Andy Sack is one of the cooler VC’s in the Seattle area, mostly because he blogs, and blogs frequently enough that you do not forget about him and what he is doing and who he is working with. He has posted on his blog an interesting set of ideas for startups that have not ignited yet. Of course most of this has to be taken with the idea that Andy is a VC, and he has a reason for wanting people to get big or go home. For some unignited but having a good time is good enough, but for those who want to do more of the “go big or go home” style of startups Andy offers this advice.
1. Admit you have a problem
2. Figure out if the problem is you or the market (or both) — Note: you can’t change the market just your approach and behavior in the market
3. Make a list the things you can control vs the things you can’t control
4. Prioritize the list of things you control and make a 90 day to do plan
5. Hire a coach to assist you in hitting all your 90 day goals — buy them dinner for payment
6. Get out of your comfort zone
7. Assess what skills and characteristics are preventing your business from succeeding — acquire those skills
8. Buy the 7 habits of highly effective people. Read the book and do all the exercises in it.
9. Subscribe to Tony Robbins on Twitter.
10. Get everyone aligned behind hitting your company 90 day goals
11. Stay positive. One foot in front of the other.
All of these are great ideas and things that any company should be doing. Probably the biggest issues are number 1 and number 2. If you do not admit there is a problem while the book balances continue to slide into the red, then very bad things are going to happen. Many times it is not worth throwing extra money at the problem if point number 2 points to market rather than internal conditions. What is a true double whammy for any startup is both book balances market conditions and the inability to pull the plug on the company or work out a strategy that will work with what you have left to you. All startups and even mature companies sometimes get the call wrong and they end up seriously damaging their brand externally.
The list of things the company can control and the list of things that a company cannot control is very important. There are many things that a company cannot control that are external to the company. No one can control the economy or provide 10% of the population with employment so that they have money to spend. However there are things the company can control, like do you have the right people to do the things you need to do, what does the financial burn rate look like and can you defer expenses or can you work within what you make now so that the company can continue to grow its base and grow alongside the base.
Make a manageable plan, 90 days is good, some of the things you can control might take a bit longer. If they do take longer, see if they are really worth doing. The goal of the plan is to do things now that will help turn things around, the coach to help you ensure that you are hitting on all the things you need to hit on are the important part. A “nag” is always good, they are the people who keep you focused when focus can be very difficult in the day to day quagmire of a company. 7 Habits and Tony Robins you should become familiar with, they are important, but hard to remember in the heat of the day when the company is consuming time. Read these at home at the end of the day, do the exercises, and then work on one or two things you can reasonably do the next day. Keep this up until 7 habits becomes normalized for you. We all learn stuff, but in the heat of the moment we tend to fall back on things that have worked for us in the past.
Get people with you, and keep on moving forward. You are on a very short timeline with 90 days, if everyone on the team is not coming with you, then you have to do something about that. It is not enough to just let one person slide by, you have to have everyone or no one that is how this one works. Do not lose sight of what you want to accomplish, you only have 90 days, if you let things distract you, you are going to go under. Keep focused and keep realistic, you need to understand what you can truly do in 90 days, and how well you can lead your company to success.
The hardest thing to do is step 12, if you got nothing right you will not ignite. If you do not want to “go big or go home” you will not ignite in the sense that Andy is stating. For some, igniting might just be enough money to live off of and live the way that you want to. For others it might be something different than that, and for many startups it is all about going big or going home. If you missed any of the 11 steps, you will not ignite, and it might be time to call it a day.
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(Cross-posted @ TechWag)