in school and from my ongoing meetings. I used those frameworks to assess the industry trends, identify where the best companies would be positioned and went and found a few of them. The goal was to show I already knew what the job was… even though I was (in retrospect) really oblivious.

Job offers: 2!

Both came in March of 2011 so it was a full speed initiative for those four months. And then the real work began!

lessons from business school

lessons from business school

Lessons from business school

I am doing this with a few years separation so I am sure I am missing some of the intricacies but that should also help keep this more directional. A few background notes:

– I lived in Chicago prior to school, and therefore didn’t live in the “dorms” where many students end up living
– I didn’t go after a traditional on-campus recruiting job
– I prefer to have 1:1 or 1:few in-person meetings versus mass get-togethers and do my best thinking after listening for a while and going off on my own to process and formalize my thought process. I generally hate big room gatherings and the idea of clusters of people

With that, here are my lessons

1) Know your strengths and weaknesses and put yourself in a position to succeed on the job search front. This will mean saying no to many, many things and being patient as many others around you converge towards the latest on-campus event. There will always be something to do and somewhere to be and if you expend your energy in distracting areas, you will naturally reduce your ability to focus on the path of your main target.

2) Expand your reach socially. It is unlikely you will ever be in a place where you will have such an expansive set of stories and experiences from people who have absolutely no similarities to you. Get curious and, if possible, form working groups outside of your comfort zone. Look for social events that are new to you and go on a few trips to different parts of the world with people from the area. Learn from a local – it will make the experience more rewarding. These relationships will help develop your breadth of thought as well as your empathy and fascination towards initially foreign cultures. You will learn new questions to ask and new ways to approach problems and develop solutions.

3) Make friends with the faculty and engage them to uncover their experiences and motivations. Many students forget that our professors are more than just teachers. They have their own careers, their own stories and their own aspirations. This isn’t undergrad – you are more of an adult now and if you can connect with a professor as a professional and not just a teacher, the experience will expand your learning experience dramatically. But don’t do this for the grades – do this if you have genuine curiosity in their story. Professors see hundreds of students a year – they have great BS meters. Any fake intentions will be discovered immediately.

4) Take the best classes you can as early as possible in your 2 year stint. This way you will get access to the best professors early on (see part 3) and you will take those learnings and bring them to other classes within the curriculum and your job search outside of the curriculum. And do well in those classes. In general, this is one of the great parts of Chicago Booth- a supremely flexible curriculum that you can develop to your own aspirations.

5) Forget the hierarchy of first and second year. Everyone is there as a student looking to better themselves. Treat everyone the same: with respect, and continue to give forward any advice you have obtained. The higher your network (friends, school) reaches, the higher you will reach. Give even when there isn’t a certainty of reciprocation. And, this holds true beyond the walls of your b-school: engage with the community and if you are lucky, with other business school students at other schools. Your career is young and paths tend to cross un the unlikeliest of ways.

6) Use your spare time to improve yourself outside of the classroom as well! You wont have two years this “free” for a while… so tackle a new sport, get a pet, try an instrument, learn a new language or cooking technique. Whatever it is, just surprise yourself and go with it.