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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stuck? Mix it up a bit!

You can make flawless business or operating plans. You can excite and lead your team to achieve your well thought out goals. And, for no obvious reasons, the company is not moving at the pace expected, you are just not getting funding, or some game changing event has occurred.  Focus is highly important to any business, but so is having backup plans, parallel strategies to achieve a goal, or shifting the plans to new goals in order to be the best result.  Developing an ability to hear and see what is taking place, and changing your mind is important in the fast pace development of a startup. 

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." (quote possibly by Rita Mae Brown)

In two recent discussions, both company described that they continued to believe that closing on a financing was imminent.  Some funds had been received, but the big check had not arrived and there was no date defined for the receipt.  Both companies had activities in progress and contracts of different types, but they were mired by lack of funds.  They were holding fast to the fund raising strategy and not effectively considering their alternatives.

The scenario is not only related to funding.  It can occur with most any operation in the company.  The issue is that continuation of the activity being conducted to achieve the goal in question may not be yielding the desired results.  At some point, it is worth considering shaking things up a bit or changing tactics all together.

Here are a few ideas for consideration:

Review the Situation:  It does no good to stay locked into a mode of operating assuming that it has to work when it is not producing results.  One of the best things you can do is continually monitor the issues and strategy and adjust or switch if it makes sense.  Secondly, identifying alternatives to achieve the same goals, or selecting alternate goals that may be just as beneficial and can be more easily reached may be just the thing to jump start the business.  Preparing a parallel strategy from the start may increase your chances of reaching the original goal.  Don’t be so rigid as to not be willing to change.

Consider Getting Help:  Advisors can sometimes see what you are missing.  This is why it is critical to have people in your network that can provide counsel.  Including your advisors in an internal team meeting where issues are defined and brainstorming on solutions allows you to obtain input from the whole team.  As a friend once said “Even a Blind Squirrel Can Find Nuts;” the point being your team may just surprise you.  You do not have to take their advice, but you may get some great ideas that could augment your plans.

Change the Pitch:  Convincing people to invest, partner, or buy a product usually involves telling them a story and pressing for closure.  The story can get stale after a while, or may have holes.  Collecting more solid information to add to the story like new sales statistics, latest data, addition of key management, may help. Changing the presentation order and being more focused on how the pitch is being given may help. Getting a vendor to sign up as a partner, executing on strategic events, initiating limited sales and getting customer feedback and other such accomplishments can make a big difference.  Give thoughts to how you can make the business pitch more inviting to the intended listener and adjust accordingly.

Consider Getting a Partner:  It is rather common that startups have little or no money and resources are tight.  You cannot sell products or services without development, manufacturing, marketing, and a sells team.  Some of the vendors may be willing to partner with your startup for a potential share of the upside.  Many times entrepreneurs are afraid to ask whether such opportunities are possible.  Asking for the vendor to develop a formal relationship with some risk sharing may help the startup.  A deal of this type changes the pitch and makes the startup look more solid.  There is an old joke that goes like, “Why do the ugly guys always get the prettiest girls to go with them to the Prom?”  The answer is; “They Asked.”  Don’t decide in advance what your vendors will say, ASK and let them respond.  You may get a surprise and the extra oomph you are looking for the company.

Punt:  It is no one’s fault that the strategy did not work if the proper thought went into the planning.  Sometimes no one knows your competitor will launch a product that will take your market away.  A restaurant does not know in advance that city is deciding to change the street routing, the exit ramp, or that several of the shops that draw traffic are leaving.  Sometimes, you need to drop your current plans and consider all alternatives.  You may find that your computer company will come up with iTUNES, iPhone, and an iPOD, turning the business into a stronger than expected company making products you did not originally envision.

  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon