Category: Execution

“Technology must be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary and invisible.” – Chris Lehmann

It’s official.  I have more social technology than I can effectively use.  So now I have to have technology to manage the technology and I have to schedule time to manage the technology that manages the technology…

There is always a point where the technology begins to manage us and you have to question if it’s actually providing a return on your investment of time and energy (and dollars!)

It all comes back to understanding your customer or your audience or your tribe.  Then choose the technology that best delivers your value to them.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“You can do and endless amount of analysis… And you still have to make a decision.” – Jim Collins

There is no amount of strategic planning that will eliminate all risk.  There is no magic spreadsheet.  Planning is meant to identify risk so you know about it.

If you wait for the perfect plan with zero risk, someone else will beat you to the market; someone who was able to take action.  You can’t do everything everyone wants you to do. You have to make a decision and then go to there.

Read Beyond Entrepreneurship by Jim Collins.


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Steve Blank says that no business plan survives first contact with the customer.  That’s a riff on a quote ascribed to Helmuth von Moltke,  a German general from the 19th Century who said “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

The point is that the value of the plan is in the planning; in the understanding about your customers, products and markets.  It’s in the learning of your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  It’s about pivots and reacting to what you learn when you enter the market.

A plan gives you a set of objects to get started but immediately, you run into things you didn’t anticipate.  Your planing should include “what-if” scenarios and careful measures to provide data on how you are doing.

It always takes longer, costs more and is more challenging that you expect to get your company launched and your product in the hands of the customer.  Stay lean, flexible and pivot!

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Interviewing customers is not what most people get out of bed every morning dying to do…, – Rob Adams

“…but in the end, it’s the utlimate way to produce value in the market and it is a sign of an execution mentality.”

We talk plenty about the importance of the customer discovery process and Rob Adam’s quote from “If You Build It, Will They Come?” is dead on.

But I’d like to focus on the last eight words, “it is a sign of an execution mentality”.  This is subtle but it’s really very important.  Investors are a skeptical bunch and most tell you, all other things equal, that they invest in the management team.  The question in the back of the mind is always, “Can this person pull it off?”

The ability to show results and data from a well documented customer discovery process is a huge validating activity that shows you know how to get things done.   But it also shows you know how to do hard things that aren’t fun but very import to the process.

“Interviewing customers is not what most people get out of bed every morning dying to do…” – Rob Adams

“…but in the end, it’s the utlimate way to produce value in the market as it is a sign of an execution mentality.”

There’s a lot packed into this sentence.  Beyond the obvious message of the importance of talking to customers, and the fact that no one likes to do it, there is a more subtle message that is very important.

Investors are interested in traction as a validation of your business model.  But before you have 1,000 visitors to your web site a day, there is the time when you don’t have a product and you don’t have customers.  But as Rob Adams preaches, that is the optimal time to validate the market through customer interviews.

It takes discipline and effort; two things that are going to be of interest to investors.  If you can demonstrate from hundreds of customer interviews that you have a minimally viable product, you not only validate your business model but you show you have the discipline and execution mindset to get the job done.

This is an intangible that all stakeholders look for but there is not a standard slide in the deck for execution mentality.  It comes from evidence of how you conduct business, how you research your markets and how you validate your value proposition.

Read “If You Build It, Will They Come?” by Rob Adams

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls.” – Jim Collins

Jim Collins on Discipline – part 3 of 3

Everything a startup does should be pointed at getting the product in the customer’s hands and then getting the next customer.

There will be a time for processes and middle management… perhaps.

Perhaps you will be acquired by then and not have to worry about it.

Your objective is not to win the next grant or to have a detailed research and development plan.  In fact, your financials will be totally unpredictable so don;t spend hours tweaking the spreadsheet.

Spend the hours getting the product ready to ship.

“If we did a complete financial analysis, no one would ever have children.” – Shawn Carson

Happy Labor Day!

According to CBS, it costs a quarter million dollars to raise a kid to the age of 18.  Check out the cost breakdown:$241080/

Tack on another $100k to get them through a public university.  If you did a full financial analysis complete with a discounted cash flow and IRR, there is absolutely no break-even point.

But that’s not why we have kids.

“All financial projections are lies.”  So goes the Venture Capital joke.  They have to be believable and pass the sniff test when you tell your story but no one can predict the future, nor can we predict customer behavior.  There will be a time when you must crunch the numbers, tweak the models, build the spreadsheets and analyze the scenarios.

But in the startup phase, no amount of analysis will justify the investment.  That will come from customer validation so run the numbers and then, as Guy Kawasaki would say, “go make meaning”.  If you find a way to ease the pain and create delight for your customers, the numbers will follow.

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision only passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel Barker

There are those who see and those who do.  We need both.

The seers view the realm of the possible in all it’s abundant potential.  But they must convince others to bring forth reality.

The doers get it done.  Their inspiration comes from leadership.  But success is often measured by busy-ness.

The World Changers…they capture the one idea from the seers they can accomplish and assemble a team of doers.  They can focus on the tasks while keeping an eye on the end game.

That is how dents in the universe happen.


“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

Technical people can get “analysis paralysis” when developing technology.  It’s better to release early and iterate like crazy.  If the problem you are solving is big enough, and it should be, then you run the risk of your competitor beating you to the marketplace.  Then you have to steal their customers which is harder to do.

Don’t develop the perfect product.  It will be too expensive and someone else will get there first.  Develop the product that is good enough and solves the most important thing.