Capacity is the hired help to augment the team. At
SalesWise, our team is vastly experienced in driving success – what to execute
and how. What we struggle with is the execution when we have 20 sales calls to
make, 4 demos, 2 support tickets, and a kick-off call.
What I’ve found to be ineffective for most consultants is
when they come in wanting to do big bang changes and huge strategy sessions.
Our environment changes rapidly. We are not ready for big bang changes. We need
to execute, learn, iterate.
So if you want to consult with a startup, have an eye on the
larger strategy, sure. You have value for early-stage companies in this area. But
one of the best ways to implement that strategy is getting “stuck in”. Roll up
your sleeves, and take on a more “staff aug” role to understand how we work,
what our challenges are, start executing what we need (there’s a reason why we
need it yesterday), and then, layer in the strategy as we learn.
We need agility. We need flexibility. We need execution. (That
goes for you, too, Mr./ Ms. Consultant.)
Writing a speech, writing a book, writing a blog post… I realized
recently that they all start similarly
(at least for me). They differ in revisions and rehearsing, if any. Starting
off, I take a moment to think about the subject. I either start with an outline
or just start writing (or dictating).
I get a lot of questions about how to start a blog, what to write
about, or in the case most recently, perfecting a speech. The hardest part is
starting out and putting together the first draft.
To that end, if you’ve got an upcoming talk or want to start
blogging, here’s my method on how to start.
about the subject, and go through a creative learning process with some research
– online and/ or in-person.
there requirements or limitations? Delivery style, can you use images, max
length, etc. Consider these to narrow the scope.
want my material to be as authentic and casual as possible, so I typically do
not go through a huge brainstorming conquest. Instead, I jot down a few ideas
in a loose outline. This helps me think about the flow of the material
That is, I either write everything in my head according to the flow I’ve
created, or I simply dictate (record myself speaking). This gives me the
benefit of allowing my thoughts to flow, naturally.
completing the first round, I don’t make any edits. Instead, I sleep on
whatever I’ve written for a couple days. This allows my ideas to crystallize
further while allowing me to come back to version 1.0 with fresh eyes.
It’s simple to start. Let the ideas flow. It’s important to
realize that starting out really isn’t as hard as you make it out to be if you
approach this more casually and naturally.
From there, it’s about seeking feedback on how to make the draft
better, if needed. For my blog posts, for better or worse (you tell me!), I go
through two rounds of editing/ read-through. For Postmortem of a Failed
Startup: Lessons for Success, I went through four “official” rounds of
editing with a number of editors. For my F-Up Night talk in January, I made
perhaps three material iterations. I did several practice runs, however.
For any share, it’s important to draw a line in the sand and
decide when what you have is ready — refer
to Des Traynor’s recommendation on launching a product. You can
spend weeks or months (or years) trying to make something perfect. But rarely is
it the content that makes your share perfect. Instead, it’s the delivery.
The challenges of consulting with startups goes well beyond just
“price” (read: “tight budgets”). Many wantrepreneurs and entrepreneurs try
branching out on their own by consulting. They believe it's a great fit with
some experience (“expertise”) and startup enthusiasm. Not quite.
I have spent a lot of time consulting with startups after Body Boss. Today, I sit on the other
side of the table hiring consultants at SalesWise.
With both perspectives, I want to share the challenges I see.
want to bring too much structure to an agile environment. For most
consulting entrepreneurs, strategy consulting is where the fun is – it’s like
being a part of the vision of the startup. Many see opportunities to bring their
experience from big brands and apply “best practices” to startups. This could
mean big strategy sessions, long timelines, and structured deliverables. However,
for startups, especially early-stage companies, heavy structure won’t last
simply because the company is still learning and iterating too fast.
want to hire you for X, but they really mean X… + Y + Z. With time and
budget constraints, startup employees wear multiple hats. Same applies for
consultants to a degree – consultants should be capable of having a comprehensive
skill set within a functional area (marketing, sales, design). For example, if
you’re a marketing consultant, know communication, social media, and website. Some
graphics chops will do you good, too. For design, be able to design + code +
the startup says they need help, they actually needed you a while ago. Startups
work real fast, and employees are swamped managing what’s in front of them. So
when issues start to arise, not much happens until it reaches a critical point.
As a consultant, this means you are needed TODAY. Startups have investors to
appease. We have to quadruple the current pipeline. We need to launch, learn, and
iterate as fast as able.
silly if I still didn’t say, “money”. This is a given, but it’s surprising
this is still a shock to many consultants. They believe they can charge the
same rate they do with larger enterprises. That may be your “market rate” with
enterprises, but realize that your target customers (startups) is a different
market. Thus, your real market rate is quite different.
These are challenges/ realizations. However, challenges straddle the
“opportunities line”. I made a good living before as a consultant to startups,
and I loved the energy of my clients and seeing my actions make a difference
almost daily. There’s a give and take, but that’s why you work with startups.
It’s not all about the money. It’s about the challenge, the opportunity, the
It’s a great reminder-type post as to what drives many
entrepreneurs beyond building a company and, yes, the chance at making a
substantial lifestyle change. For many – me being one of them – there’s a drive
and passion about the challenge and impact of building something great from
A few points John shared that I strive to practice everyday:
Startup”. I love speaking to startups, entrepreneurs, and wantrepreneurs. Networking
is great, but hearing the problems others are solving and how is highly
educational. As John also said, teaching others is a great way to amplify and
Throw Up, Speak Up”. I grew up as an introvert, but realizing what I wanted
to achieve, I wanted to be more extroverted. So, I hacked my personality for
years and got comfortable doing uncomfortable things (i.e. giving presentations
as often as possible, meeting others by simply starting with “hi”, etc. It starts
with deliberate, small actions. Overtime, it gets easier – not
totally comfortable, but you develop a strength to be successful at it.
It”. Entrepreneurship really builds on my past life as a consultant
(looking for problems, finding solutions, and implementing solutions). I do
this often in everyday life including random interviews of flight attendants
during flights or door-to-door surveys at local restaurants. There are problems
everywhere, and you can exercise that creative, problem-solving muscle
Find ways to practice entrepreneurship with a purpose. Take
small, deliberate actions consistently. You’ll be amazed how opportunities
start to flow. Then, take
I often hear how building a startup is like getting an MBA but
on the job. Having an MBA and built a couple startups, I can say that it’s true…
at least, partially. The downside of learning as you go is the otherwise lack
of guidance and not knowing what you don’t know.
When I was at Body Boss, I had little experience in sales
and marketing; however, I was the “Head of Business Development”. In a startup
with three other partners with no experience in business development, I was the
head, the foot, and the @$$.
I was always heads-down trying to figure everything out. I
needed to learn a lot while tending to everything in front of me. This meant I didn’t
dedicate time to self-development. Meanwhile, I was deep in the weeds without
stepping back to see if I was oriented in the right direction.
Since Body Boss, I’ve taken steps to help cover the areas I
don’t know while also accelerating learning in the areas that I care deeply about.
(E.g. I’m no longer learning how to build iOS apps!)
Two ways I’m proactively seeking to deep learning:
books! I used to hate reading growing up – the books did not interest me. Meanwhile
at Body Boss, I wore so many hats that I focused on short online articles so I
could maintain breadth of learning. Now that I’m doubling down on sales and
marketing (growth), I am seeking depth in my self-education by reading specialized
books (reading The Challenger
mentors, coaches. I’m a big connector/ networker, so it’s curious why I
didn’t reach out earlier for help and guidance. Perhaps I was too cocky to seek
help before. Four years into this startup life, I’m wiser knowing there are
plenty of people who know more than me and can help. I have mentors guiding me
– talking entrepreneurship and other facets of life that influence my vision
and goals. I’ve also actively sought out coaches – experts in specific areas
who can guide me.
Startups and entrepreneurship have ignited a deeper hunger
to learn. I’m definitely not a know-it-all. Instead, I’ve become a
learn-it-all. Well, learn with specificity.
rate at which a business model
captures monetizable value from its users
Before Ash describes the definition of traction, he shares
his thoughts on value…
Created value > captured value. That is, the
value a customer receives is greater than the value the company receives (the
Captured value ≥ cost (delivering solution).
This is simplistically understanding revenue is greater than (or equal to)
Created value ≥≥ cost.
This is a pretty simple to understand. For companies looking
for investment (well, any company looking to be successful), it’s important to
understand traction and all the drivers thereof. As an early-stage startup
wiggles and fights its way towards product-market fit (or service-market fit),
traction will likely be near-flat. But as the company reaches product-market
fit, that traction curve starts to climb fast. Here, focus turns towards customer
acquisition, and thus, the sales and marketing machine commences.
Understanding what traction is is important, and just as
important is understanding the real value you are creating for your consumers.
If you can help your consumers capture great value, then can you start to build
traction. Value à
traction. Value does not = traction. That requires some marketing and sales, but value is fundamental.
I’m back to running non-stop these days to the point
everyone is wondering what’s going on in my head, let alone where the heck am I,
and why am I working at 2/ 4AM weekdays AND weekends.
Indeed, I’ve felt a bit… occupied. So much so that I’ve
forgotten a lot of my usual tasks and daily routines (like eating). If you were thinking about what it’s like to run with an early-stage
startup, this could be you.
Luckily, there are still several things I do (trying to get
to consistency) to keep myself “stable” and operating at peak condition. One of
those is still reading and learning to which, the following are posts that are
standing out in my head.
recently had a couple interns work for me at SalesWise.
They were great resources to help in marketing, sales, prospecting, support,
the interns were straight out of high school (or still in). They did not have
much experience in any particular area. It was a challenge, at first, to get
them ramped up on what to do. Luckily, I leaned on my experience as a co-op
back at Georgia Tech to help me lead my interns.
biggest advice to the interns, and indeed, the same understanding I wanted them
to be grounded on: “Absorb as much as you can, even if the work seems ‘simple’.”
biggest advice to them after their time? “Re-read and re-absorb everything you
my regrets from my internship at UPS Supply
Chain Solutions back in the day was not absorbing as much as I could about
logistics, transportation, the contacts I interacted with, their interests,
etc. As I look back, there were hundreds of connections I wish I kept in touch
with. (LinkedIn makes it much easier to do this today.)
I had my
interns research our various customer profiles — their functions (i.e. sales
operations, sales enablement, marketing ops, other), the challenges of each
persona, how our solution could benefit these individuals, etc. By the end of
their time, they could rattle off what was important to each person and could
write messages or communicate with each person in a meaningful way.
my co-op experience gave me great insight into being a professional and working
with others, especially communication. However, I missed out on some of the
“tribal knowledge” because I didn’t think much about it.
interns, I felt it was important (as each wanted to enter some role in
business) to understand the people on the other side of the table — customers,
internal stakeholders, etc. I wanted them to understand the WHY of each task. These interns were very bright, hardworking, and
will run up against many other students who are just as bright, hardworking,
and self-starting. What will set them apart is their ability to immediately
contribute and have accelerated growth. It’s this tribal knowledge, these
concepts around understanding audiences, etc. that will make these interns
highly valuable as they seek their next opportunities.
are the pieces of advice you give to interns? How have you helped nurture
interns? If you were an intern, what was some of the best advice or best
take-aways from your experience?
The other night an old friend came by needing help to create a
marketing campaign. Her store was launching, but she was having all sorts of
trouble sending out a couple email campaigns.
She had already visited the company’s offices after getting zero
help from Support. (Yes, you do that when you’re desperate and looking for
answers.) She had sought the help from friends who used to work at the company
or knew of those who did. No one was able to help.
Surprisingly, I was the last resort. (Because I’m really not that
technical.) But perhaps for good reason — I knew Don Pottinger. 1030PM
on a Sunday night, and I knew that I could still hit him up for help on
resolving my friend’s problem.
After an hour, though, we were still stumped. But here’s the
difference between all the other tiers of support my friend went through: Don
kept on pushing. He kept researching and troubleshooting. Coincidentally, he
actually had some experience with email marketing given his startup (he is the
CTO), is a marketing automation platform, Kevy.
Don realized the desperation of my friend, noticed her passion,
and knew she tried her absolute best to figure out the problem. He saw someone
who needed help… needed his expertise. So there’s Don, now 11:30PM on a Sunday
night… CTO of an early-stage startup… with three kids under the age of 3…
staying up to research and help a friend of a friend. Perhaps, he also enjoyed
By midnight, he figured out a couple issues, and my friend was
able to launch her campaigns successfully. Today, she’s even switched over to
What my friend experienced with Don is what I experience all the
time from him, and from what many others experience with Don. That is, he’ll
push and push to help. He isn’t able to help everyone, but he recognizes those
who have put in the effort, warrant his help. He’s passionate about
entrepreneurship and helping entrepreneurs. He’s reliable when you need him.
Everyone needs a Don. Luckily, I’ve got one, and a few other