“When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” William Wrigley Jr

And how!

With many entrepreneurial teams, there is little disagreement on the execution of the business plan.  This makes for a blind team.  While you want the team to be in agreement on where you are going strategically, you need people who think differently than you and your team members to successfully execute the business plan. 

If you are on the team and looking to add people, make sure they are not carbon copies of what you already have.  If you are joining a new start-up team, challenge a few of their ideas (tactfully) during the interview.  If they push back, you are looking at a potential failed team.

It is a difficult line to see and respect, that line between agreement on the long term strategy / business plan and the more immediate issues associated with executing the business.

 There is another way to read the quote above.  The worst executive team I ever worked with was the one where everyone agreed.  In my case this was true because the President of the company was famous for the following response to any new idea:

“Are you willing to bet your job on it?”

He did not say it in an encouraging way.  He meant that if the idea failed you were fired.  You can imagine how much time it took for everyone on his team to learn to agree with every idea he ever had. He lasted about 18 months and in the process destroyed 2/3 of the stock-holder value in a $950m/yr publicly traded company.

Driving a team with fear and intimidation will destroy all creativity and useful dialog no matter the size of the company. 

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Talk to your (future) customers!

lunch

lunch (Photo credit: jaded one)

I was reading a blog the other day written by the group at 16 ventures.   Titled “Take your customer to lunch, not me” it reminded me of advice I have often given.  When you are working on part of you business model and looking for feedback, do not forget your current or future customers.  They are the ones that in the end will have the final vote on your success. 

Here are three approaches may want to consider:

  • Turn each question you have around and look at it from the customer’s view, what will they receive for their money.  When you meet with the customer, explain the whole view of the idea from price to what they will receive.  Ask the question then do a lot of listening.  As the customer offers ideas, ask probing questions to understand the why of their response.
  • Ask a former customer.  This is an opportunity to find out more about what they were really looking for and gives you a perspective from a non customer that knows your company.
  • Get a few of your customers and prospects together and run the question by then in a group setting.  Let them discuss the idea amongst themselves.  You may end up with a better idea in the end than what you started with.  

Asking your customer before making a change is a great way to insure success and prevent a major failure.

(This post originally ran in March of 2010.  From time to time I re-publish older posts I think are still relevant)

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Guy Kawasaki and the 10/20/30 rule + The Pitch Refinement Sessions = Success!

The best advice I have seen written on developing and delivering a pitch for start-up capital was writing a couple years ago by Guy Kawasaki.  Some of you may be familiar with Guy as he has been writing books, blogging and tweeting for some time.   In his book, The Art of the Start, Guy lays […]

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In my work at the BIZ, I receive more questions about raising capital than any other subject.  Last March the BIZ hosted a one day seminar on raising capital.  We covered a series of topics that educates the entrepreneur or business person on the fundamentals of raising capital. To close the seminar out I provided a […]

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Marketing: Effective or Because You Like It?

I was working with a group a while back who were finalizing their branding.  They were fixated on the logo design.  Unfortunately for them, the whole selection process revolved around which one they liked best.  They did not ask past or potential customers for their opinion.  They did not follow best practices in logo design. […]

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Raising Capital and Patents, Intellectual Property

A common question I hear concerns patents and other intellectual property such as trademarks.  Entrepreneurs are often not sure if they should go through the process of obtaining a patent, copyright or trademark.  There are many things to consider in making these decisions.  One area that is often overlooked is the effect intellectual property has […]

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