There is the famous scene in “The Social Network” where Eduardo Sevarin meets with the company attorney to sign some documents. They were just “standard stuff”. Little did he know he was giving up the farm.
Attorneys can get expensive but they are worth it in the long run. Legal documents are complicated by design. You need someone who speaks the language.
Blogginggazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson
One of the foundations of backpacking is to eliminate weight. Doing so helps you hike faster, farther and more pleasant.
The things that add weight come mostly from fear. If you are afraid you will be cold, you carry more clothes and heavier sleeping gear. If you are afraid you’ll go hungry or thirsty, you carry more food and water. If you’re afraid to spend too much money, you get cheap (heavier) gear. Going lightweight requires much planning and a tolerance for risk and discomfort. But the potential rewards are breathtaking. You get to go places and have experiences that very few people can.
For the entrepreneur, we could say that “Wait comes from fear”. If you are afraid to run out of money, you might wait to start your company. If you are afraid to release the wrong product or perhaps of failure itself, you might wait.
Starting a company, like backpacking requires planning and a tolerance for risk and discomfort. In each case, you know that obstacles may arise and you adapt. You also know that if everything goes wrong, the chances of dying are extremely small.
But oh, the places you will see; the stories you will tell.
Everything you do should communicate clearly. Everything your company does should communicate clearly. Everything about your product or service should communicate clearly. Here’s a partial list:
- Value Proposition
- Mission Statement
- Company Values
- Funding Pitch
- Market Segment
- Product Features
- Elevator Pitch
- Core Ideology
Your job as CEO is more to communicate than to educate. This means meeting your audience on their terms, not yours.
This takes a lot of work and practice. It takes a lot of feedback from others. It takes followup and it takes repetition. It takes a lot of one-on-one time.
And the biggest part of communication is listening. Ask your stakeholders what they think and then shut up! Keep asking until you’re sure you understand. Keep honing the message until you;re sure they understand.
If you are doing something valuable, they will come after you. They will copy you. They will defame and discredit you. They will try to steal your customers by undercutting your price. They may even try to sue you… because they can.
The only way to win is to beat them in the marketplace. Delight your customers. You will taste terrible.
This one was mentioned in my MBA Finance class. Cash is the lifeblood of the business. Guard it well for you’ll die without it. Understand your customers’ process to pay. It’s not always cash on the barrel head; especially the government and institutions. They tend to be slow in letting their cash go.
The government wants their fair share so get help understanding the definition of “fair.” Make sure your accountant has experience with startups… one who understands employee stock options and such. Sometimes there are strategies that are “obvious” for sole proprietors that are detrimental to LLC’s.
When I was with a former employer who was a rather large multi-national corporation, there were, of course, meetings. Lots of them. Usually you were reporting to people who reported to other people who didn’t really know about what you were doing but they wanted to provide value anyway because they got paid a lot of money to “help” you.” This is all a nice way of saying that you usually got your butt handed to you no matter what.
My colleagues and I would remind each other while preparing for the meetings, “Just remember, they can’t kill you and eat you.”
For those who worry about making that funding pitch in front of a crowd of strangers, that’s pretty good advice to remember.
Investors are not investing in your technology, although it’s the framework. They don’t invest in your great presentation or your clever business model, although they open the door. They don’t invest in your resume although it’s a solid validation. And that glossy four color business plan? It ends up in a file folder.
Investors invest in your ability to get things done. To execute. To accomplish milestones. To get customers. To generate cash. The rest is just blah, blah, blah…