In this post I will describe the lessons I learned from a failed start-up I was part of. It was a small company, underfunded and understaffed. We were naive and probably expected too much from too little work.
Need CEO leadership, responsible for final decisions It doesn’t seem to work to have multiple people as co-presidents (ceos). There needs to be an ultimate decision maker that is responsible for the company as a whole. This doesn’t mean that discussions and buy in aren’t necessary, just that someone has to be ultimately responsible and push to create action. With out these decisions and leadership there is limited action and none of it seems to be focused on the same mission.
Comitment is required, determining if someone is really committed or just riding along is the difficult part How do you determine if someone is committed to the company or just afraid of missing out? It is essential because someone uncommitted to the company will not provide the results required. Commitment means more than just doing your tasks, it means being proactive and trying to make the company better in all ways. It means trying to improve yourself so that you can better perform you tasks.
Everyone must wear many hats, somehow you have to figure out the value of the corresponding hat? If someone on the management team feels like someone else on the team is not performing as required then there will be issues.
Need performance measurement and consequences To avoid finding out too late that someone is not performing you need a way to measure results. If the measurements are showing weakness then you must act quickly to resolve the issue. If the issue cannot be resolved then that exec must be moved to tasks that can be performed to the appropriate levels or the exec must be replaced.
Ask for evidence on a claim before making decisions It is easy to make a claim, but much harder to provide real evidence of that claim. On any proposals ask what evidence they have supporting their claim. If it’s not real, they haven’t done their homework. Tell them to come back when they have evidence.
Money and cash flow management are essential Someone responsible must be in charge of money and cash flow management. This is the health of the business and if no one is handling this properly then a lot of other information is not going to be available and this information is required for proper analysis.
Financial analysis essential, what makes money, how much does it cost? How do you know what is making money and what is not? How do you compare what is more profitable to spend time on? Financial analysis is extremely important in business, it is the report card or medical report of the company, ignore it at your own peril.
Focus on one project at a time, ensure that projects success before attempting new opportunities There are always other opportunities, everything is always better than what your doing now. If you follow every opportunity you will never succeed at any. Focus on one at a time and you will be much more successful.
Have a mission, values and goals. Guide day to day operations by goals, create goals based on values and make sure your mission and values are consistent.
People don’t always deliver (almost always don’t) on their promises
It’s much easier for someone to talk about their expertise that to demonstrate it, measure on execution
Everything is easy until you are the one responsible for it
Assign responsibilities and hold people to them
If money is the only goal then the focus may be lacking or the persistence might not be there
Lots of ideas, not much follow through, again execution
Time management is important, are your partners spending time on the most important things? Are you?
Don’t forget to account for your time and your expertise.
Real competence isn’t always easy to find