Tag Archives: startup

Mentoring Questions Part 3: EXIT STRATEGY

My goodness, I had more to say on this than I thought!

Thanks for coming back to read this third part. 

I got a letter in the mail a couple of weeks ago, from a company who asked if they could sell my company for me. As one of the things they wanted to discuss with me, they had listed my exit strategy for when I wanted to sell my company. I told them I would #neversell , but I would be happy to hear what they thought the company would be worth. They didn’t respond. 

Anyway, it reminded me about something I always used to try to install in my teams when we embarked on large projects in the corporate world: Exit strategy. 

I have observed, as well as been a part of, teams or projects that keep going long after any sane and remotely objective person would have called it quits. Why? Because it is hard to say “I give up”. And it is even harder to do it in a corporate environment where nobody wants to be pegged as being negative or pessimistic. 

So what is the responsible and strategic way to go? Make an exit plan. (And then hope you never have to implement it!)

My second application was rejected too! WTF.

So I have now submitted two rounds of the same applications for funding from Horizon 2020 to prove how surgical confidence has an impact on outcome.

Both got rejected.

And interestingly enough, the SECOND application was deemed WORSE than the first one!!

The rating was much worse specifically in the area of proving the market potential for the final product despite me adding further detail and markets. I believe (from the notes in the feedback) that they simply thought the numbers are too good, versus what I was asking for. And that, exactly that, is an entrepreneurs weakness. You see, we are consistently asking for less money than others, if my theory is true.

Entrepreneurs ask for less money because we are used to doing more with less.

The Dark Side of Delegation

There is a short list of things that I am really, really good at:

  • Parallel parking
  • Hiring good people and seeing their talents
  • Delegation
  • Play with kids

Can’t cook for the life of me and would happily survive on bread for the rest of my life. Luckily my kids are getting nutritious and varying meals from both their father and our excellent nanny.

Delegation is one of those things that are usually hailed as a cornerstone of good leadership. People are usually not keen on micromanagement, and universally we hate when someone stands over our shoulder checking our work. As an entrepreneur in a startup, this is a challenging one. Coming from a background where there is just you, and your brilliant idea, all by your very self, getting to where you have to let other people into that sacred relationship is tough!

Delegating certain aspects of that startup is even harder. Few entrepreneurs I know think they are the expert on every little bits of running a company, but there is a lot of comfort in knowing

  1. a) It has been done
  2. b) Knowing HOW it was done

It is not that we mistrust others, not at all. It is simply an emotional aspect of growth. Sort of like when your child thinks another mummy “is really cool” and “can even do the splits!” You think it is great that your daughter has another grown up role model, at the same time as your heart secretly bleed a little and you spend the next month stretching on the bedroom floor before you tear a muscle and decide that you can be cool in other ways.

Back to delegation.

What people rarely mention is that delegation travels with two unwanted cousins:

“Risk” and “Cost”.

Risk, because when you start letting go of control, there is a couple of things that have to happen before. You have to establish an understanding of Purpose, Vision, Ethics and Values. Otherwise your carefully created baby may be taking off in a direction that you didn’t intend. Or worse, someone you delegate to may do something that is unethical or even criminal.

And then there is Cost.

The perception is often that as a business owner you have a fat salary, a fancy car and always fly business class. I am sure that is true for some, but most of us actually surviving on peanuts, foregoing shopping and flying economy to Santiago Chile with an 8 hour stopover in Miami Airport to save money is more accurate, cash is a highly guarded asset. So to delegate, one has to have someone to delegate TO. Cost. And that someone needs training. Cost. And that someone must be allowed to learn and make mistakes. Cost. (Sometimes high.)

So the big question: is it worth it? Don’t know, but it is necessary.

Just make sure you do the prework well, and have a plan for contingency when it doesn’t work they way you hoped.

And Arnica works like a charm btw.

frontsplits

Part 2 of my mentoring questions: Selling stuff

I know how easy it is for entrepreneurs to be obsessing over sales — especially before you have any, and especially if you don’t know how to sell. And many entrepreneurs don’t. They are enthusiastic experts in their field, but rarely do they have the benefit of having gone through a career in sales and marketing (I consider myself VERY lucky that way, and that’s why I have decided to Pay Forward what I’ve learned.). 

 (Missed the first 5 questions? Click here)

The Anti Crow Rule

I asked my Twitter followers a while back if Marketing or Sales was harder to get right, and the majority said Marketing. I believe the two are closely linked, and if you get your marketing right, your sales will come. I strongly encourage having a clear image of who your customer is, and to segment your market. MAKE CHOICES and stick to them. I call it the Anti Crow Rule: stay away from the shiny objects! It is VERY easy to get distracted, and as an enthusiastic entrepreneur we are flattered and grateful when someone wants our stuff. Don’t get me wrong, do sell….just stick to your overarching plan. 

 

Bank people DO make good friends

If you don’t have finance experience, I strongly encourage you to collaborate with someone who can build you a solid budget, including cashflow projections. Not only will it save you eons of time, it will also ensure you won’t find yourself in a situation that you have a profitable business but no money o pay people or buy stock with. In addition, it will also make any bank conversations you will have a lot more productive. (I never borrowed any money to start my companies, but I do recognise that it is very common to have to do that. And even if you don’t need a cash inflow at the start, having your bank team well informed is a plus should you ever need their help and/or advice. 

 

I am done for tonight, but I do want to talk Exit strategy (because you need not just one but several, and I don’t mean just different versions of you selling your company to the highest bidder and taking off to Aruba) and what/when/how to abandon your plan. 

 

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(No spam, no selling of your data, no me selling to you. I #neversell and am just Paying It Forward. Why? Because I can.) 

The 5 First Questions I Ask When I Start Mentoring An Entrepreneur

When I talk to people who are just about to start their own company, they usually have one thing in common: they are experts at what they do. While that is a GREAT thing to get you to where you can deliver a FANTASTIC PRODUCT OR SERVICE, it usually is NOT what you need to get started.  

Why? Because you should NOT BE SELLING ANYTHING yet!

Let’s start in the other end, shall we? Here are the questions I usually ask.  

  1. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do first as you try to sell stuff. Tell what problem you will have solved 10 years from now? (Someone said “To make aviation have zero environmental impact”. Another one said “All clothes will be made to measure”; Excellent!)
  2. What do you need to have accomplished in 5 years to make that happen? (As you can tell, timings here are arbitrary — that depends on who I am talking to. Point is, it starts from the future and goes back to today.)
  3. How will you bridge the income gap until you are into your core business? And how will you make sure you don’t get stuck in that “bridge business” as people start knowing you?
  4. What is the vision in your head (and we all have one — once you start talking about it you realise you know more about your future business and plans than you thought!)? Do you have employees? How many? Where is your office? Will you employ people or work through contractors? 
  5. And then, my favourite question of all: Describe your customer to me. Is it a person or an organisation? (If you say organisation, I say Dig Deeper. It is ALWAYS a person. Always.) Who is she/he? What does she do? What does she like? What is her motivation? Is she a cat or a dog person? Does she do team or individual workouts? Heels or sneakers? You get the point. DESCRIBE your customer, and THEN start thinking about how to package and sell your product, what marketing channels to use, if social media is relevant (and which one?!). 

RELATED: 7 words I don’t allow in Customer communication

That’s it for tonight. More on this, plus the selling part and some thoughts on bank solutions next week.

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I don’t even have a will…!

Lots of things to manage when you’re running your own little shop. Todays challenges:

  • I don’t have a will. I know that is really bad, and I need to get to it. But as a business owner, anything that isn’t directly or indirectly leading to someone wanting to buy my stuff automatically goes on the Yellow List (Pink List: Today stuff. Blue list: Tomorrow stuff. Yellow list: Later stuff).
  • I have to start a company in Ireland.
    I have absolutely no idea how to do that. Oh, and hire someone too. AND I need to start trading on January 1 2017.

So the first one is pretty simple, right? (apparently my suggested solution to the Financial Advisor of “Not Dying” wasn’t as funny as I thought. Oh well. )

  1. Make list of assets
  2. Make a will
  3. Appoint power of attorney

The second one….good thing I can reach out to my Trade Advisor at UK Trade & Investment for things like this. She will know what to do (or know someone who knows).

In short, on my To Do list for this weekend are:

  1. Don’t die yet; make will first
  2. Don’t get tempted by scruffy looking simple solution on how to incorporate in Ireland; talk to some sensible people who actually know what they are doing.

And on that note: Goodnight.

Packing bags, moving to Ireland?

The CEO of an award winning Medical Device company is considering expanding to Ireland or Germany after the EU referendum

Angela Spang, CEO of medical device provider JUNE MEDICAL, is contemplating a move from London to somewhere else in Europe following Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Spang is concerned that Brexit will make it harder for her to obtain innovative products from across the continent for her company. Fast paced and award winning JUNE MEDICAL has already grown over 100% since it was founded in 2013.

“There is a huge demand for high-quality medical device and any advantage a company has in accessing innovative products is a huge factor,” she told XXXX. “Mutual recognition for regulatory approval provided access to European wide launches — this is a powerful engine for growth that may now be removed.”

Access to European funding and access to European markets for her own new products will also influence Spang’s decision, she said.

Potential new office locations for JUNE MEDICAL include Ireland and Germany but the company won’t be making any hasty decisions. “We’re monitoring what impact this has over the next 1-2 quarters. If we see a big change in the availability of products or dramatically changed terms, then we will consider alternative geography for investment and growth.

She added: “It doesn’t change our current commitment to the UK, but could change our growth plans significantly.”