Dave Chalmers, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the DMZ, helps startups with growth, operations and strategy.
Building a tech company is a pressure filled experience that requires founders and their employees to have a great work ethic, be multi-talented and open to change, all while executing against sound business fundamentals. Often founders look to the billion dollar unicorns for inspirational and guiding examples for what business methodology they should consider following for their company in the hopes of finding a path of least resistance or a proven path to success. In reality, there are a multitude of potential business blueprints that can provide founders with guidance and insights with respect to how they can structure their organization, build their teams or establish their go-to market strategies/
Here are four important attributes that will help startup CEOs and founders establish a strong foundation from which to build their team, their marketplace and their company.
For tech founders, one aspect of time management that is often overlooked is attending external events (invitations aplenty for entrepreneur meetups, speaking engagements, you name it) whereby there are no strategic initiatives attached to the event that correlate with the corporate goals. Often founders talk themselves into the value proposition by remembering the great connections that were made, the branding/exposure their company received, the wonderful speakers that they heard, or the size of the audience that they had a chance to be a panelist in front of. But it’s important to take the time to properly gauge the value of every event by properly considering the amount of time required to support going (travel, costs, preparation required, total time out of the office, etc.) and what that means from the perspective of lost productivity. Your time is valuable, and you’ll never get back the hours you dedicate to external events – so make them count.
You have a talented team, or maybe you are the talent. You have the hustle, you’re serious, you dedicate long hours, you have MVP established and you have the personal aptitude to do amazing things. Most companies that are well poised to take the next step in their corporate maturity and revenue growth also have one additional ingredient that they leverage as their secret weapon: a go-to-market plan and strategy. It’s a plan that is succinct, clear in action items, built on (the right) measurable goals and that can be tracked. Everyone at the company knows who’s accountable for which pieces, like who’s going to drive client engagements and secure revenue. The plan helps to set in motion a framework that you can edit, pivot and benchmark success against. Don’t be afraid to build and execute simultaneously. The market doesn’t wait for those who are slow to perform – don’t let others out-execute you or your company.
Once the plan is created and your team is engaging with clients, driving traction and working towards closing revenue, it’s very important to have structure as it pertains to corporate milestones, goals and objectives. This can help measure success, build team alignment and chart the course for corporate strategy to determine which pivots or tweaks need to be made to your go-to market plan. Information is king and the more you have, the better your measured strategy will be. Your goals should cover a very defined view of being specific, measurable, achievable (debated depending on your level of aggressiveness), relevant to the company and narrowed to a particular time frame from the standpoint of them being yearly, or quarterly or monthly goals. In the view of emerging tech companies, often quarterly goals (broken down monthly) help to produce very focused and ultra aggressive seven day ‘sprints,’ which can be extremely effective for combining planning, execution and measuring achievements within a short period of time.
Alignment of activities
Often overlooked as a strategic pillar within the day-to-day operations of a young tech company because of the ‘hustle’ and busy calendars that everyone has, aligning activities can often be the carbon monoxide of your calendar if you’re not paying attention. Meaning, most organizations equate effectiveness to their levels of activity. The person who makes the most outbound sales calls or who is able to send the most emails is clearly superior to everyone else in terms of speed and aggressiveness. Not so. Activity is nothing without the proper focus and discipline. Often startups CEOs and founders will begin their week with high hopes and big plans, having a functional strategy with goals and milestones in place that has them brimming with confidence. Then Friday afternoon hits and they do a quick review of the mountain of emails, meetings, calls and texts that were reviewed, sent and shared, and ‘the week that was’ ends up as ‘the week that could have been.’ All that activity didn’t align to anything, and unfortunately if there’s one thing that stands out above all the rest, it’s that startups don’t have the luxury of wasting time.