Entrepreneurs are naturals at finding. We easily find business opportunities and new markets. We quickly find people who want to work with us by sharing our vision. And if we have the patience, adaptability, and tenacity, we find enough customers to build a business.
But once we make the find, we have a tendency to direct our time, attention, and resources away from it. We often lose interest with the people and organizations who take big risks in buying from us, working with us, investing in us, and partnering with us: the early adopters who helped us build the foundation of a business. Continue reading
I love hearing that. I heard it three times this week and each time, it made me smile.
“I’m looking forward” makes it personal. It puts humanity into the equation, making the exchange less of a transaction and more of a relationship. It becomes more about them and less about us, and we know that if we nail it, they’ll come back for more. Look forward to more. Continue reading
Brian Burkhart, founder of Square Planet, recently taught the Communicating & Presenting class for The Junto Institute. Brian came highly referred by several friends and colleagues and didn’t disappoint, generating the highest scores for our classes so far.
One of his key points (based on Simon Sinek’s “golden circle” concept) was that your best customers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Therefore, you should begin your communications with an “I believe” statement. Whether it’s a website, sales or investor pitch, job interview, or speaking engagement, starting with “I believe” helps explain why you’re doing what you’re doing and helps draw in an audience that shares the same beliefs (a.k.a. “target marketing”). Continue reading
If you think it’s hard now, just wait.
In the early years, it’s mostly about product development, market exploration, funding, and the first people. Later on, it becomes about new customers and repeat customers, hiring and firing, financing and investing. Your job as the leader becomes about team-building, motivation, branding, culture, legal issues, supply chain, strategic planning, and training. And don’t forget about occasionally bailing out employees, handling office break-ins, or fighting competitor lawsuits.
Want proof that it’s really hard? Think about where you are on the growth curve and then think about all the places you can turn to for help: incubators, accelerators, universities, development programs, angel networks, competitions, etc. It’s amazing how many resources there are. Not only is it easy to start a company, it’s also easy to help one that’s starting.
Where do you go once you move up the curve? Consulting firms, books, conferences, and maybe a few organizations? That’s it?
Not only is it hard to grow a company, it’s also really hard to help one that’s growing.
There was a time, back in the 1980s and 90s, that Inc. magazine was cool. It was the Wall Street Journal of small business and startup publications. It was respected. It had real stories of real entrepreneurs running real businesses. Its tagline was clear: “The magazine for growing companies.” It was one of those magazines which I looked forward to reading each month. Continue reading
There’s a group of entrepreneurs that fascinates me. They don’t show up at the startup gatherings which attract many of their peers. They don’t get mentioned by the press a whole lot, either locally or nationally. And if you talk about them with people in the community, you tend to get a response of “Who are they?”
They’re the ones who realize that all startups compete on a level playing field because they share one common asset – time. The difference is how they use it. They believe in working hard and working smart.
These entrepreneurs believe they can create more value for their companies by working, not going to events. They realize that there’s never enough time to get their work done and events don’t help check things off their to-do lists.
So if it comes to networking, rather than wanting to meet people, they want to build relationships. They eschew large “shotgun” gatherings in favor of targeted, one-on-one meetings through which they can build trust, confidence, and loyalty over time.
These entrepreneurs believe that the time required to raise capital early on, described by many as a “second full-time job”, just isn’t worth it. Instead, they’d rather build value and cash flow the old-fashioned way – revenues – and worry about capital when they need to grow, scale, or otherwise use money to achieve something faster than time can.
They use friends and family to pitch in whenever possible, find web-based tools to automate processes, and leverage off-shoring not just to save money but to create time. They can’t stand doing payroll, managing the books, posting to social media, or filling out annual reports for the state.
These entrepreneurs value the experiences of peers over the expertise of service providers, saving both time and money. It’s far more efficient to reach out to a few fellow entrepreneurs to learn how and why they did something (and what happened) than to go through the process of finding, vetting, and selecting a so-called expert.
We like to say that, in order to build something valuable, entrepreneurs must focus, focus, focus. I’ve always wondered why that’s so much easier said than done but perhaps these entrepreneurs hold the key.
Perhaps the key to unlocking the door to focus – and value creation – is by simply getting rid of the friction in a startup.