Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stop and Think...And Think Through…

One of the perks that I get as part of leading a company that focuses on starts ups is that I get to meet with a number of eager beavers. These are typically founder, co-founders or part of the core startup team that has embarked on an exciting journey. They are all about action…now or never, just do it, should have been done yesterday… type of attitude. Nothing fundamentally wrong with this attitude, but this attitude should come with a warning label of ‘Don’t overdo it’ and more importantly ‘don’t overdo it by trying to do it all by yourself’.

Hence as work with startups every day, I ask them to follow the principle that was taught to my elder son when he was in first grade.
The principle…simple….STOP & THINK! His school emphasized so much on this principle that they would give out STOP & THINK award at the end of school year.

There's a reason why this principle of STOP & THINK is applicable in case of startups and especially the technology focused ones in India is for a few reasons:
  1. They focus on their organizational strengths and put all their precious resources toward that. For example, most startups (the core team) are extremely technology focused. This means that the little precious resources they have are exhausted in writing the last line of core for beta or buying software or getting that one additional developer to speed up development. More often than not this leads to no resources, mostly money, being left for other critical activities like Product Strategy, Product Marketing, Sales, etc. This leads to the next reason…
  2. Since there is no money / resources left they venturing into attempting to taken on tasks that are not their core strengths.  In the example that I mentioned, it would be a person focused on technology trying to get into Product Strategy, Marketing and Sales activities. Due to these none core skill set activities that they perform, they not only lose focus on core activities but badly botch other key activities that are not core to them.

A thoughtful balanced approach…
Balanced Approach

Here’s the guidance that I provide to startups that I work with...

STOP & THINK: Every time there is a task or a type of activity that you have perform…STOP & THINK…ask yourself the following questions: 
  1. Do you have skills to perform that activity?
  2. Is the right activity to be focusing your time and attention on?
  3. Is it going to take you away from your core activities?
  4. Are there other related activities that might come up?
  5. Is this activity going to end up being huge time sink?

9 out of 10 times as an entrepreneur you will be better off getting paid professional help for taking care of your non core functions. It doesn’t have to be super expensive. But you will end up being saving time, money and make faster progress on things that you want to focus and spend time on.

One of the most common mistakes that technology focused startups do is not getting the appropriate help for Product Strategy and Marketing. These critical functions when done right can help in many ways, some of them being:
  1. Identifying the right customer and market segment.
  2. Building the right product by putting yourself in customers’ shoes.
  3. Putting the development team on right product development roadmap.
  4. Identify partnerships for expanding product offering and increasing product adoption with large customer base.
  5. Position the Product in a way so that customers of the product can relate to it.
If not done correctly and at the right time, lack of Product Strategy and Marketing can spell doom on the startup because…
  1. Team has built technology that the user doesn't want.
  2. The technology is cool but cannot be monetize
  3.  Team has run out of resources to make any course corrections.

If you are one of those technology focused entrepreneur, then I strongly recommend that you take a balanced approach and pull in experts where needed, when building your products and services, early on.

Remember you are sufficient for your idea, but call on experts for running a successful business built on that idea…

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