Lessons Learned

Welcome to our library of “Lessons Learned,” where we attempt to share better practices we feel will increase your probability of success, whether launching, growing, or transitioning your business venture. These “smart” papers are designed to trigger a deeper examination of your current operations. We don’t intend to re-tweet stale advice or regurgitate flippant commentary. If you’re serious about pursuing more meaningful solutions to your business challenges, you’ll need to invest 5-10 minutes per article. But we feel strongly it’s well worth your while.

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.”
– Sir Richard Branson

7 Situations Where Start-Ups Hire Full-Time Biz Dev Teams Too Early
Seven fundamental questions you need to ask yourself before you incur the time, cost, and risk of recruiting a full-time sales and marketing function that you will be required to train, motivate, and manage. Every day. Starting tomorrow!

3 Benefits to Outsourcing Your Early-Stage Biz Dev
Outsourcing early-stage business development to a closely integrated team of hands-on, part-time contractors, who have past experience, proven expertise, and are compensated to deliver results, can help guarantee you reduce unnecessary burn, mitigate risk, improve performance, and accelerate outcomes. This option is especially important to consider during the pre-launch and even early lift-off phases of your company’s development.

Stop Equating Business Development to Sales
Business development is a mission-critical function that is essential to all ventures, but is often sorely misunderstood and poorly executed. Part of the challenge is the very nomenclature that’s been adopted in the business world. At some point along the way, “business development” became synonymous with “sales and marketing,” which has done the core function a grave disservice. Business development is about “developing” or “building” the many facets of a revenue-generating, customer fulfillment engine behind a core product or service. Sales and marketing are only a sub-set of what a business development professional must strategize for, develop towards, execute on, and close/deliver. Here’s what you should expect of your senior business development strategist.

Cocktail Napkin Economics
Every entrepreneur has heard about the “elevator pitch.” If you want to land a 30-minute audience with a potential investor, then you better have your venture concept and value proposition nailed in a 30-second sound-bite. If done right, the first 30-seconds grants you another 3 minutes to elaborate, after which you “close” an appointment for a proper 30-60 minute presentation. But here’s where things often fall apart. Because you didn’t do the same with your “Money Model.”

Want Business Resiliency & Risk Tolerance? Think Like An Astronaut
If you want to ensure you’re staying ahead of any possible problem; if you want to increase your probability of survival and success; then your entire team needs to ask themselves this question regularly, and across every aspect of your total operation: “What’s the next thing that could kill me?”

Practice To Profit
Most founders are great idea generators and technical specialists, but not necessarily great salespeople. Moreover, as a startup you don’t have any sort of track record or a reputation, so you have to sell customers on potential when the outcomes for clients have to be “now!” Yet trying out an untested sales presentation on real prospects, and potential key customers, can put relationships and business at risk. Practicing in a simulated sales situation offers startups an opportunity to test themselves and reveal vulnerabilities without risking real business opportunities.

Don’t Believe the Hype! – De-Mystifying Digital Marketing
Mainstream media gives you the impression that we’ve entered this miraculous age in marketing; that your world will go instantly “viral;” that business outcomes will come more quickly, efficiently, and easily; that the adoption of new digital marketing practices will automatically lead to a larger bottom-line, with less effort, and less human interaction. In simple truth, most of these statements are based in fallacy. What’s most important is to understand that there is a wealth of new digital and mobile marketing channels that allows for a natural evolution in the way you can engage your audience. So set aside all the hype. Do a bit of homework. Then start to experiment in a gradual, measured fashion. Here’s a primer to get you started.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Deconstructing A StartUp’s Road to Revenue
We’re amazed at how often startups either can’t articulate a simple 12-month revenue target, or fail to deconstruct their sales goals in a way that properly identifies a plausible “Road to Revenue.” Startups will roll out an exorbitant, one-year, multi-million dollar revenue projection without any sense of feasibility – context, timeframe, resources, or sales plan. It’s a bit like setting someone down in Vancouver, Canada… someone with no knowledge of the country’s size, terrain, climate, or season… and telling her she’ll be expected to reach Halifax in one hour. Can’t be done. No amount of will power or sweat equity can change that fact. And yet that’s the demoralizing mistake we’ve seen ventures make in their early years when laying out arbitrarily inflated revenue goals with no sense of reality. They set themselves up for failure. And why? Because they don’t deconstruct their goals in a way that properly identifies a logical, plausible, and time-sensitive “Road to Revenue.”

Building Your Pipeline – It’s A Matter of Math
Building a consistent and reliable pipeline is a matter of math. It’s straight numbers and probabilities. But our experience has shown us, whether dealing with start-ups or established firms, that many businesses often ignore the math – and much to their detriment. Now, to be clear, it’s not an exact science. And pipeline metrics change over time. But like all aspects of a well-managed business, a pipeline should be quantified and benchmarked at the start so that key performance indicators (KPI’s) can be established, and sales outcomes properly evaluated at even the earliest stages of a fiscal cycle.

You Want Leads? You Want to Sell? Get on the Phone!
We get it. Selling is intimidating. And we’ve all experienced “fear of the phone.” But don’t fool yourself into thinking you can “automate-away” the human element of a B2B lead generation and sales program. Because you’re probably missing out on a big percentage of opportunities if you rely exclusively on “auto-piloted” lead generation practices. Make sure you’re still chasing business on the phone.

Holy Crap – We Made A Sale! Now What Do We Do?
During our tenure supporting early-stage ventures, we’re amazed at how often clients overlook the importance of planning a well-engineered customer fulfillment operation. Immense effort is poured into product design, pricing strategy, promotion, and prospect development. But when the first deal is finally closed, and the sales bell is rung, there always seems to be a loud celebration, followed by a collective “[Hush]… Now what do we do?” In truth, making a sale and closing a deal represents only 50% of your market validation and venture success. Delivering seamless customer fulfillment and flawless service are what will keep you in business.

Think You’re A Self-Service SaaS Retailer? Think Again
It’s all the rage! Build a business software solution. Host it on the cloud. Brand-market like crazy. And watch the money roll in “hands-free,” as customers line up with credit cards for their monthly, auto-payment, subscription program. No need for sales agents. No need for service representatives. What about on-boarding? Easy – facilitate customer orientation through a library of “hip-happening” video tutorials and auto-email service communications. Sound a bit suspect? A little too “get-rich-quick?” Well, in many instances you’d be right. A true “Self-Service” SaaS retail model is not as universally applicable as you think.

Tools, Technology & Your Growth Strategy
In recent years, we’ve become alarmed at a regular practice among “aging leaders” in the face of rapid technological change — to delegate the investigation and strategic application of “new tech tools” to a relatively inexperienced, unseasoned junior designate. Dwight Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during WWII when he was over 50 years of age. He was responsible for overseeing the successful invasion and liberation of North Africa and Europe during the world’s largest ever military conflict. And technology was evolving at a lightning pace; on both sides of the conflict. Now did Eisenhower ever need to drive the latest tank or fly the newest plane during the war? No. Of course not! But most definitely he needed to be made aware of the specific capabilities and potential of each new innovative technology in order to oversee, strategize, coordinate, and approve major military campaigns. Eisenhower and his senior strategists had their hands full. So there are no excuses. But how do you stay on top of new technologies in your own field? Read on…

So You Want to Automate Personalized Service? (Part I)
“Automated” personalized service. Let’s be frank. Sounds a lot like an oxymoron. But the simple truth is that many companies (new and old) are attempting to deploy the latest in communication automation, data-mining algorithms, and artificial business intelligence to propel their sales, service and fulfilment programs. We get it. With every new technology, there’s a temptation to test equally new tactical approaches to customer sales and service. But attempts to automate the human exchange still seem to fall flat, most especially on the service side. What does the Gold Standard in personalized service look like? My Mom’s local butcher might have an idea…

So You Want to Automate Personalized Service? (Part II)
Automation is compelling for a slew of reasons. Increased speed and volume of transactions. Reduced cost of delivery. Consistent standards in service. In everything you choose to do with your business, however, you are balancing outcomes against opportunity costs. So as compelling as some of these outcomes might appear, you should also ensure you’re keeping a close eye on KPI’s and benchmarks critical to your operation – KPI’s that may reveal you’re actually harming long-term business prospects and customer relations as much as you are improving your overall bottom-line in the short-term. And through all this, always remember the end game: To Keep Your Customers Happy!

3 Mission-Critical Functions Essential to a Start-Up & Regularly Overlooked
Recruiting a team of highly motivated, adaptable, productive talent is both challenging and time-consuming. It’s essential for closing investors, and driving to market. But let’s be clear – this is not about filling up fancy “C-Level” titles on an org chart. You need to identify and recruit for mission critical functions that will get you to market, and fast. Success is about execution. But in the early stages, you may not need a VP of Sales & Marketing. It’s more likely you need someone who understands how to build and develop the core machinery behind a sales operation. And you don’t necessarily need a full-time CFO. You need someone who knows how to control cash, manage budgets, and forecast the future.

The Talent Toll | Vancouver’s Start-Up Dilemma
Recruitment. For any start-up it’s mission critical. You need a team that can execute, and one that investors are willing to finance. But recruitment isn’t easy. In fact, it’s pretty painful. There are the cash costs to research, source, and acquire top talent; and the time costs to vet, interview, and negotiate a final agreement. All this while you’re running operations, raising funds, and acquiring a consistent customer base. And now for the elephant in the room – You’re trying to recruit in Vancouver!

Canada StartUp Service Sheet
From ideas to execution to profit, Canada StartUp has been supporting early-stage start-ups and growing ventures for over 10 years.  Market  validation.  Sales Assessment.  Lead Generation.  Sales Process and Tools.  Sales Training.  Let’s start with a conversation.