I have spent alot of time this year thinking about entrepreneurship, particularly as it relates to the start up technology world from a non-technical founder’s perspective, and I have come to a few conclusions:
1) If you are a non-technical CEO/founder your life will suck for a long time.
The tech world is ruled by, yes you guessed it — technical people, engineers, developers etc. Guys/gals who can write their own code or challenge the integrity of their team’s code. These are the folks who build the first iterations of their company’s products and use it to recruit others and validate their ideas. Non-technical founders end up hiring consultants to build stuff (I’ve done it); which most of the time is a mistake. Why is it a mistake? Well, for one, what you build today is obsolete the moment you commit the code. Two, it usually means you have paid out of pocket; and unless you are a rich guy/gal, this is generally very painful. Three, software is never done. You hire a consultant to build like 1.0 (if you’re lucky), and you end up dumping more money into bug fixing. Then you have to actually release something to some sort of user/s whether its alpha, beta or whatever the hell you choose to call it. And then, things break = more bugs = more money, etc etc. Not to mention the moment you release something, you’ll want to change it; oh, yeah and 98% of your initial users will find something wrong with it and suggest changes = more money spent on the consultant, etc etc. And then reality sets in: you have spent ALOT of money out of pocket, or the money runs out and its game over.
Another route the Non-technical founder takes instead of dumping his life savings into hiring consultants, is selling the “the dream/vision”. Not only does he/she have to find and convince technical people to embrace the idea enough to commit a substantial amount of their heart, soul, and attention to the venture, yet have to make sure that they maintain the enthusiasm long enough to develop something meaningful. And developing something meaningful just gets you to first base.
You do have exceptions to the rule, such as Steve Jobs. Yet, do remember that Steve was only as good as his TEAM. His ideas didn’t mean anything unless his team was able to execute. Plus Steve is a complete anomaly.
2) Ideas are blaw; Team is EVERYTHING
I have been guilty of thinking that just cause I had an idea, I had a business. Then the years passed and a million ideas later, I realized that ideas are as useless as being the only player on a hockey team that knows how to skate; you wont even have a chance to play the game and will have to forfeit every time.
Repeat after me; TEAM IS EVERYTHING. Great teams can build things. Great teams can overcome obstacles and challenges. Great teams support each other when times are tough, cause they will get tough. Needing a great team is especially important for the non-technical, tech start up co-founder. He/she is literally useless without this team. And moreover this team has to be ever more awesome to be able to persevere on alongside their non-technical leader.
If you dont have a great team, you will not win. I dont give a shit what anyone else says, you are only as strong as your team. Here are some tips:
- Keep Teams Local (as much as possible): Its tough enough building a company when your team is in your back yard. Working with remote teams makes it much harder. I’m convinced that having a great team is like having a great relationship — it takes work. And when you are not able to interact regularly with your teammates, because they are in another time zone is makes it much harder. Many times there are cultural and language barriers. As we all know, often times tones and meanings can be unclear in the virtual world. Now, I’m not saying that its impossible; and in fact there are a ton of examples of teams that have been able to pull it off. My point is, if you are going to have an offshore or remote team, get ready for the challenges that you will face.
- Be Clear, Definitive, and Make the Though Calls: You need to set the tone and expectation for the team from day one. Sometimes a non-technical founder will be so afraid of loosing their technical team that they will turn a blind eye to red flags or try to rationalize why things are not getting done. If they cant hack it, let them go. Its not healthy for anyone involved.
- Build SOMETHING you know something about: Too many times do you see entrepreneurs building businesses that they are clueless about. I am definitely guilty of this. I have tried to start businesses that I didnt know much about and perhaps was just cool. Then reality hit.
Listen Up people: cold calling is NOT dead nor is it going anywhere. I’m so sick of these wanna-be sales people writing all this garbage about how cold calling is dead. Frankly its because they have no idea what sales is all about. Yes, I’m going to say it: especially in silicon valley. You have all these brilliant people who are clueless about how to put in the work to generate their own new business. Things like how to prospect, make the calls, do the meetings, do the demos, SELL PEOPLE; aka following “the process”. I believe this is a major reason why so many silicon valley start ups fail. This said, let me not pick on silicon valley, this is an issue across the world in general.
A cold call is simply reaching out to a prospect/lead that you approached rather than them coming to you. I call this Outbound Lead Generation or Outbound Prospecting. When a lead/prospect comes to you via a sign up, form submission, phone call, etc, I consider this an Inbound Lead. Generally its marketing’s job to generate Inbound Leads; some people call this activity demand generation. Some companies have businesses that generate a high volume of inbound leads based on various reasons. Companies like Google and Facebook have more inbound leads than they can handle. Other companies are not as fortunate and need to spend more time conducting outbound lead generation. Alot of the time start ups face this challenge. They need the “hunter-type” sales guy; as opposed to the order taking, business development manager that just waits for leads to come in or is more focused on “doing partnership/channel deals”.
Now, cold calling today does entail utilizing the tools and technology that are available now; which makes it easier than ever! Today we have Linkedin, Jigsaw, Hoovers, email, Twitter, phone, etc, etc. In the past you had a phonebook and a telephone. Today you can prepare yourself better, use multiple entry points, like for example sending the prospect an email and then maybe a Linkedin message, even perhaps tweet at him/her; and then follow up all this with a good’ole phone call. This phone call might sound something like “Hey John, its Jorge from Mopub. I sent you an email this week trying to figure out who to speak with about mobile adverting topics etc. I know you’re pretty busy. Any idea who I can chat with about this stuff?” — My tone is low and slow at this point. I am trying to make sure that this person can understand me and not feel unnecessary pressure.
Today’s tools allows a sales person to call on the right people with the right titles, easier, quicker, with more accuracy, and cross-multiple channel/platforms. Today we use email more than telephone, especially during the less important periods of a conversation. My first step is to always try to find that prospects email somehow and send them a short and concise note. Either way, whether I get in touch with the prospect or not via email, my key objective is to get on the phone with them or schedule an in person meeting. You will hardly ever close any meaningful b2b business without a phone call or in person meeting.
As you can see whether you are picking up the phone or sending an email, these are all methods of cold calling. So keep up your cold calling its key to generating new business and being real salesperson.