- Consultants 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.
- Startups 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 + CSS.
- The day 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.
- I’d be 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 learning.
- 1 individual came to an idea that he recognized in others everyday. It wasn’t a problem he’s experienced, but one that he’s been aware of by way of colleagues.
- The second individual came with several ideas born out of her work and her employees. She had several ideas to solve the many challenges she and her industry constantly face.
- Seeking funding takes TIME! My friend underestimates the efforts to raise funds — prospecting potential investors, setting up meetings, creating pitch decks, etc.
- With or without funding, what’s happening? Her “startup” is stagnant. There’s no feedback from users (none anyways). No product development. Each day that passes, the market evolves, and a competitor entrenches itself with the market.
- Life happens. How do you cope? My friend’s early partners have left due to life complications. This happens. However, she’s stuck unsure of how to proceed like hoping a good, cheap developer falls into her lap.
- Raising funds with no traction in a difficult-to-defend market?! Startups and entrepreneurship are today’s “it” thing, so there’s lots of noise from those seeking money. Investors mitigate some risk by startups’ traction.
I like TechCrunch’s “Wasting Time with the Joneses” article calling funding as “hyperdrive, not a joy ride”. That is, “If you lay in the proper course, it will take you far. If you haven’t, you’ll just be way off the mark and beyond the reach of anyone to save you.”
- Who is your market, really? Is this a market of 1? She was convinced EVERYONE in the world would use her app. Yet, she mentioned she needed to get approvals to work with the government, DMV, etc. Well, the DMV requirement just excluded 95% of the world.
- Is this a real problem? Asking your friends and family questions about your idea is a good start, but can be biased with people of similar backgrounds (education, geography, income, etc.) who may not be as critical as you need them to be.
- What’s the product development roadmap look like? Speed is key in startups to not only get traction, but to get the right traction. To do so, it’s important to build products quickly, learn, and iterate. Surveys allow you to consider what pain-points (àfeatures) are highest priority.
- How do you market to your audience? Survey questions about social media usage, device usage, etc. help paint the picture of what consumers interact with; thus, helping you most effectively market later.
- Now, you have marketing ammunition. As K.P. Reddy cites, “great CEOs know the numbers of their businesses”. Surveys give you stats you can cite in pitches, marketing collateral, etc.
When starting a business or thinking about an idea, customer discovery should be one of the first things you do.
|Took a hike on Saturday morning to the top of Stone Mountain to catch the sunrise. There are a million reasons not get up this early, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have caught this beauty.|
Surprise! You’re afraid of what others think.
I happened to meet a young girl in high school who said she liked to sing, but she didn’t consider herself a singer or musician. In fact, when my friend and I asked her why she didn’t share her music more, she mentioned “mean girls” at her school. Wow. That was truly sad. She was holding herself back from her passion, afraid of being teased by others who really didn’t care for her. Meanwhile, those who did care for her encouraged her, but it was the rotten apples in the group with nothing positive to say who held her back.
You think you’re not ready.
“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket
- I hear from my friends who are now parents of little ones that they didn’t think they were fully ready, and even when their kids were born, they weren’t. But they learn on-the-fly.
- As I’ve started consulting independently, I’ve had to rely a lot on my own experience and skills and my ability to quickly learn. Once I sold myself on projects and started working on them, I’ve continued learning which has been my way of powering through (the drive). Sometimes, it’s smooth, sometimes it’s not. But each time has been a great learning experience.
When we pursue a dream or a passion like entrepreneurship, we have to be strong, smart, and vulnerable enough to ask for help. Those capabilities you think you may lack can be learned, and asking for help is one of the best ways to do that.
With more time (and falls), you seek the path of least resistance.
|When I was younger, I would dream about mountain biking up and down this granite. Now? Now I’m slowly, cautiously stepping down each boulder. Ah, how the years have affected my risk aversion…|