Building the technology that is the foundation of your business is the easy part of being an entrepreneur. If you want to build a great business, you need to focus on execution and operations. Without them, you’ve go nothing.
I recently spoke at a local entrepreneur event WakeUp StartUp and I was asked what matters most for entrepreneurs. My answer surprised a few people. Most folks think it’s all about having the coolest new technology. They’re wrong.
Tech is easy. Execution is what matters.
There. I said it.
Why is it that so many entrepreneurs believe the tech is the be-all, end-all? Where did the notion come from that if you have nothing more than a killer application, website, algorithm, or any other combo of 01001010101110110 that you can build a multibillion dollar company? (I probably just dropped an f-bomb with that combo of digits).
It’s about executing, people (note the comma in this sentence is *very* important).
Sure, you need good tech. It must solve a problem. But once it’s built, you have to execute. That’s a whole different skill set than writing code and drawing wiring diagrams. Think about how many awesome technologies went the way of the dodo because the company simply failed to execute. Lots of them.
So how can you get better at execution? Here are a few thoughts:
Define a strategy
Know your market. Know the problem you’re solving. Know what differentiates you from competitors. And stay focused. Many entrepreneurial ventures and small businesses implode due to lack of focus and meandering strategy. Strategy is about saying “no.” Define your approach to the market and stick to it until the market tells you you’re fundamentally wrong and need to change.
GIVE UP EQUITY AND BUILD A TEAM!
I’ve seen the “I need to own it all” dynamic cripple many a business. News flash oh budding captain of industry: yes – you own 100% but it’s 100% of ZILCH! If you can’t pay new team members in cash, share the equity. Bring on talented people earlier rather than later and have them help you build the business – fast! The best defense against competitors is scale and market penetration. That requires speed. Speed requires bandwidth. Bandwidth requires people. People require compensation. This isn’t hard to wrap your head around. Do it. You’re in bootstrapping mode!
Sell. Sell. Sell.
Don’t give me this “if we just get 0.05% of the quadrillion dollar market we’ll be billionaires” crap. Sure, that works at a high level. But from the bottom up, you have to sell EVERY customer. That means build a pipeline relentlessly and push it forward every day. You will not convert every lead. That means you need a ton of leads to turn them into revenue. Always look to advance the sale and drive toward contracts at every turn. As Giovanni Ribisi says in Boiler Room “ABC – Always be closing.” If you pull the “x% of a huge market” thing, you’re demonstrating one of the five reasons your idea pitch sucks.
Personally, I suck at this. I take on too much and spread myself too thin. That has implications for my businesses – I can’t build them as quickly as I would like. For my “day job” I’m the Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, and author of One Piece of Paper, Lead Inside the Box, and The Elegant Pitch. At other times in my life (while I’ve been executing the aforementioned responsibilities, I’ve been the CEO of TiXIT, Principal at weBuild, founder of FreakJet, and founder of SimpleMile. Yeah. FOCUS! I know all of those ventures would have been much further along if I focused my efforts better. Instead, they all died on the vine because I couldn’t dedicate enough time and energy to them. My main gig had the majority of my attention. That lack of focus not only hurt the new ventures, it detracted from my main one. The need for focus holds true for any business you run. Even within a single business, ruthless focus is critical.
Quit being a control freak
If you bring people on to do a job, LET THEM DO THEIR JOB! Yes, you started the company. No, that doesn’t mean you have to do every task. Give people freedom to operate. Get some benefit from having those talented people around. Use them as a force multiplier. If you’re paying them to do work, let them do work. They *want* to do work. Stop being a micromanaging control freak.
Again, once the tech is built, you’ve got to sell it. You need to build a team. You need to hire operators and sales people. You need to get out of their way and let them do their jobs. If you want to have a shot at building the next great company (either tech-related or not) you would do well to heed these principles. Yes – I need to do a better job of heeding them as well. We all do.
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