Member Profile: John Warren

Trailhead isn’t just a community of entrepreneurs, it’s a community of innovators, thinkers, and doers. John Warren is the definition of a Trailhead member, embodying each and every one of these traits.

After growing up in North Carolina, John went on to pursue postsecondary education, eventually receiving an MBA from Duke University in his home state. John is currently involved with the Stanford Advanced Project Management program, and has been for the past eighteen years. Within this program, John concentrates on researching the execution of strategy through project based work.

John has always loved entrepreneurship, but early on he realized he was too risk averse. Even though his personality didn’t fit with being an entrepreneur, he still wanted to work in business. With a passion for strategy, a strong educational background, and countless years of experience, John has evolved into a talented management consultant. Operating under Strategy Playbook, John provides world class consulting and strategic facilitation to help organizations, often Fortune 500 companies, execute their strategies. Just to name a few, some of his past clients have included HP, Cisco, Xerox, Google, and Charles Schwab.

Through the Stanford Advanced Project Management program, John considers how he can help a company execute strategy through project based work. In doing so, John might visit a client and ask them, “What are you going to do on Monday morning?” For many companies executing strategy, there isn’t always an apparent answer, and John pushes companies to find it.

John especially enjoys helping companies, who may in fact already be successful, continue to stay in business. According to John, “Companies are constantly having to change their business models as markets develop over time, and I love helping them do that. Young businesses might not be experiencing this market development yet, but startups still have to worry about other companies doing what they’re doing. I love to help businesses consider how they can get ahead of the game, and stay ahead of the game.”

John took some time out of his busy consulting schedule to sit down at Trailhead and talk about his work with Strategy Playbook.

How would you describe your business to a stranger on the street?

I’m helping individuals and organizations understand what they need to do to be successful executing on their strategy. I help clients understand their purpose, company culture, and structure, make sure they are clear about goals, and push them to consider where investments need to be made in order to pull all that off. I look at where a company is, where a company wants to be in the future, and then figure out how to get them there through strategy implementation.


What did you do before your consulting career?

I worked in the applied research and development world. Companies and government agencies would come to my group and pay us to do detailed research for them.


What do you like about working in strategy consulting?

I get to invest my time where I think it is needed, and having this freedom is great. I also love having the ability to work with a lot of different organizations, and Strategy Playbook is allowing me to do that. I’ve done everything from working with startups, to working with corporations like Apple and Google.


How did you hear about Trailhead and what made you decide to become a member?

I was interviewing some people at BSU and surrounding schools, looking to learn about the startup scene here in Boise. Some of those I was interviewing mentioned Raino Zoller and Jeff Reynolds during our conversations, and so I came to Trailhead to speak with them. This is initially how I came into contact with the organization. After spending some more time at the space, I met Roger Hancock from Recall InfoLink, and he was really the one that brought me in.

Honestly, even if I didn’t come into Trailhead to work, I would still be a member, just to support what Trailhead is doing. Producing a greater business ecosystem in Boise is important for the community, and helps all kinds of companies out, whether it be startups or already established companies.


What are your most important short term goals for Strategy Playbook?

I want to be able to continue to provide business value for people. The extensive business experience I have had through my career would be valuable for many people and organizations, and Trailhead is a vehicle for helping me share it.


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting a company in Boise?

  • Talk to a variety of people, not just in the business your are interested in. You need to make sure you talk with people that aren’t like yourself.
  • Undergo customer development. It is important to really understand your customer. Don’t just share your product or service with friends; share it with real people. You have to understand the exact job you are trying to do for customers.
  • Understand your business model.
  • Be leary of trying to imitate someone else; you have to be unique and find your own niche.
  • Know that timing has a lot to do with the outcome of the rain dance.
  • Sometimes it’s hard for us to see blindspots. Remember, “Fish can’t see water.” Ask yourself what you are seeing that no one else is seeing.
  • Premortem can be very powerful and important. If you can find out where you went wrong, you can learn what caused your venture to fail.


What are the most important books for an entrepreneur to read?

  • Check out Trailhead’s library; I’ve donated a ton of books.
  • Connectography by Parag Khanna
  • Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Value Proposition Design by Alan Smith, Alexander Osterwalder, Gregory Bernarda, Trish Papadakos, and Yves Pigneur
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • The Design Sprint by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz from Google Ventures