Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lesson #195: Entrepreneurs Speak Out on What They Would Have Done Differently

Back in Lesson #120, I wrote about the importance of planning ahead for proof-of-concept marketing based on my first-hand experience seeing the same consistent mistakes being made by the hundreds of startups calling Red Rocket for help:  too much focus on product, and not enough focus on planning for a proof-of-concept around that product (which is what most venture capital firms are looking for before they make an investment in a company).  And, to achieve such proof-of-concept, it requires inexperienced entrepreneurs to seek out experienced coaches or mentors to help create smart customer acquisition strategies and to budget for them accordingly.

Now, there is a 2015 survey conducted by The Alternative Board (TAB) which backs up that claim with hard data. They polled over 500 entrepreneurs about what they would do differently, if they had the chance to start all over again. Over 86% of the entrepreneurs responded that they would invest their time and money differently, with more focus on sales, strategic planning and marketing. Which is exactly what I would have guessed: 80% of respondents concluded customer development strategies were more important to success than product development strategies for long term success.  And, 54% would have created a better plan to increase leads out of the gate.

Other predictable datapoints from the survey:

  • 60% would have raised more money:  72% for sales/marketing, 35% for hiring.
  • 40% would have invested more time:  78% into sales/marketing, 47% into planning.
  • And they could have used a lot more help:  42% around finding better mentors or coaches, 33% around business modeling and 32% around finding and delegating to better employees.

So, lots of juicy tidbits in this survey that I thought were worth sharing with you.  Make sure you digest what this data actually means for your business, and make the appropriate changes.  We are happy to help you think through all your options here, so don't hesitate to reach out to us.

If interested in reading the full results of the survey, along with a detailed analysis and infographic, it can be found on the TAB website.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

[VIDEO] George Deeb of @RedRocketVC Teaches "Branding & Marketing for Startups"

I recently had the pleasure of mentoring the 2014 class of entrepreneurs at Founder Institute Chicago. Here is the presentation I delivered on "Branding & Marketing for Startups". The lesson provides high level guidance on: (i) the key problems startups face; (ii) considerations for naming and trademarking your business; (iii) the differences between B2C and B2B tactics; (iv) the key metrics to track (e.g., COA, LTV); and (v) how to become a thought leader in your space (with a case study on the Red Rocket Blog).  This is a must watch for any entrepreneur, to learn how best to drive customers to your business, in a way that will most attract new investors.

George Deeb Teaches "Branding & Marketing for Startups" to Founder Institute Chicago from Red Rocket Ventures on Vimeo.

The matching slide show on SlideShare can be found here:

I apologize for the low lighting of the video, but the substance of the speech is what I wanted you to focus on.  I hope you pick up some good learnings here, to help your business.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

The Top 20 Digital Trends of 2015

As a Partner at Red Rocket, I am exposed to hundreds of startup ideas each year.  Below is sampling of the key digital trends that are getting the most investor attention in 2015 (in no particular order):

  1. Big Data Now Big Insights–Predictive & Prescriptive Analytics
  2. Cloud-Based Everything–SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, etc.
  3. CMO’s Evolving Into CTO’s–Data-Driven Decision Making

Read the rest of this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Right CEO When You Launch, Might Be the Wrong CEO When the Company is Growing

Not all startup CEOs are created equal. And, the skill sets a startup needs during its formative days are very different than the skill sets needed when the company starts to scale. Let's compare the role of a CEO in businesses between zero to $10MM in revenues (early stage), versus the role of CEOs in businesses between $10MM to $50MM in revenues (growth stage) to make sure you are hiring the right one for your business.

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lesson #194: Operations & Sales Must Be Tied At the Hip (Break Down Silos)

A common mistake I see with clients is with their organizational structure, often running their businesses with separated departmental silos.  As an example, which I will focus on this post, they think it is the sales department's job to sell accounts, and the operations department's job to service accounts, with a clear hand-off once the sale is closed, and very little collaboration between the two.  That is a big mistake which I will address below.


A.  Obviously, without sales, there are no operations!

B.  What is less obvious is sales can actually help operations resolve issues.  Your salesperson typically has a very tight relationship with the client, and can help operations in delivering bad news or guiding a client in operations' desired direction.

C.  Sales typically has their finger on the pulse on what is going right, and more importantly, what is going wrong with a client execution, from the client's perspective.  Operations needs to leverage those learnings to nip potential issues in the bud.


A.  The operating team typically has a "closer ear to the ground", at what is going on internally at a company.  They pick up on interesting client learnings, that can lead into new "land and expand" opportunities for the sales team.  Things like learning about new budgets, new related projects, new needs of clients, etc.  That information needs to be shared with the sales team.

B.  Operations' expertise often helps the sales team to close sales.  So, bringing those real life past-client learnings and experiences of the operations team, into a sales call with clients, is often just the thing a prospective client is looking for, to prove your company has the credible team and experience for what they need.


A.  Operations should never try to make financial decisions or implement renewals, change orders or upsells in a vacuum.  Make sure the sales team is allows kept abreast of the client needs, so they can help you best price it and get the most of the opportunity.  From this perspective, salespeople are trained to sell, and operating people are trained to fulfill, so don't step on each other's toes.

B.  Operations should never give valuable services away for free.  Clients are notorious for trying to ask for "more and more" out of a current agreed upon contract, so they don't have to pay for more.  But, your sales team should be the "gatekeeper" to make sure any services that are being asked for by the client, beyond the original contract, is being properly paid for.

C.  Departments should never point fingers at each other, when things go wrong.  Whether a sales person screws up adding the right details in a contract, or the operations teams screws up a deliverable, always remember:  you are both on the same team, trying to resolve the situation together.


So, given all of the above, it is hopefully clear you need double account coverage on all clients, one person from sales and one person from operations, that are tied to the hip, and in constant discussions with each other, sharing learnings both ways.  The additional benefit of this structure is the company is protected with at least one client relationship manager in place, in the event either of the client team members leaves the employment of the company.

So, take out a sledgehammer, break down internal walls, and make sure your departments are collaborating with each other for optimal success.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.