I’m currently advising a financial startup that is what I’d describe as being ‘highly engineered’. The Founders have thought of everything, and if their Whitepaper was an actual physical document, I guess it would be the size of an old telephone directory. Believe me, it’s comprehensive! The problem is that it’s too comprehensive for the initial reader. There’s a reason why news programs begin with the headlines – so that we can immediately understand what the main points are, and whether they are important to us. Only then do we decide if we want to watch, or read the detail.
The KISS principle was proposed by an engineer named Kelly Johnson back in the 1960s when he was working for the US Navy, and rapidly spread through the American armed forces. ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ is the idea that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated. For ‘systems’ you can also...
Crossing the finish line
I’m very interested in success, and a lot of what I do is about helping my clients to realize the success of their projects. The 6 Steps approach that I have developed over the years is designed so that it can be applied to every sort of business startup, no matter what the product or service on offer is. Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them that their startup is pretty much like any other in the challenges it faces. How can a tech company be the same as - for instance - a food company? My reply is that in raising money and gaining market attention, there’s almost no difference, and that in order to assure success, the step-by-step approach is the only game in town. And yet many startups around the globe decide that they are the exception to the rule. Their talents and uniqueness will win through, and obviously their offering will soon be racing towards the finish line. Big mistake.
So while I’m very interested in success,...
If I’m thinking of upgrading my golf clubs I may decide to sell the old set. There are lots of sites for that, or I can put a card on the notice board of the clubhouse. If so I’ll write something a little sales-oriented: ‘Immaculate set of hardly-used XX10 clubs consisting drivers, woods and hybrids. First one to see will buy!’
We all understand a simple sales proposition like that, but marketing? That’s another thing altogether. Too often I find that startups are very concerned about what their sales figures will be, and have probably spent a lot of time on spreadsheets projecting possible income. The product or service may not even be ready for market, but already the likely profit and loss figures are being assessed and massaged. It has to be done of course, but so has marketing. As I mentioned recently in a post, to many people marketing is simply something ‘clever’ (meaning a bit fake or tricksy), a junior member of the sales...
Think the unthinkable
I know that this isn’t a very PC quote to start with, but it illustrates a point: “Strategy is buying a bottle of fine wine when you take a lady out for dinner. Tactics is getting her to drink it.” The words of comedy writer Frank Muir, from a rather different age, but it continues neatly from my previous posting about Strategy. Strategy is about winning wars, Tactics is about winning battles, and you can quote me on that.
So what happens when tactics have to be used to deal with situations ‘on the ground’ which either haven’t been planned for, or which are so extreme that they could never have been planned for? Think of something unthinkable like the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York. There was no specific strategy to deal with such a disaster, but amazingly the emergency services used tactics which resulted in many people being brought to safety who would otherwise have died. Robust tactics work. Or to give you another...
In my last posting I was talking about that useful phrase, ‘The map is not the territory’ and how it applies to getting a business up and running, particularly during the fundraising phases. It’s one thing to have a plan on paper (or spreadsheet) and quite another thing when it comes to how that plan matches reality. And yet we must have a plan, or a better word is Strategy. If there is a true strategy for a business, then it adds huge strength to the offering. It turns somethings vague into something concrete. But as the strategy specialist Jeroen de Flander says, “You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.” If that sounds simplistic, believe me, I’ve seen very many businesses trying to go north and south at the same time, with less than optimal results.
So to succeed, a business must have a plan, like a builder must have a plan before commencing work on a house. The...
The map is not the territory
Between 1763 and 1767 a remarkable piece of science occurred: A surveyor named Dixon and an astronomer called Mason accurately drew the boundaries between four American states. They did this on the actual land, not on a map, because that was the problem they were asked to solve. The British King had casually drawn some lines on a map of America, but no-one really knew what this meant in the reality of the physical world. The Mason-Dixon line had to cross rivers and mountains, and even on occasion went right through the middle of houses! Every step of the way the two scientists had to check and test and calibrate, because if they were a fraction of a degree wrong at one point, a hundred miles further on, the boundary would be significantly in error.
Do you see where I’m going with this story?
Mason and Dixon faced many problems in their work, one of which was the previously unknown fact that the mass of the mountains they were in the middle of was...
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