11 Startup Mistakes

The following startup mistakes were listed by Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, author, marketing expert, ex Apple evangelist, chief evangelist for Canva and others. He has some strong words and may challenge traditional beliefs out there.

1. Multiplying big numbers by 1%

‘There are two fundamental flaws with this:
Getting 1% of any market is not that easy. No investors want to hear that you’re only going to get 1% (which sort of contradicts point above)’

2. Scaling too soon
‘I have never seen a company die because it didn’t scale fast enough. Usually what happens is you scale too fast in anticipation of a conservative 1% with the programs created by your rock star engineering staff, it doesn’t come through. You’re stuck with big overhead and you run out of money.’

3. Partnering

For Guy Kawasaki, “partnering is bullshit.”

‘There’s only one thing that counts in a start-up – its sales. Partnering means two organisations try to compensate for their weaknesses by partnering with another:
2 + 2 = 3 in this case.

Partnerships mean nothing. Start-ups should focus on sales. Sales fix everything.’

My Note: I have to disagree here – yes sales are key but there can DEFINITELY be great partnerships! Just about every product I’ve developed has involved a partnership. Don’t throw out the idea of partnerships – in my experience 2 +2 can equal 5 or higher. The world revolves around partnerships. But of course you need to pick the right partner and a capable partner. Don’t fall into the trap of accepting whatever partner comes along and agrees to partner – be very clear in your vision, goals and values and select accordingly. Don’t be afraid to turn a partnership down if it doesn’t feel right.

4. Pitching instead of prototyping

A lot of entrepreneurs are focusing on the pitching process. In the real world the key is not the pitch.
‘If someone gave me a choice of having a team come in with a great PowerPoint pitch or come in with a prototype that is working, I would pick the working prototype all day long.

Because in a few hours I could help most of you fix your pitch, I cannot, in a few hours, help anybody fix their prototype. Prototyping is the key.’

5. Using too many slides and too small a font

If you are going to pitch, use the Guy Kawasaki 10-20 rule of PowerPoint. The optimal number of slides on a PowerPoint presentation is 10.

The time you should be able to get those slides in is 20 minutes. Thus 10-20 rule. Ideal font size is 30pt or larger. This prevents you from putting too much detail and taking too long. So in summary, remember the 10-20-30 rule.

6. Doing things serially

Entrepreneurs believe they should do things serially which is to do things one at a time.
The serial world in entrepreneurship doesn’t exist.

‘Unfair as it may seem, if you are an entrepreneur, you are going to have to be raising money, writing software, prototyping, selling, recruiting, and collecting money ALL at the SAME TIME. It is all those paths moving down the road all at the same time. It is not a serial process.’

7. Believing 51% = control

Many, many entrepreneurs believe that as long as they and their buddies own 51 % of the company, they are in total control of the company. Because they believe that in board meetings, things come down to a vote and 51% wins.

‘I have never seen anything come down to a vote in a board meeting. It’s either everybody wants to do it or nobody wants to do it. The truth is, the moment you take outside money, you have lost control of the company. When you take outside money, you have a moral, ethical, and financial obligation to the outside money. If you cannot deal with that, then don’t take outside money.’

8. Believing Patents = defensibility

The ideal number of times you should use the P world in your presentation is once.
“We have filed patents” – that’s it.

‘If you say “We have filed patents and it is going to create a defensible position for us” that’s two and you’re wrong. You are deluding yourself if you believe that patenting something will make you defensible. Because it takes about 5-6 years to file a patent and get it done.

Don’t tell a sophisticated investor that the reason why you are defensible is because you filed a patent. In fact, that’s a very good test – if, when you say you filed a patent and the investor laughs and rolls his/her eyes, that is a smart investor. If the investor agrees to the idea of filling a patent, walk out of that room, that person is an idiot.’

9. Hiring in your own image

If you’re an engineering person, you need to balance out your engineering prowess. So an engineering person should hire a sales person. A sales person should hire an engineering person.
‘Many times companies like to all hire the same kind of people. And when that happens, you’ll have glaring weaknesses.’

‘You need to hire people who compliment your skills. Fundamentally for start-ups, what you need is someone to make it, someone to sell it, someone to collect it. Remember you need all three skills: make it, sell it, and collect it.’

My Note: when hiring use your vision and values in your job ad and interview to scare away the ones that don’t match and attract the ones that do. Make sure new hires match your values and culture – you can’t ‘teach’ these. Use trial periods – my recommendation is to give candidates a one day trial, then a week, then a month. Or you might give them a short project to complete/work on. Often one day is all it takes to identify if the person is a match. Hire slow, fire quick. Too many businesses do it the other way around, hire quickly and then keep the wrong people for way too long.

10. Befriending your VCs (Venture Capitals)

‘VCs and investors are not your friends. I’m not saying you should hate them. But I am saying that it is a business. They are in the business of making money; they’re not in the business of making friends. Angel investors’ maybe, but VCs are not.

The key to managing your VCs or investors is to just meet your projections. Guy’s advice is that you set projections that you are 80% confident you’ll make. 80% is the minimum confidence you should have. You need to under-promise and over-deliver.

‘What happens if a realistic projection doesn’t make the company interesting enough to get funded? That’s the real problem and I will tell you that VC is not for everybody. VC is playing a game. Every VC wants to find the next Google.’

11. Thinking VCs can add value

‘You shouldn’t think that VCs are going to do a lot of heavy lifting. Fundamentally what you want from a VC is money and you want 2-3 hours a month of their bandwidth. That’s about it.

The irony is that the more successful you are the more bandwidth you’ll get. Which is kind of unfortunate because the least successful you are, the more you might have needed the help. The VC game is a game of hindsight. Have a realistic expectation of venture capitalists. It’s a mistake many entrepreneurs make.’
Some very useful tips here, and yes, they can be challenged and yes, they are not the limit of mistakes made. Interested in your experience and thoughts and I’ve got my list of common mistakes I’ve made over the past 30yrs and seen clients make! Which I’m happy to share so you don’t make them too.

TUESDAY TIPS for business growth

Today I thought I’d share some tips for selling more and growing the business, based on two of my clients who are quite typical of the businesses I deal with. Or I should say the business owners I work with.

Client 1: manufacturer, quality product, excellent fabrication setup but never been profitable in 4yrs of operation and production team unable to meet targets for each station. He was ready to close up shop and give up. His motivation for the business was 3 out of 10. He was dreading going to work. Which certainly sucks and the last thing you want as a business owner! We turned this around in less than 3 mo and he’s been profitable ever since, production hit targets, no delays, less returns and he enjoys going to work (8 to 9 out of 10).

Client 2: tradie, very motivated to do well and deliver quality service but unclear on how to grow. He was turning over $40-50K/mo when I started with him and he now consistently does $200K/mo and on track to grow to $300-400K/mo and then more as he franchises the operation.

TIPS – what did they do? I’m picking a few of the key actions/changes but there were a number of things.

1. They got super clear on the vision and values for the business and communicated this with the team and used it to attract quality employees and lose the ones that didn’t match. Your business is like a bus and you are the driver. If staff are on a bus and not sure where it is going they start looking out the window and thinking of ways to get off the bus. They also need to trust the bus driver knows where they are going. If this isn’t shared they develop all kinds of ideas which can often be negative and affect productivity.

2. They set clear performance goals and made sure these were visible, understood and routinely checked. They didn’t set a goal and then never talk about it again until the end of the month when it was too late to take corrective action.

They made sure that not only did employees know what was expected but had the support to achieve what was being asked. With the tradie there are incentives for hitting and exceeding targets and one target is a 5star review. His business has over 690 5star reviews. Google came and had a chat because he has the highest rating of any in his field in Australia.

3. Both got really good at letting staff go that weren’t a match and really good at hiring the right people. The trick is to hire slow and fire quick. Too many businesses keep the wrong people on too long and the longer it is the more they have invested in the person and the harder they find it to let them go. This means 6mo, 12mo, 2yrs go by with an average person in the role and the owner has to deal with stress, things not going to plan, deadlines not met, decreased quality, missed sales targets etc etc. There is significant lost opportunity cost. I recommend one day trials, then a week and then a month.

The tradie has let people go within an hour! Lets face it, we can often tell very quickly if there is a match and whether someone has what it takes. Again, use your vision and values to measure someone against. Will they take you to your vision? Will they uphold your values?

4. They both hired a coach/mentor. In this case it was me of course but I encourage them to seek out mentors to help with an aspect I’m not an expert in. My tradie client is thinking of franchising which I know nothing about so he needs to have a chat to a mentor that has done it.

They both had a desire to succeed but didn’t know what to focus on and in what order and how to do it. This is where a coach/mentor is invaluable. Don’t try and figure it all out by yourself. Short cut the process and talk to someone that knows. Time can’t be regained and time is money. And read, listen to audio books, watch YouTubes on business and mindset. Always be growing. To have what you have never had you must do what you have never done – working with a coach/mentor helps identify what it is you need to do.

As always, I’m here for a chat and to help.

Hiring Tips: to take your business to the next level

Writing this as it came up yesterday in a session with a client that was asking me who they should hire to take them from $2m/yr to $5m/yr. When they started with me they were turning over $50K/mo and are now doing $200K/mo and 680 5-star reviews. They are at their next growth point and time for new skilled and experienced team members to take them to the next level.

Tip for environmental startups/scaleups looking for team members and interested in growth:

1. Make sure you hire someone that will help take you to your 1, 2, 3 yr vision. Always keep your vision front of mind when writing your job ads and interviewing candidates. Use your vision to excite the right person and use it to check each candidate against. Hire slow, fire quick. Too many businesses hire quick and fire slow and as a result lose valuable time (and money!) by going in the wrong direction or not achieving growth targets. Take time in hiring and testing candidates and get good at letting them go in a trial period as soon as your gut tells you they are not a good fit.

2. Hire for the tasks, skills and experience you need in 1, 2 or 3 years. Don’t just have the mindset you are hiring to fill the immediate role with the business in its current position and turnover. Think of the future especially if its a leadership role. What will your business need in 1 year? 2 years? 3 years?

Some candidates will be looking to just be doing the same tasks in 1, 2 or 3 years and nothing wrong with that but are they what you need? Will the requirements of the role change as you grow? What additional tasks will be added to the role? Additional pressures? Additional KPI’s? Additional skills? Are they motivated to help a business grow? Or are they adverse to change?

It takes time and money to get any team member up to speed and you can’t get more time in life so the lost time in not growing or going in the wrong direction can’t be regained – so don’t waste this by hiring someone that is not going to cut it after 1-2 years of growth.

Hope this helps. Shoot me a message if you have any questions.

#businesstips #hiringstrongcandidates #businessstrategy #businessstrategies #hiringtips

How to Write a Winning Email

There can be a tendency to not spend enough time getting them right, so they grab attention, promote benefits and have a call to action.

Those of us in the environmental field are not all sales people, yet we are often writing emails that promote our product/services or requesting a call to action.

Here’s some tips to boost the effectiveness of your emails.

o Grab attention via the title – 80% of people will only read your title, yet little time is often spent thinking of a good title. Make sure you include a catchy title that motivates them to open the email. For example, it might be a question, controversial, provocative or combo of both. “50% of the GBR is Dead”. “Are you contributing to the death of turtles?”

o Spend half your time on the email content and half on the title.

o Use bullets, bold or underline in your email to make it easy to see the key messages or benefits you are offering. We are all time poor and competing for people’s attention. Don’t make it hard to see key points you want them to see. Keep paragraphs to just a couple sentences.

o Structure your email message so it’s showing how you will help your customer move away from pain and towards pleasure. We are wired to avoid pain.

Always cover both – how does your product/service/campaign help them avoid pain, gain pleasure? Never ever assume the reader will automatically figure it out for themselves.

A key way to do this is ask yourself if you are just listing technical specs without mentioning benefits? A problem I’m guilty of and see a lot with clients is only listing specs (dimensions, weight, number of modules, components, price, warranty, certifications etc) and this is common for those of us that developed the product/service because we developed the technical specs in the first place, and are proud of them. NEVER assume the reader will translate specs into benefits! Make sure you take out the guess work and state the benefits.

o ALWAYS use a ‘ps’ at the bottom. Second highest read part of the email! Use it for a call to action, deadline reminder, special offer.
#sales #emailtips #businesstips

To succeed, get comfortable feeling uncomfortable!

So you’ve started or about to start an environmental business or organisation? Or perhaps you are already running one…and starting to notice there are challenges that make you feel ‘uncomfortable’? It might be making those cold calls, pitching to prospects, hiring (or firing) a staff member, tackling financials or other aspects of business that are not your forte. My advice? Embrace it and get used to it. It ain’t going away. Uncomfortable times are as guaranteed as taxes.

Learn to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

As Glen Carlson, co-founder of the Key Person of Influence program, explains it…if you think about every achievement you have ever had in life they are ALL proceeded by one thing…a period of uncomfortableness…including our birth.

I think we can lean too heavily on trying to REMOVE or AVOID that uncomfortable feeling.

Quite natural as we are wired to avoid pain.

So what to do about it? How can you feel more comfortable?
I’ve borrowed the following from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), made popular by Dr Russ Harris and his books such as ‘The Happiness Trap’ and ‘The Reality Slap’.



Counter intuitive but instead of fighting it, accept it.

When we come from the position of needing to get rid of something, we set ourselves up for failure because invariably we can’t make the feeling magically disappear, it’s still there and this inability to get rid of it increases its power and hold over us and reinforces the feeling we are powerless. And so we give in to it and don’t act. And our business can suffer.

Succeeding in business has challenging moments and fearful moments.

Unavoidable…but not something to fear. By accepting this and accepting we are feeling uncomfortable we can diffuse its power and move forward.

Sit quietly with your feeling and do not suppress it. Sit with it, actually feel into it, give it a colour, a shape even. Think of yourself as a scientist studying a new organism.

Don’t try to get rid of it. Accept it in a non-judgemental way. Just observe it as you would a picture, a statue, a garden, an organism.

This might be starting to sound abit woo-woo but its a scientifically proven technique.

Notice what happens to the feeling. In many cases it calms down and becomes less uncomfortable.

Keep this feeling and become familiar with it. It is strengthening your action muscle to act even when feeling uncomfortable. As business owners we need to act and we become more effective and successful when we can act even with fear inside us. I guess you could say this technique helps us become immune to that feeling of uncomfortableness. Fighting it does the opposite.

You can go a step further and visualise expanding the space around the feeling you have visualised so that you see how small it actually is in the scheme of things.

When you zoom out and look at it from the bigger picture of your life, your business, next year, your suburb, your country…it’s very, very small.

So small that you don’t need to hide it or bury it somewhere or banish it…there is oodles of room for it in your life and it can sit there as long as it likes but it’s not going to hold you back or slow you down from doing what you need to do in your business.

Let me know how you go. I admire you for starting or running an environmental business/organisation and wish you all the best with it. Now go get uncomfortable and love it! 🙂