No Need for Stealth Mode for New Ventures

Pitch your product without giving away the “secret sauce”

Recently I came across a great blog post – Start-ups in stealth mode need one piece of advice – Just Stop .  Having spent the last 3 years in the early stage investment markets I can confirm this sound advice. I have never yet meet a business that wants a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) signed before they speak to you,  having any chance of success.

Not enough business people bait their audiences using a quantified value proposition. Instead they revert to the easier and more natural option of telling their potential customers about what great technology they have and how it works. These same people complain that their competition are stealing their ideas.

It’s about time the people giving advice in intellectual property educate their clients on how to talk about their business and their solution
without having to disclose details that would break any potential future patent rights.  Rather than simply advising them to say nothing, which usually gets translated by young entrepreneurs, into avoiding all contact with potential clients and investors – hence stealth mode.

So my advice is simple:

  1. Practice pitching your business in terms of value proposition rather than technology
  2. If your business can be destroyed by telling some one about it, stop now.

For the lazy ones who haven’t clicked the link above to  read Jason Freedman’s  full post  yet, you should have, here are the highlights:

Reasons you do not need to be in stealth mode:

  1. Execution is more important than the idea
  2. Someone else already has the idea
  3. Totally unique ideas generally don’t make it
  4. Failure is more likely through your incompetence than competition
  5. You desperately need feedback
  6. First mover advantage is silliness

If you would like a hand learning how to pitch without giving away the secret sauce – then attend the “Power Pitching Master Class” or give me a call.

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Straight Talking Strategy – Rockefeller Habits

“Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – What you must do to increase value of your growing firm” by Verne Harnish was referred to me by an entrepreneur who thought it was my style of book: pragmatic, full of useful tips and to the point. He was on the money, in fact I found the book addictive – I could not put it down. For me it went well beyond the promise of another one page business plan template to consider, its goes on my top 10 must read business books list.

What I liked was the way Verne brings business strategy and plans back to simple lists, questions and statement. Below I have given you a taste of what is in this great read.

The right things model – 3 basic decisions Executives need to make:

  1. Do we have the right people?
  2. Are we doing the right things
  3. Are we doing those three things right?

Base Strategy:

Let’s face it, business is basically the act of Getting, Keeping and Growing – Customers, Staff and Shareholders and we get better at this when we sell stuff, make or buy stuff and measure stuff.

Verne has simplified all business strategy into two dimensions best illustrated with the diagram below.

Often in business we can make things more complex than we need to. Verne’s one page business plan and measurement framework is well worth exploring.

Note: you can download a word version of Verne’s one page plan from www.gazelles.com.

For me it’s not necessarily the exact template as much as the principles behind concise “Succinct”  business plans and measurement models.

  1. A simple framework that documents your position
  2. Use of a common language to express the strategy
  3. Develop a habit of using the framework and a language to continually evaluate process. (Like the GMC guide to NO).

This one pager is a good mix of strategy, execution and measurement and complements the business model canvas and balanced score card approach I use.  My take is, you need to work with a model that works best for you, perhaps a hybrid of all of the above.

Verne also shares his philosophy on people and management – including effective use of meetings.

We have all heard people say they don’t need help; Verne says it all “if your staff do not have bottlenecks, then more than likely they aren’t doing anything at all”. As a manager always find out your teams top 3 -5 bottlenecks, remember that it’s your job to clear those.

On KPI’s he also follows the “keep your KPI list small” model, he sights one CEO who had three critical numbers engraved on watches that he handed out to his execs’

Having worked with a number of high growth companies I have come to realise that high growth companies operate with a different measure of time and pace. Verne confirmed this with the statement:

“If you’re growing at 20-100% per year – think of each quarter as if it were a year”

Oh and the link to “Rockefeller”…. well to be honest, you’ll need to read the book for this, for me it got lost in all the great gems I took from the book on how to help companies grow fast.