Kentucky Derby (AP/Photo David Goldman)
In today’s business startup environment, if you don’t move fast, you get run over. Without a sense of urgency, people and businesses just can’t move fast enough. Speed is the driver because customers have a zero tolerance for waiting, and there are always competitors gaining on you.
John P. Kotter, in “A Sense of Urgency,” delves into the how-to required of entrepreneurs on that first step, avoiding pitfalls along the way. He is convinced that increasing the sense of urgency is the toughest of the steps necessary for effective change. Read more
This is about a deal my angel group turned down.
The software looks excellent. I wanted to use it immediately. There’s urgent and widespread market need. It’s obviously proprietary too. It’s a crowded noisy market, but it feels like this one has a real shot at it. Furthermore, the entrepreneur behind it is proven. The software grew out of the needs of a successful professional service business. There’s relatively low risk of failure.
So why did we turn it down? Read more
Image via WickedStart.com
In sports, mental toughness is defined as the ability to focus on and execute solutions, especially in the face of adversity. If anyone in business ever needed mental toughness, it’s an entrepreneur. Investors tell me that startup success is all about execution, all while facing determined competitors and overcoming customers’ resistance to change.
Dr. Jason Selk, in his book “Executive Toughness,” talks about mental toughness with analogies between sports and business, but he never takes it all the way to entrepreneurs, where I believe it can have the most impact. So here is my interpretation of the fundamentals he outlines, adapted to the language of a startup: Read more
Image via TheRiskAlliance.com
You have probably heard plenty of times that being an entrepreneur is a risky business, and investors talk all the time about reducing the risk. Yet everyone seems to have their own view of key risk drivers for startups, and I’m no exception. I don’t agree, for example, that the first priority is to avoid startups with a high attrition rate, like trendy restaurants and entertainment.
Here is my own priority list of key risk drivers that every entrepreneur and every investor should evaluate and minimize in starting a business: Read more
It’s a fine line between an audacious-yet-successful marketing stunt and a total disaster. So fine that most marketing executives in charge of brands who have anything at all to lose often defer to safer approaches. Recently though a couple of daring and brilliant stunts have caught my attention, deserving a post with some deeper insight.
Much has been written about TriNet’s Yam Trader idea. Gust was among the hundreds of companies that received a yam in the mail (literally), prompting our CEO to stop by and visit their booth at SXSW. I later connected with TriNet’s Director of Marketing Ken Narita, who was wonderfully open to share their experience. As Ken described, the idea came about when they were faced with the reality that it would not be easy to break through the clutter at SXSW. A bold and funny execution would fit well with SXSW, where creativity abounds and formalities are practically non-existent, enabling companies to go a little wild with very limited negative repercussions to their brands. Hundreds of CEOs of target companies were sent yams, along with an offer to bring them to their SXSW booth to redeem their gift certificate. In addition, people were directed to YamTrader.com, a campaign micro site that re-directed them to TriNet’s real website. Ken reported that the initiative was very successful, with a conversion rate (herein defined as people who brought their yam to the SXSW company booth) in the double digits. While the definition of conversion here does not equate converting a prospect into a customer, Ken estimates TriNet was able to schedule at least 50 meetings as a result of this stunt, in addition to all the great publicity and increased brand awareness that was generated as a result of this bold direct marketing initiative (isn’t it great when a side effect of a direct marketing effort is brand awareness?). Similarly, Unreal Candy had the Easter Bunny go around SXSW apologizing to people for all the bad candy he’d been giving them all these years (Unreal Candy is the maker of all-natural, unprocessed candy). Albeit practically risk-free, this stunt was remarkably simple and creative, generating huge word-of-mouth activity and positive brand coverage.
Today, more than one third of the United States population falls into a financial demographic known as the “mass affluent”. Unlike the headline-grabbing ultra-rich, the mass affluent are people with assets between $100,000 and $1 million, or annual incomes over $75,000. Historically, the 33 million American households in this category have invested for their future in one of three ways: by putting most of their money into personal hard assets such as a primary or secondary residence; by investing their liquid assets into professionally managed mutual funds or their employer’s 401K program; or, for the more adventurous and/or sophisticated, by investing directly into specific stocks and bonds purchased through (and often recommended by) a large brokerage firm. Read more
Image via Schedule.SXSWcom
I’ve noticed that some entrepreneurs seem to have no trouble attracting investors, while others with a great business plan struggle with it. The reality is that angel investors are humans, and personal traits often make or break the relationship, even before the investment is considered.
On the top line, angel investors look to invest in entrepreneurs that have an almost unwavering passion and sense of urgency. In the business, this is commonly called “fire in the belly.” If you don’t have it, you probably won’t succeed, even with funding. Read more