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EFFORT

Extreme Focus & Dedication

When operating for growth, every startup really needs to think about what is the ‘North Star ‘for their company: that one metric everyone in the company is thinking about, driving product towards it, and all actions are moving that metric up. If this is the case, in the long-run those startups will be successful.

Pick the one metric that fits your business and you know that you’re going to stick with it for a long time (North Star). Know the magic moment when each customer experiences that ‘North Star’ moment!

Ideas?

There are millions of people in the world who have good ideas, many times more people than those who are willing to put in the necessary effort.

Ideas on their own are worthless, ‘executing well is all that matters’.

Therefore, setting the execution bar high from the beginning is an essential responsibility of the CEO and founder (founders). Deciding to start a startup and becoming a founder is in fact a commitment to years of grinding work and execution. ‘You can’t outsource that’. Execution can be divided into two critical elements; a) figuring out what to do, and b) are you – the startup – capable of getting that job done. Focus is also essential…a great question to ask yourself frequently is ‘what are you spending your time on, and what are the 2-3 most important things you are doing?’. If you can’t answer that question precisely, you are in trouble.

Saying NO 99:100 is the recipe for successful execution.

Goals

Having a limited number of overarching goals for the startup is essential. Every single person in the startup should internalize and understand those goals (ship a product by this date or momentum or maintaining growth rate etc.), and the team must execute based on those precise goals. Startup sustainability is very dependent on growth and momentum, and these are the lifeblood and breath of every startup.

Startups must focus on those few critical metrics which are driving the business forward.

The real secret to the success of any startup is built upon extreme focus, and extreme dedication. However, focus without effective communication is frugal. Great communication prevents every startup team from getting distracted by unnecessary activities.

Execution (3:30)

 Sam Altman

A bias towards action is one of the best predictors of success.

NOTE: this video will start and stop at the pre-assigned times

Trajectory

Founders want the startup to be on a winning trajectory all the time. The biggest piece of advice is to ‘Keep Growing’ and don’t let the key metrics lag (shipping dates etc.). Startups can make great progress through incremental steps, and if you have built a great product, the business will advance. However, at times things will slow down. At those slack moments, staff can become disenchanted and unhappy. Therefore, regaining momentum during these troughs ‘momentum slag’ is critical, and can only be achieved by sustaining small wins (big recoveries from troughs is much more difficult).

If there is any difference of opinion among the team about what to do during a ‘momentum slag’…ask the users because they often know what’s in their best interest.

An excellent way to recover during a ‘momentum slag’ is to create an operating rhythm. An operating rhythm can be defined as; pre-defined processes of communication (including KPI’s), and interactions between different units, which ensure that operational flows are not interrupted and are controlled.

Operating Rhythm

Operating rhythm establishes a structured way of communication between project teams/operations (roles, milestones, outcomes, targets etc.), and that those are aligned to the vision of the company. One false distraction that often disrupts momentum is competitor action (and it shouldn’t). Competitors who are making distracting noise (strong and weak signals) should be ignored, unless those signals are reflected in real shipped product (they are out-selling you).

Road-map (3:00)

 Michael Skok

The road-map: what’s needed to be done to build a startup!

NOTE: this video will start and stop at the pre-assigned times

Startup Life-cycle

Every business goes through regular and periodic stages of growth, followed by decline. This pattern has traditionally been referred to as the business life-cycle. Les McKeown (CEO Predictable Success) recommends a way to take the startup from days of struggle to scaled success during each critical stage. Remember that 80% of businesses fail. Therefore, if you want your startup to succeed, there is only one right strategy: stop being one as quickly as possible! Do everything you can to get out of the early struggle stage quickly, and moving towards predictable success.

Stages

  1. Stage 1 Early Struggle: Two-thirds of all startups won’t survive to the next stage. To survive you need to, (a) make sure there is enough cash to keep going and, (b) clearly establish that there is a market for your product or service (product/market fit).
  2. Stage 2 Fun: Requires a Visionary to drive the business, and a ruthless Operator to deliver. The key focus moves from cash to sales. The business builds exponentially (rapid, second-stage growth).
  3. Stage 3 White Water: The Visionary mode vs. Operator mode can no longer improvise in what they are doing. The degree of complexity required reaches a tipping point. A Processor mentality is needed (policies, systems, processes, spreadsheets etc.), stronger implementation actions are needed, along with concrete actions to make them stick.
  4. Stage 4 Predictable Success: The most critical stage in your organization’s growth. Must set and consistently achieve goals and objectives with a predictable and consistent degree of success. Weak-signals begin to surface (decline in creativity, risk taking and initiative).
  5. Stage 5 Treadmill: A sub-optimal stage when systems and processes begin to choke entrepreneurship, risk-taking, adventure and creativity. Too much emphasis on data, and not enough emphasis on actions.
  6. Stage 6 The Big Rut: The not turning back stage. High market share + Prolific revenue stream + Paternalistic management + Denial = Big Rut. Processes and administrative procedures become more important than actions or results. The organization loses its ability to be self-aware.
  7. Stage 7 Death: Last chance at life (bankruptcy or acquisition), before the organization dies.
Source: Les McKeown (Predictable Success)

Roadmap

In the early stages of a startup, the roadmap gives directions for both the short-term and long-term. The roadmap can assist in completing necessary tasks and also anticipating potential challenges. A business-driven roadmap is all about asking ‘why.’ Asking ‘why’ gets to the heart of customer and market motivation. Aligning the “whats” and ‘hows’ of business to the ‘whys’ drives the product, supports team motivation and ultimately success.

Steps

  1. Ideation.
  2. Funding.
  3. Validation (with outlier customers).
  4. Creation… Pivot? (or iterations).
  5. Repeatability (business model re-working, surviving near-death).
  6. Scalability (team upgrade?).
  7. Profitability? (growth vs. leverage).
  8. Predictability.

Profit Commandments

  1. Build a business based on distinctive competences.
  2. Develop and deliver a superior value proposition.
  3. Don’t startup before you have a profitable business model.
  4. Take charge of money and control it.
  5. Create a profit-based reward structure.
  6. Recognize and hire  great people (lightning in a bottle).
  7. Create profit centers to scale your business.
  8. Augment profits with proprietary technology.
  9. Build a financial War-Chest for strategic advantage.
  10. Behave ethically.

ACTIVITY

Roadmap

A startup roadmap documents how your business will launch and scale. Some additional things to consider in your roadmap include: (source: mindard.com)

  1. What’s your one focus and why?
    • e.g. Validating assumption X – it’s the largest need for our target audience.
    • e.g. Improving metric Y – it’s the single biggest contributor to revenue.
  2. What are the one or two key metrics that YOU’ll track?
    • e.g. Engagement, new user growth, revenue.
    • Include the set up for how you will monitor it – query, dashboard, automated report.
  3. What are the high-level products/services for the focus you selected?
  4. What is the priority for those products/services?
    • Based on how well related it is to focus and how much you think it will affect the relevant metrics.
  5. What’s your time-frame to revisit your roadmap?
    • Two to three months is a good amount of time to show results.

Create Roadmap Now!

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Course Curator: Dr. Gerard L. Danford

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