Plans Change

My daughter Audrey Dyer retweeted the accompanying photo from @buzzfeed, and how true it is!  Most everyone spends some time in reflection around the Holidays and resolves to do things differently in the coming year. 

Austin entrepreneur Jason Cohen, among other things the founder of WP Engine, wrote a great blog post on healthy living for 30-somethings, but it applies to all ages.  I’m not sure to trust his advice, since he’s not actually a doctor (just kidding), but I tend to subscribe to most of what he recommends.  Being from Atlanta, however, I find it somewhat sacrilegious to suggest avoidance of carbonated soft drinks.  I’ve made it pretty far on Coca-Cola products, even large quantities of the lovely metallic tasting Tab of times past. 

I won’t delve into health and fitness recommendations, but I will take a stab at a few resolutions for 2013 that can apply to the many startups I’ve come to know over the past two years here in Austin. 

1.  Per the headline, plans change.  That’s the tagline of a marketing campaign of our company MeetMeTix, but it’s also a reminder that there’s no harm in recognizing the obvious and rethinking a business model that didn’t work as planned in 2012.  As people drag themselves back from the Holidays, this is as good a time as any to get the team re-energized around a more promising strategy.  So, change your plans if you need to, and don’t look back.

2.  Sharpen your focus.  One of my VP’s at Peachtree Software always told me my favorite color must plaid, given what he perceived as a lack of focus and what I perceived as being responsive to opportunities.  (You can tell who was more concerned about being the rainmaker.)  At any rate, this might be a good time to rewrite your elevator pitch based on what you’ve learned and to become much more focused and purposeful in your actions going into 2013.  It’s easy for startups to meander from one idea to the next, especially in the pre-revenue stage where there are no customers to support.  For some it’s time to get out of the trenches and charge forward, for others it may be time to surrender.  But, the worst course of action is to just sit in that trench and let the war pass you by.

3.  Be wary of the time wasters.  If you are working on strategic deals with large companies, you will quickly learn that it’s not too hard to get a happy meeting with someone in those entities and to develop a follow-on action list.  However, you may or may not have the right champion, and you have no visibility as to his or her priorities.  You can just as easily start too high in an organization as too low, and your buddy there may suddenly be shifted to a completely different role and put you in the unpleasant position of starting over.  The net is that startups dealing with enterprises for big sales or big deals can get sucked into a vortex where months pass and nothing happens.  (Please, however, never consider reading TechDrawl to be a time waster.)

4.  As a corollary to #3, pay attention to your funnel of opportunities.  Your only defense against a long road that turns out to be a dead end is to be traveling down a number of roads simultaneously.  That is not contrary to the concept of focus, it’s a basic principle of getting deals done and sales made.  Not all of the things you spend your energy on will pay off, and you need to keep more than enough in the top of the funnel to give you decent odds of wins coming out the bottom.   And, no matter what you’re doing, the more potential deals you pour into your funnel, the better your chances of getting really good ones to happen.   Call it lead gen or recruiting or whatever, but you need to be making things happen out there.

5.  Develop and maintain that “need for speed” if you don’t already have it.  You can buy your Ferrari when you cash in, but in the meantime you need to be able to play fast and nimbly in any tech startup.  The major players are constantly changing the rules, and the rate of change is only increasing.  I look at how much my own workflow has changed over the past year with the introduction of new software and hardware tools, and your personal and company infrastructure is also probably much advanced from where you were twelve months ago.  Count on more of that, and don’t count on your market and your competitors standing still.  When you reach the end of 2013, you want to be on the lead lap in whatever race you have chosen for yourself.