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A Short, But Important, Checklist Of Startup Business Wisdom

by Les Trachtman, author of “Don’t F**k It Up: How Founders and Their Successors Can Avoid the Clichés That Inhibit Growth

checklist

Money.

  • There is lots of it available in the market. VCs and PEs have more capital than they are capable of managing well.
  • Valuations are always astronomical for other companies (i.e., not yours).
  • Angel capital usually comes from people who have too much time on their hands and like to put their noses in places in which they have no expertise.
  • Just because you have money to invest does not make you smart; there may be an inverse correlation.
  • Money alone can’t help a bad venture or a good venture with a bad management team.
  • You probably can’t succeed without it.
  • If your venture continually has too little of it, you either are spending too much time looking for it, your valuation is stupid, your management team is inept, your venture is not worthy, or more likely all of the above.

Management Talent.

  • There is not enough to go around.
  • In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king, but not a kingdom worth owning.
  • It is rare to find someone with a combination of business savvy and engineering talent.
  • Most techies would disagree.
  • Just because you are a founder, does not mean you deserve to run an organization (unless you are the only employee).
  • Good management techniques will apply across most industries.
  • If you think your industry (or business) is different, you are wrong.
  • Founders who hold the title of CEO only because they started the company are usually in the wrong job.
  • Founders who have this epiphany, may actually become good CEOs.
  • Friends and family teams are usually all that is necessary to burn down a very promising venture.
  • Most bad management teams don’t agree with any of this.

Technology.

  • You can’t risk your success on the back of one person or a small team of technical people who don’t believe you are smart enough to understand their technology.
  • As a CEO if you don’t understand it now, over time you still won’t get it.
  • Companies that start with great technology and ultimately succeed have figured that out.
  • In order to succeed, your technology actually has to solve some problem.
  • Creating the problem just so your technology has something useful to do is a dumb idea.

Sales & Marketing.

  • Great sustainable sales only exist in an environment where there are processes and metrics.
  • If you claim to have metrics, but don’t track them or can’t recite them, you are fooling yourself.
  • If you think your business is different and you don’t need metrics, you are wrong.
  • Great sales talent is not personality based — it is process based.
  • If you are not concentrating on how to create reproducible sales — you won’t have any.
  • You can always spot a sales driven organization — their employees wear company-logoed clothing.

Founders.

  • Every organization has at least one founder; adding more usually adds more complexity than it is worth.
  • Most will require adult supervision.
  • Founders always believe their ventures are worth at least an order of magnitude more than people with money do.
  • They think that the money guys don’t get it.
  • Founders often believe that splitting the equity pie with you is not warranted.
  • If you are a successor to the founder and care about how people feel about you, you’re probably not the right successor.

Details.

  • Some people thrive in the details.
  • This isn’t because they are bad.
  • There is a need for someone to worry about the details in every organization.
  • If it isn’t you, find someone who is focused on them.

Quality of Life.

  • In today’s world this often takes center stage for employees.
  • There is no work/life balance. If work is not enjoyable, doing less of it will not really make a difference.
  • Working with great people, having a flexible work environment, and controlling your own destiny is more important than money or long hours.

Risk.

  • There is a direct correlation between the one’s willingness to accept risk and the weight of their pocket books multiplied the size of their mortgage.
  • Potential participants in any venture have different short-term vs long term needs.
  • Everyone says they are looking for long-term wealth generation.
  • Most people can’t afford to really mean that.

People.

  • No good person wants to work with assholes.
  • Most assholes would love to work with you!
  • You are only as good as the company you keep.
  • That includes clients and investors, and employees.
  • Even a bad technology can succeed with good people.
  • The converse is never true.

 

Les Trachtman 2

 

Les Trachtman is currently the CEO of The Trachtman Group – focused on helping companies grow and scale, as well as managing director (and majority investor) of Purview, an early stage company focused on disrupting the medical imaging business. He is author of “Don’t F**k It Up: How Founders and Their Successors Can Avoid the Clichés That Inhibit Growth“.


This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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