The previous article, “A Quick Blink Test”, was written to help would-be entrepreneurs answer a basic question of how their proposed product or service would address some fundamental business need. This article is intended to provide an overall summary of the ninety-plus articles in this volume about starting a company. It can be thought of as the “Cliff Notes” or “SparkNotes” that attempts to capture the major themes of the volume. If more details are required, the reader is encouraged to browse or search the website for related and more detailed information.
It is all about revenue
- Focus on External Validation measured by revenue. Remember it is not what you say, but what others do (write a check) that counts.
- The size of the orders does not matter. It is the number of customers that have purchased, hopefully for the second time.
- Get to the market fast with the minimum acceptable products, but remember that quality is non-negotiable. Your offering must be much more compelling than existing alternatives.
- Don't underestimate the power of incumbency -- it is tough to get people to actually change.
- Follow an “epicenter” model. Sell locally where you can meet with customers and receive immediate feedback.
- There are three kinds of revenue: Referenceable, Scalable, and Profitable. Pursue them in that order.
- “Charge for everything, but give it away”. For example, send an invoice with a line item: “Extra training session cost $1000, credit $1,000, amount due $0.00.” It will show your value.
- Paint your vision from the customer's point of view, and explain how you can help them AND their customers.
- People are busy and don't care about your business the way you do. "Less is more”. As one example, create a 12-word elevator pitch that others can easily remember and repeat. Develop different elevator pitches for different audiences (users, buyers, partners, investors, etc.).
- Focus on what you provide, not on what you do or how you do it. For example: "We help you…."
- Make "why you are different" obvious, and why it matters to the customer and to the customer's customer. You shouldn’t have to say it. It should be quickly self-evident to others.
- Truthfully and objectively answer one, seven-part question: “Who is the customer and what is their single most compelling reason to buy, now, from you?
- Think of every available dollar as a silver bullet. Once fired, it is gone forever. Don’t run out of ammunition!
- Force yourself to focus only on the things that "should" be done instead of what "could" be done.
- Remember, you want investors to put money INTO the company, while investors are focused on how they will get money OUT OF the company. How will they do it and when?
- A few customer trials are OK to get real-world feedback but weigh the opportunity cost (time and $) before you commit to too many. Do “Conditional Sales” instead. The amount you charge is not important.
- "Throw away is OK." Use interim systems (Excel instead of a CRM) and outsource to experts to save money. Invest only in your core competency. Part-time professional specialists are readily available.
- Ask for help, show your vulnerabilities (which are probably obvious to others), and build relationships before asking for money. (“If you ask for money, you will get advice, but if you ask for advice, you may get money!”)
- For investors, it is all about risk, reward, AND relationships. They invest in YOU first and your plan second.
- Have and show passion, but not emotion. Emotion clouds your objective vision.
- Accept "no" quickly and move on. Be totally committed but be able to “let go” if and when it is necessary.
- Remember, it is never “they didn't get it.” It is always “you didn't give it.”
- Seek objective feedback from strangers that are not afraid of hurting your feelings and seeing through your passion.
- Although your business is very important to you, customers will not view your offering as the center of their universe. Understand where and how you fit into their world and their timing.
- Think about how you will scale the business when it is required. Think about this early and often.
- Can the business scale? Are you relying on single source experts (such as yourself) or custom solutions that require lots of care, feeding, and ongoing support? Can you scale to do ten times more than you are doing now?
- Distribution is the only thing that matters. How will you make prospects aware of your offering, and how will you reach and close them and then support them? Think through these issues early.