New Affordable Business Owners Development Programme

Getting your business flying is hard work. 

Are you working on the right stuff ?

Whether you are starting a new business or you are eager to accelerate success in your current business this is the programme for you.

Activate – Jump Start begins with an intensive “live in” weekend, 10 back to back business workshops. Topics covered include: Pitching, capital raising, business planning, creating high performance teams, governance for SME’s, maximising value from advisors. Our aim is to help you avoid common mistakes, save money and accelerate the growth of your business. You will leave the weekend with a draft business plan for your business.

One month later you will have a dedicated facilitated strategy session for your business, 3 follow up mentoring sessions plus much more all included in the price for the weekend.

Aimed at the start-up and SME market with less than $5M revenue this high impact programme is pegged at an affordable price point.

Typical GMC client feedback we get is…

“It’s a harsh reality check that’s brutal, but uplifting and utterly necessary. Mark runs you through it with passion and insight. Highly recommended.”
Ollie Langridge – Netfilms Ltd

“This will make me get out of my comfort zone and put my “dream” into action” CEO Traverse Developments

The pragmatic delivery style of Mark has gained rave reviews and we can promise you the only case study we will work on is your business.

The activate programme is an extension of the original Activate launched by Grow Wellington for the Wellington Regions start-up community. GMC have partnered with Grow Wellington to refresh the Activate programme and combine it with GMC’s pragmatic and fast paced learning style. With Grow Wellingtons assistance we are launching this new revised programme for Wellington on September 2-4 at Tatum Park.

For Auckland businesses we have scheduled the 2011 session for November 25. At this stage it is envisaged that this programme will have 3 intakes per year, limited to a maximum of 15 companies to maximise learning.

Growth Management Consulting (GMC) and the Jump Start Weekend are registered with NZTE as an approved workshop that business capability vouchers can be redeemed for. This can provide up to a 50% discount on course fees.

For more information available at including full programme and registration.

Register now and get a free copy of Rob Adams “if you build it they will come” (read book review here)

Or  call Mark Robotham direct on 021 61 8850


Do you have proof that your product will sell?

Starting a new business or product line?
Have you validated your market yet?

Do you have enough facts to convince a complete non-emotional stranger that once you have built your product or service that people will buy it and you will make enough money to create a business?

We all too often fall into the common trap of thinking that we have come from the industry, so we do not need to do any validation that customers will actually want and more importantly buy our product.

Too many businesses, fail to complete this best risk mitigation technique available to them, before ploughing into developing their product. 60% of new products fail when launched, many taking the company out with it.  This failure rate can be eliminated with a simple 60 day market research programme, started before you invest your time and energy into developing your next product.

I have just read Rob Adams “If you build it they will come” book. This post is a small collection of some of the topics covered and thoughts I have had post reading it. This book is now going to be compulsory reading for my clients who are starting a new business, including those attending the new Activate – business growth programme I facilitate.

Rob details a simple process of first doing some basic market sizing work off publicly available information (secondary research) and then getting in front of customers to conduct a series of rounds of one on one interviews. Nothing in the book is rocket science – yet 90% of businesses I come across could save a lot of time, money and frustration by following his process.

Rob, recommends you allocate 10% of your product development budget towards market validation before you start developing it.

My recommendation is that you do 50 -100 interviews, including testing what your potential customers will want to pay for your product-service (ie the ASP – average sales price). Then work out how many you expect to sell each year.

Revenue per employee is a great benchmark metric for businesses, under $100K you do not have a viable business. Over $200,000-250,000 per employee then you are on the money.

Do the maths:  (X customers x Spend Y$) / (number of people in your business) if < $100,000 stop and get help quick.

If the thought of interviewing 100 potential clients to understand their needs daunts or scares you, then I would say give up now, these same people are going to be the people who once you have set up your business you are going to be selling to.

This simple market validation process ensures that you can create a “must have product” rather than a “nice to have”  that people will struggle to open their wallet for. I can guarantee as a result of these interviews you will change your product as a result. Don’t be like others who develop and release version 1 to find this out. Likewise you can establish the “minimum viable product” a concept of the least functionality you need to make your mark in the market.

Explore the bounds of your competitors including substitutes (work a round’s or doing nothing). This is particularly relevant when you are creating new disruptive products, in which case you need to work out what discretionary spend budget you are going to take the consumers money from.

So if you did not get a copy in Rob’s recent NZ tour, get yourself a copy. It will be going on my Top 5 must read books, kicking off Rob’s Early book “A good kick in the arse basic guide to entrepreneurs” only because this kick (market validation) is the most needed one for startups.

I love Rob Adams phrase “Business Pornography” – the fairy tale stories the press love propagating about businesses, that magically created the dream product, its running out the door and live is easy.

PS: This was my first kindle experience – loved the ability to highlight sections then export them to word doc.

PSS: for us visually oriented people, can we have some pictures-diagrams in your next book.

First Impressions Count – 8 Tips

The real world says first impression count – how much business are you missing out on because you are maiking 8 basic mistakes?  Here’s 8 turnoffs for me (or a potential client)…

  1. Do you have a dedicated domain email address?   
    Sorry but there is no excuse for a @gmail or worst still @hotmail account any more. Register a domain name (costs $40 per year). Hell I would recommend getting a family domain for your kids.
  2. Does your web site exist and not look like a child made it at school?
    Too many companies use large homemade web site that say nothing of relevance for their customers. At very least commission a graphic designer to develop a simple holding page with your contact details on it. Less done properly is better than lots of crap. This is the best place to spend your next $5 – $10,000 of marketing money. Also make sure it can be viewed on an i-phone and i-pad – people who use these devices buy stuff.
  3.  Do you exist on LinkedIn?  Linked  is the easiest way to build an online profile that will help you get clients, qualify staff, suppliers and much more. Start a profile today
  4. If I Google your business name or your name something comes up? Failure to have any online presence today is suicidal.
  5. What does your business card look and feel like?
    Make sure people get an idea about what you do from your card. Use the rear of the card as well, use quality print stock and finish.   
  6. Is your mobile phone no. on your business card?  
    Having your mobile phone no. on your card says I am open for business.
  7. Do you post clients stuff that can be emailed?
    Don’t post me something that can be emailed; most business people today are mobile, paper gets wet- lost and ignored. My suggestion is email everything. Last weekend at a trade conference, I heard someone say since they started emailing bills out they get paid faster.
  8. How you look, appear and smell?  Tidy & not smoking in my presence?  Style matters, it doesn’t matter what the look is – but remember it reflects your company and personal brand. Young entrepreneurs soap and deodorant are necessary. Old guys it may be time to throw out that sports jacket that has served the last 10 years  🙂

 As a footnote – remember the world does not like plastic flowers “perfect in every way” have a personality – brand and stand for something.



The Entrepreneurs Guide To No – test your last decision

Being in business is addictive and just like alcoholics, business owners loose objectivity –wasting too much time on the wrong idea or activity.

It’s my ambition to accelerate the growth and failure of NZ companies by removing clutter and simplifying business growth. For most business people I speak with, it’s not a lack of ideas or things to do, it’s about deciding what NOT TO DO.

Do not end up being a great jockey, riding a lame donkey.  Success is just as much about keeping an objective eye out for distracting activities or ideas, as it is about finding opportunities. Don’t overdose on the “go hard or go home” attitude; make sure you are applying some rational thought to your venture.

After reviewing thousands of NZ business ideas, by far the biggest success factor is focusing on stuff that generates revenue and its beautiful cousin profit. Without profit you at best have a great hobby, something you are passionate about and good at.

So before you leap into your next venture or addition to your existing business, test your idea against my “GMC 6 reasons to say NO”:

1: Does it solve a problem or desire big enough for some one to pay money for it?
your value proposition

2: Can you differentiate your product or service from the competition?
    – your sustainable competitive advantage

3: Can you make money from this venture?
     – your business model

4: Do you have a team with enough skills to make this idea –  venture work?
– your talent

5: Is it fun?
– Your culture – motivation

6: Will it stack up against some non-emotive challenge
– Governance

This rule set works whether you are starting a new business or simply trying to improve your current business, use it to test your ideas so you can grow or fail fast.  It’s amazing how many great craftsman we have in NZ creating solutions for problems that don’t exist or are not big enough to warrant someone outside your mother and mates to open their cheque book and purchase.

So Test you last three decisions against the 6 rules….

Ten Steps to Business Success

  1. Have clarity in how you add value to your clients – focus on that. Leverage your point of difference
  2. Identify your target beachhead market – the people who you can make the most money from, in the easiest possible way (a list of list than 100 clients)
  3. Ensure your business model is robust and sustainable – i.e you make money
  4. Create a one page business plan.
  5. Employee the smartest people you can afford, ideally smarter than you,  always hire based on values and personality first – skills second.
  6. Define your culture and brand identity and stick to it – NO this is not a logo!
  7. Adapt fast and act on failure – including firing non performing staff, killing projects that will not deliver a return to the business.
  8. Set up an independent advisory group that will challenge the thinking from day one
  9. Engage your clients and have fun – Perhaps explore Social Media Marketing
  10. Have a goal and exit plan from day one.

Free Business PlanTraining – Help

Lost on how to create a business plan –  no budget.

Well the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa provides FREE business training services around the country.
Turns out these training services are available for every one!

Check out these two courses that will get you started:

Also do not forget the NZTE business plan guide and templates on