I know a few folks who are diving into new ideas. One way of starting up has been fleshing out the Lean Canvas — a simple one-pager in lieu of a business plan. 
Like a business plan, the Lean Canvas helps folks capture the key elements of a business without building out a detailed, largely never-to-be-used-again business plan. It’s certainly a good way to get started while thinking holistically. 
Another method I’ve been thinking about after reviewing “landing page how-to’s“(see Julian’s Landing Pages handbook) is what I’ll refer to as the Alternatives-Value-Personas (AVP) framework. This is a stripped-down version of a Lean Canvas. In fact, this may be a preceding model before the Canvas. 
 
(Source: https://www.julian.com/guide/growth/landing-pages) 
  
In this framework, the idea is to dig into the pain today — what exists — and describe the value of a proposed solution as well as the people involved. Why I bring this up as another option is to understand the problem and the people greater while having a hypothesis of the value of the solution. The most important facet of starting out a business is the market and the pain. Is there a pain at all? What exists solving the pain, or even contributing to the pain? 
Another option for folks is building on a Simplified One-Page Strategic Plan as David Cummings calls it. This is an outline layout of the key aspects of the business. You’ll recognize here, too, the template has specific sections for values, purpose, promise — cultural elements.   
 
(Source: https://davidcummings.org/2016/11/29/2017-simplified-one-page-strategic-plan/)  
There are a lot of different options to get started. However, the most important piece is understanding the audience and addressing real pain, or as one VC describes “hair on fire“. 

Where do you want to go? Where are you now? Are you getting to where you want to go?
These are questions I’ve been fielding recently. However, these are questions that should be periodically asked and answered. More than likely, myself and many others ask these questions only when things are bad. That is, thoughts arise like, “I don’t like where I am, what should I do next?” It’s akin to reevaluating bad habits or poor exercise form only when pain occurs. Even less often is when longer-term questions are asked.
It’s a problem.
We shouldn’t ask these questions so rarely. We definitely shouldn’t ask these questions simply when things are not going well. (“Don’t go to the grocery store when hungry” comes to mind.)
We should ask ourselves several times a year where do we want to go. Has this changed since the last time we asked? Why?
The difficult part of not asking these questions periodically, then, comes when we have to ask the question not out of a want and simply to stay aligned. Instead, the difficulty comes when the change must come out of necessity – when a drastic change must occur. The difficulty comes when we find ourselves further beyond our locus of control. The difficulty comes when things have become easy or comfortable, and we’ve adopted a higher luxury. That’s when lethargy comes in and we forget about our why.
Ask yourself: Where do I want to go? Where am I now? Am I getting to where I want to go? If not, how do I get back on-track?

Tip: if you want to change jobs, roles, careers, think about what you want in the grander picture (“vision”), and why your current situation is not fulfilling that vision. Don’t focus only on why you’re not “happy”.
There are a lot of folks who are curious of new jobs, new companies, etc. They usually have the same reasons for wanting to leave. At least, for many of the folks I meet with who want to join a startup from a large company. The last several folks I’ve met with work at large enterprises. Each shared almost the same reasons for wanting to leave – they didn’t feel valued, and they wanted to work in a smaller company where their work mattered.
Except, companies (big or small, established or startup) are all different. They differ in their cultures. True many big companies come with much structure – multiple layers. Then again, so, too, could small companies have layers. Small companies can be directed by very strong founders who have sole discretion of direction and product.
Meanwhile, adding members to the Board due to a funding event will change the expectations and execution for a young company. Many of these are outside of the control of an employee.
There should be more focus on the position today. There’s a lot to learn in every position even the role someone may be in for the last 5 years. Too often, folks focus on the bad while missing the good – what is learned and what can be learned in a current situation. By focusing on the bad, folks go searching for new roles with a short-term view to “alleviate” the bad of a current position. This can lead to consistent change and unsatisfied work. Go beyond short-term objectives and take a look at the long-term view of goals and objectives.
Steve Jobs famously said in a Stanford commencement speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” This also highlights an important point in that each decision leads to another decision which leads to many, many more. It gives freedom to take chances knowing that the dots connect but having that vision of where you want to go helps make the next dot fit closer to the trajectory you’re hoping for.
Before making that next jump, even before you ever feel “unhappy”, evaluate what your vision is for yourself. Then, evaluate how each position/ jump/ dot fits into the vision including where you stand today.

Back to talking about product! Last week, I talked about the importance of product prioritization and the product roadmap. I’ve also shared takeaways from Des Traynor of Intercom talk on product development. Specifically, how to drive adoption and engagement. Today, here’s a framework for product prioritization – RICE.
  • Reach – How many customers or prospects would a feature/ development engage?
  • Impact – What is the outcome/ results of a build? Would this drive engagement – feature/ user adoption? Drive revenue?
  • Confidence – How likely would development have the effect on reach and impact?
  • Effort – How many total man-hours/ weeks/ months would this development take? Remember to include hours for each resource across functions (i.e. product, front-end, back-end).

Intercom suggests teams add bands of scores to quantify each factor as best as possible. For example, to understand the factor of Impact, scoring can follow: “3 for ‘massive impact’, 2 for ‘high’, 1 for ‘medium’, 0.5 for ‘low’, and finally 0.25 for ‘minimal’”.

Combine each of the scores for:

The idea of RICE is to measure each potential development (feature, build) objectively to drive the most value – benefit vs. resources.

Building a business with a product is fun. It’s also a long, difficult journey. That journey of developing a product that includes the many twists and turns of building features, sunsetting features, and the like is called a product roadmap. However, like a traditional map, each road leads to a decision point. In the product world, this is where product prioritization comes into play.
Early on in a product’s lifecycle of a business just starting out is the vision of its founders. The term “MVP” may be tossed around meaning “minimum viable product” as coined by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup. At its core is the prioritization of the key features that will generate the most value and demand in the market as quickly as possible – read: as minimal resources as possible.
But once initial traction takes off (or perhaps doesn’t), there’s a myriad of choices a startup can take in its product journey. This is where the importance of product prioritization comes in. Why is product prioritization so important?
  • Most folks enjoy the creation of new ideas, not necessarily incremental improvements to existing features/ product(s).
  • Development can take on the personal interests rather than based on the impact and influence of another.
  • As a partof the shield to guard against the “Next Feature Fallacy” where the idea that “this” new feature will improve traction, sales, etc.
  • To align cross-functional teams on not only the impact, but the efforts required by all to produce XYZ changes.

Really, the key is being able to optimize for value based on limited resources. Product prioritization requires objective measuring to ensure the most valuable product, and thus company, is created.

Today, I’m spotlighting two Atlanta-based SaaS startups that are on a tear in growth – LeaseQuery and OneTrust. Both of these companies have experienced monumental growth by addressing excruciatingpains. In fact, those pains are brought about by regulations forcing companies big and small, near and far to address.
LeaseQuery is addressing the upcoming FASB 842 and IFRS 16 regulations where companies must now disclose its leases on the balance sheet. Before, companies could just lump leases as lease expenses, never actually disclosing what the leases were. All public companies are to report leased assets (e.g. real estate, vehicles, ovens, etc.) starting in 2019. Private companies must start recording in 2020.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/leasequery 
OneTrust’s rise has been further pronounced after it’s more public position in enabling companies to manage data privacy. Facebook’s recent handling of user data that was scooped by Cambridge Analytica was an example of user privacy being a hot topic. Europe’s newest crackdown on how people’s data is stored by corporations called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has helped accelerate OneTrust’s significant growth. GDPR goes into effect May 25, 2018 affecting any company with any data of the European Union’s population – sold customers or not. This regulation will influence data protection guidelines worldwide with significant fines for any (and each) infraction of companies violating GDPR.
https://www.linkedin.com/company/onetrust 
These companies were started by founders not only experiencing the pains themselves, but by founders who saw the emerging trends worldwide. By moving swiftly to address these pains, they’ve been able to learn and leverage that growth for even faster growth. It’s a beautiful thing to watch companies addressing real pains scale.
What are some other companies that have addressed legal and regulatory changes? Are there changes you know about in your area/ industry of expertise that have not been addressed yet (or minimally)?

Desire for achievement is best demonstrated during in the “interims”. What happens during interims have the greatest influence on results.
What is an interim? An interim is the moment between two moments, activities, or events. A moment, activity, or event could include:
  • When a bodybuilder is working out in the gym.
  • When a marketer launching or in the middle of a campaign push.
  • When a singer is on stage.

An interim then, is the in-between period between workouts at the gym, marketing campaigns, or on-stage during concerts. Interims are when desire shines greatest. This is where success is created.

I thought about this as I was leaving the gym the other day. As I left, I saw folks who had just arrived sitting on a couch. Clearly, they were waiting for others. If they sit there for 5-10 minutes, that’s 5-10 minutes they could have spent warming up. That’s 5-10 minutes they could have put their things away in the locker room. This, of course, does not include the time at home with diets, sleep, etc. However, the details during interims including those immediately leading up to a new event are just as telling.
When a woman with an idea says she wants to leave her job and start her own business, but spends hours sitting in front of the TV after work, she’s not building towards her goal. Her interim time is spent watching TV, not on customer discovery. She’s not learning how to program. She’s not performing customer discovery.
Contrast the actions of Cristiano Ronaldo, five-time Ballons d’Or and Real Madrid stalwart. Cristiano is a well-known fanatic about his post-game recovery and pre-game preparation – the meals he consumes, recovery rituals, etc.
Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com, is another prime example of an individual who excels during interims.
The actions of individuals during interims can be a type of “bias towards action”, but it goes beyond that. It’s a reflection of the desire and action to achieve. The habits during the interims create long-term effects beyond the events themselves in reaching goals.
What are you doing during your interims? Why?

“Coaching members out.” I heard this phrase a few months ago as a euphemism for firing or terminating. I thought it was a good way of sharing how leadership and managers ensure smooth transitions out of a company, beyond just “getting rid of an employee”.
Then, I heard a twist to the phrase – “coaching themselves out”. In this case, it’s the member of an organization who is removing him/ herself by subtle environmental/ cultural cues. This doesn’t necessarily mean a company is ostracizing a team member, or otherwise explicitly motivating a team member to leave. That’s bad.
I heard this phrase from a company who was recently voted as one of the best companies to work for. Folks here coach themselves out because they feel they are the “wrong fit”. Their values, ambitions, and the like do not align with that of the company’s.
The company is enthusiastic about living out the mission and values. Here, team members are encouraged to speak up to other team members when they are not living up to the mission and values.
Being so vocal and explicit about mission and values entrenches folks who believe and follow the prerogative. On the other hand, such explicit faith means those who do not align eventually leave on their own accord. Culture begets culture.

There’s a Greek parable I heard recently from a VP of Sales about the Hedgehog Concept. The parable goes, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

In essence, the fox uses his cunning to pounce, sneak upon, play, etc. to attack the hedgehog. However, the hedgehog needs only do one thing and do it well – defend itself. Against the cunning fox, the hedgehog simply rolls into a ball with its spines pointed outward in all directions.
Jim Collins, author of From Good to Great, took the parable and related it to organizations. He suggests companies should find the one thing they’re good at to beat competitors. There are three factors to consider what a company is good — illustrated below.
Copyright © 2001 Jim Collins. Originally published in the book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t.” Image source: https://www.mindtools.com/media/Diagrams/Hedgehog-Concept.jpg 
The VP of Sales I spoke with goes on to share how his sales organization must also be the fox. I couldn’t agree more in today’s age where companies are rising from every corner of the internet. In fact, Chief Martec posted last year its annual Marketing Technology Landscape. They mapped almost 4,900 companies. This is a significantgrowth from the 2012 landscape of roughly 150 companies.
Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, May 2017. Image source: https://cdn.chiefmartec.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/marketing_technology_landscape_2017_thumb.jpg
The environment for startups is both exciting as well as daunting. Great startups must do one thing well to survive. Really, they must do one thing well to earn customers. But as they compete against the budgets of their much larger counterparts, startups must also be cunning and use their agility to outmaneuver larger companies.
To that point, people must also think about their own abilities as a hedgehog and as a fox. How are folks surviving and growing beyond themselves and their counterparts?
Consider your now… like a hedgehog, what is the one thing you are truly great at? How are you (or can you be) cunning like a fox?

I get a lot of folks asking me about joining a startup. Most have spent many years in the large corporate world. They start off by asking for recommendations of startups nearby and contacts I know. They think they know what they’re looking for. At least, they know what they are looking for right now. Rarely do folks take a hard look at what they want to achieve longer term. Then, how do they figure how a potential move now fits into the longer goal(s).
Before I go name-dropping startups, I always ask folks to think about the larger picture. There’s a lot of attention to startups because of the glitz and glamour media portrays. But there are big companies that can offer the right opportunities many startups can’t. It’s best to start with what your vision is – what drives you. Cue: Simon Sinek’s Start With Why.
Then, there are other elements oftentimes overlooked when considering startups…
  • The stage of the startup can influence the roles available. Generally, company growth can be split into a handful of stages — early, growth, and maturity. Early-stage companies are still figuring out product-market fit. They can change direction very quickly. Growth-stage companies are starting to optimize for scale. Here, roles are less “wear many hats” and more “this particular hat”. Mature companies go even finer with roles (sub-functions). As a prospect considers a role at a company, s/he needs to realize the agility that may be required. After all, most folks who ask about startups mention their interest to do many things.
  • How much funding has been raised — number of raises, how much, how many investors. Investors are pouring money into some companies to get in on potentially lucrative gains. Venture capitalists (VCs) are hoping to make up for that one big win in 20 companies invested to cover the fund and make significant returns. The more money, the more rounds of raise, the more investors mean the more pressure and expectations there are for timely returns. This pressure is put onto the executive team which will continue to flow down to every position of the company.
  • … about money raised, think about what the goal of the company and its shareholders may be. Is the goal to create a company that lasts and stays private (rare in the tech startup world)? Have a liquidation event (most common desired state, i.e. acquired by another firm)? Go public via an IPO? Whatever the strategy of the company is in funding, consider what the possible outcomes may be 2, 3, 5, or even 10 years down the road.
  • Again, what are you really after? Clayton Christensen, author of How Will You Measure Your Life, developed the Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework. He posits that everything we do or have has some purpose in life… a “job to be done”. In this way, what is the job the literal “job” should provide? Is it just money? Is it some fulfillment? Is it a place to meet friends? A startup is a company that provides goods or services to drive shareholder value. A corporation is no different – they’re all companies. How one startup executes its vision can be different from any other startup. This applies to large corporations as well. Thus, maybe what one is looking for is less about “startup” or size of company as much as it is purpose and vision or role.

Think about it. What’s your vision for yourself? How does your right-now fit into that vision? What does a startup offer that a large corporation may not? Or vice verse.