When chasing new business in startup land or any business for that matter, the time to revenue is more important than the amount or revenue.
It’s easy to believe that a big $500,000 project is better than a little $5000 project. Maybe the big one takes a year. Maybe the small one takes a week or two.
I say the small projects rule! But before I choose, the questions I usually ask myself include:
- How long will it take to get the revenue?
- What is the potential for expensive mistakes?
- What is the probability that the project will go over the time estimate?
- Are we paid in time put in or final completion of said project?
- What level of resources need to go into pitching & winning the project?
- Will we get more smaller projects after successful completion of the first?
When we answer these we usually find that the $5000 project that takes a week is a far better option than the $500K project that takes a year. And the reason that they are better is that the revenue is compressed.
I heard a great little story today about how to overcome barriers when pitching business, changing minds or influencing in general.
Changing worldviews is hard, often impossible. But there are two possible routes we can take when trying:
Route (A) We can try and change peoples view on a topic- change the unchangeable.
Route (B) We can change the currency. - This route is invariably more successful because it re-directs peoples perspective.
Car sales people do it all the time. Once the negotiation is close to reaching a stale mate on price, they then bring in the optional extras: Items removed from price. Although they do have a value, it changes the view point of the negotiation. It’s a change in currency. And the discussions can progress to a close.
When trying to reach an agreement, or change a mindset, we need to re-invent the currency of what is being discussed.
I had a catch up with a well known pitch doctor yesterday. He reminded me of some of the most important factors, and regular mistakes we make while pitching.
Biggest mistake: Wasting time talking about ourselves. They already know enough about us, or they wouldn’t be in the room. The right amount of time to allocate talking about ourselves is close to zero.
Biggest Opportunity: Leave some questions unanswered. (counter intuitive I know) This creates the opportunity for real conversation. When we converse, we see how each party thinks. It also enables us to determine if we have the right chemistry to work together.
Sometimes a startup just make sense. Logical in hindsight to the point where it feels like we should have done it.
Vitamints is one such startup. It is what it says – Vitamins which are also mints.
This Australian startup has taken some really clever insights to form the basis of the product format and it goes a little deeper than vitamins that taste nice. They found that houses were graveyards for half used vitamin bottles (I know mine is!!). The basic idea was to get vitamins out of the kitchen cupboard and into peoples pockets, like gum. So why not package it like gum? Why not make it taste nice? Why not distribute it in more convenient locations?
And aside from the fact that mints in convenience stores are almost the fastest growing impulse purchase, Vitamints taps beautifully into the mobile society we now live in. Your vitamins now live in your pocket people. Sounds a bit like a classic web mashup business, but in an old tired category. Once again industry incumbents need to take a lesson from an innovative new business – maybe that’s why I like it so much.
I can’t wait to read about them getting bought out by a multinational pharmaceutical company in 10 years time.
Spreadsheets cause far more problems in business than they solve. When we sue spreadsheets too much we start to believe our business is the numbers we make up to fill in the columns. Turns out the numbers on the tidy little sheets have very little to do with our business. Our business is about people, emotions and serving needs. It’s about human movement and insight, not predictions and forecasts.
In recent times brand managers and entrepreneurs have become spreadsheet managers. Busy forecasting, doing profit and loss statements for upcoming launches and estimating sales revenue and market share for the upcoming quarter. The problem with most of these activities is simple, they are predictions. They rarely turn out to be correct, and they suck time we should be investing in getting our products to the market, talking with our customers and promoting what we do.
In startup land there are only two colums we need. Expenses and revenue. Once we have these we just need to make sure the revenue side is greater than the expense side. After that we ought leave the spreadsheets to our accountants.
Here are two important assets for entrepreneurs:
Asset 1 = Imagination
Asset 2 = Effort
The aquisition of these assets does not require any financial output. Rather they only require desire and courage.
Desire to continue when others quit, or you lack the energy needed on an idle Tuesday.
Courage to take the inevitable criticism that arrives when you use your imagination to change something.
We often read about the value of brand names: “The ikea brand alone is worth $12 billion – Interbrand”
Not really. The value of a brand is the infrastructure and value chain which has been built behind it, resulting in the ultimate revenue streams. In truth the brand name is worth very little. Think about many of the unexpected and surprising corporate failures. Lehman Brothers, Ansett Airlines and Worldcom to name a few. What are their brand names worth today? Zilch.
If the brand name was really worth something, they would be sold and re-launched in some capacity. When any company is bought, the brand name is merely an adendum. It’s not the name that is being bought, rather the system, the structure, actually it’s the organisation. Of which the brand name is a very small part, even though it is what is spruked as the compenant of ultiamte value.
Startups who want to build a brand should think less about names and logos and more about building an infrastructure and revenue streams.
I was asked to answer a few questions at a talk I gave last week at the Nationwide Networking Event. It was aimed at Small businesses with the topic about new media and the advantages of being small. I thought it was a nice snippet of ideas worth sharing here.
Q: What type of changes can we expect from media in 2010 and how do we need to prepare for it as business professionals?
A: Media will fragment further, it’s increasingly like fashion with new ideas appearing daily. The art of value, like with fashion is by going with the classics and choosing the right style for the brand you want to build. Match your environment, by being involved in the right channels.
Q: Where do you see the role of the blog in the future?
A: Increasingly important. Blogs are a trusted source, because bloggers become, or are an expert on their topic of choice. This is because all good blogs are topic specific. And people want to deal with experts.
Q: What can we expect from the evolution of twitter and our capacity to use it as a marketing medium?
A: If we use it as a marketing medium we’ve already lost. It’s a conversation…. Conversation can turn into business, but it is primarily a conversation. First we need to be a resource. A resource to others, from which we can build trust and valued relationships. These may eventually lead a business relationship.
Q: What trends are coming from America that we need to be aware of?
A: Trends are global now. We don’t have to look overseas to see it. Things arrive simultaneously. It’s not like it was 20 years ago where our friends return from sojourns overseas to tell us all about the cool things they saw, and we have to wait for them to appear in our market a few years later. Now it’s on our desktop the day it happens. This is been further facilitated by web tools such as Springwise, Twitter and Youtube.
Q: How do we (small business people) benefit from the changes in the media landscape?
A: Barriers to entry have been removed so anyone can play. But it requires a long term consistent effort. New media requires a low financial investment, and large human capital input. Where as old media requires a large financial investment with little human effort. At least now we have to choice. In addition large companies have been (so far) pretty bad at using new media. It creates an advantage for us.
Q: How can we better utilize technology tor reduce our costs and increase our profits?
A: Shift from being doers, to becoming project managers. Outsource where ever possible. It’s easier now with all the tools we have at our disposal like elance and skype. Why do we even need an office? Is it because we need to, or because we don’t trust the people we work with?
Q: Your blog has 50,000 readers a month, how did you do that?
Q: What is the meaning of micro brand building and how would it be relevant to soloprenuers?
A: Build your personal brand first. That’s the first part of micro branding, becoming known for something. Having a skill you can share with others. Then eventually cross fertilize to your business brand.
Q: What are the simplest things we can do to build a micro brand?
A: Have a tight focus area of interest. Share our lessons honestly and openly. Frequency of output.
Q: How do we protect our brands?
A: Not with IP and legal stuff…. Most of that is a simple waste of money. We protect it with customers, innovation and reliability.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to those of us that need clients and need them quickly?
A: Cold call. Not on the phone, but turn up and talk.
Q: What books have influenced you?
Q: What marketers / speakers have influenced you?
A: Steven Wright (comedian) he taught me how to flip my perspective for alternative solutions.