Jeff Haden has captured some hilarious truth in a recent article in “Inc” focused on things that entrepreneurs says Sh*t Entrepreneurs Say. After years of working in start-ups as an employee and a consultant I have to admit he’s nailed it. With Steven Jobs passing the business world seems pretty caught up in finding a new model for figuring out the path to the Holy Grail.
Perhaps it’s age, but I have to tell you what our folks hammered into our undeveloped brains is better advice than most of what I heard in graduate school or certainly more useful than the current crop of entrepreneurs. I’m a big fan of basic blocking and tackling.
Most of what I share with my clients isn’t something new out of the latest “6 Steps to Success” book. Don’t get me wrong, I do read and still have the capacity to learn but the path to success for any start-up is paved with hard work. There’s just no way around that. A culture that doesn’t promote working smarter doesn’t benchmark based on results and views itself as too “groovy” is going to fail.
Some of my favorite comments from Haden are the following (with my take on what they really mean):
“R & D is only for people who don’t have a clear vision.”
It’s ok to pave a new channel but research to validate that your product has the same value to your target client as it does to you is critical. Sometimes you just love your baby more than anyone else…
“I can’t tell you what we’re working on. Just know that it will be huge.”
A product road map is a fundamental business tool. Never let your software folks hold you or your company hostage. Document everything and ask them to work toward the same type of activity-based metrics as the sales team.
“All we need now is funding.”
Not really, all you need are sales because without those, particularly in this economy there will be no funding. The ol’ business plan drawn out on an IHOP napkin story was so 1990’s but in 2012 it’s an urban legend…
“Trust me, it will scale.”
Ouch! Not really, this is not an area where blind faith is a good strategy. Every small company should be prepped to handle the “What if” scenario for a really large opportunity. If not, you’ll price it badly and potentially destroy a really good company.
“Our service will sell itself.”
I’ve yet to meet a company that didn’t need a sales team. Being too close to your own offering, too far from the client and poorly invested in a strong sales effort is one of the most common problems for young companies.
“The consumer isn’t smart enough to realize how great we really are.”
Remember that adage, “The client is always right” well they still are and not respecting your buyer will lead to very few sales. A key to success in business is ensuring that your product keeps pace with the buyers needs. The best ideas won’t sell if they don’t take into account the buyers willingness to value and use the product.