Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Need Your 2018 Business Plan? Help is Here!

Posted By: George Deeb - 11/28/2017

I know, with Thanksgiving now behind us, the holiday season is starting to set in.  But, no rest for the weary!  Now, is the exact tim...

I know, with Thanksgiving now behind us, the holiday season is starting to set in.  But, no rest for the weary!  Now, is the exact time you need to be finishing your 2018 business plans and budget, so you come out of the gates in 2018 at full speed ahead.

Do you have a business plan?  Have you completed your budget, by department?  Is your plan properly capitalized?  Do you have a credible sales and marketing plan that will help you achieve your revenue target?  If you answered "no" to any of these questions, I am talking to you!

So, if you need help with any of this stuff, you know who to call!  Simply fill in the contact form at the bottom of this page, and we are happy to set up an exploratory call to see if we can help.

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter at: @RedRocketVC.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lesson #282: Don’t Start Marketing Until You are Ready!

Posted By: George Deeb - 11/20/2017

I recently wrote about scaling companies , and the importance of having a solid marketing plan in place to support that growth.  But, ...

I recently wrote about scaling companies, and the importance of having a solid marketing plan in place to support that growth.  But, what I didn’t talk about was when should you turn on that marketing in the first place?  The answer is pretty intuitive—not until you are ready!  But, what does that specifically mean?  Read on.


You don’t have anything to sell until you have a product complete . . . duh!   So, don’t turn on the marketing investment until you feel you have a product that you would be proud of.  A product you are confident won’t break, that has been fully through a quality control process.  A product that will make a good first impression, as you only get one chance to do that.  A minimum viable product is fine, it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles in it.  But, the key word there being: viable.  It must be good enough to be of a need to a customer, solving the core of some major pain point in the market.


Once you are actively selling to customers, they may have customer support questions or needs.  Make sure you have a process in place to handle those inbound phone calls and a way to quickly resolve any bugs that are being reported by users.  And, even if something slips through your QA process, make sure your customers know you are apologetic and on top of the issue, reporting back to them once it is fixed, and hopefully to their satisfaction.  The way you handle breaks, is as important as how you handle the sale in the first place.


Yes, you need to be thinking about retaining new customers, as soon as you get them in the first place.  Did you have a way for them to follow you in social media?  Did you have a way to collect their email address, and opt them into your monthly newsletter (and, is the newsletter template and content calendar ready to go).  Do you have a way for them to become brand ambassadors, and share their happy experience with their friends or colleagues.  You might as well leverage their excitement while it is still fresh in their mind.


Don’t spend $10,000 on marketing in one month, until you have tested $1,000 in ten places first.  Leverage growth hacking techniques and set clear objectives around calculating your marketing ROI.  Once you have a sense to which marketing techniques are working best, then you double down on those efforts with the vast majority of your spend.  But, the point here:  test, test and test again, until you get your cost of acquisition metrics at a low enough level to drive a healthy profit from the lifetime value of your revenues per customer.


Hopefully, your initial marketing efforts will be a success, at which point you are going to want to pour kerosene on the fire, in the form of additional marketing efforts and investment. And, with a growing and bigger company, will come additional people and back office needs that will be needed to effectively manage and operate a business of that growing size.  So, figure out what additional bodies, equipment or space you will need to be successful in the future, and start warming up potential candidates and resources.  So, when you are finally ready to engage them, they are ready to go.


This whole post is talking about waiting to start your marketing efforts, until you are ready.  At, the same time, the venture capitalists you are pitching for capital will most likely want your marketing efforts tested and successful, before they will consider investing.  So, in one breath, I am saying “proceed slowly and cautiously”, and in the next breath, I am saying “go as fast as you can, if raising capital is important”, which is most likely the case for most of you.  That is a tight rope you are going to have to walk very carefully—you need the marketing data to attract funds, but not at the expense of upsetting your early adopters.

Hopefully, you now have a better sense to what is required to help prepare your business for a “ready for prime time” initial marketing effort.  It’s much more than simply an effort to acquire new customers.  It is also an effort to retain them, leverage word of mouth, efficiently scale the business and attract investment, all at the same time.  So, it is critical you get your first marketing efforts right!

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Lesson #281: Avoid Internally Shuffling People Into Wrong Roles

Posted By: George Deeb - 11/06/2017

The old adage, a “bird in hand is worth two in the bush” may work in some instances in business, but slotting people into employee rol...

The old adage, a “bird in hand is worth two in the bush” may work in some instances in business, but slotting people into employee roles is definitely not one of them.  I can’t tell you how many times I see early stage entrepreneurs slot a person into a role, simply because it is convenient, with them already known and on the team operating in an entirely different role.  Stop this madness!!  Do you want the quickest solution to your hiring needs, or the best solution?  Allow me to further explain.


Would you hire an auto mechanic to pilot an airplane?  Or, a landscaper to build an addition on your house?  Of course not.  So, why then, do so many of you move a technology developer into a marketing role, or an junior level contributor into a senior management role before they are ready, or slot a person in just because they are the quickest or most affordable option?  Building the right team for your startup is the single most important thing you will do, in terms of dictating your odds of success. And, getting the most qualified person in that role, with proven experience in that exact role is the key.


When you are an early stage business, you really can’t afford any mistakes; there simply isn’t the excess capital on hand to absorb those missteps.  As an example, if your marketing person hasn’t proven they know how to grow a user base in a cost effective way, you are most likely paying for their learning curve and for all the mistakes they make in their media buying decisions.  That is like flushing money down the toilet, compared to hiring a proven marketer that knows what they are doing based on years of similar experience.


Sometimes clients will say, “but we are moving quickly, and this candidate was the quickest option, as we don’t want to lose time recruiting”.  I’ve got news for you:  sometimes it is more important to take a pause, take one step back, in order to best position the business to take ten steps forward.  Nobody likes having to recruit a new role—that is typically a 3-6 month process by the time they are identified, interviewed and onboarded (time typically taken away from someone else’s normal job).  But, once the new person starts working, they are out of the gate running at full speed, like an Olympian sprinter making up whatever distance they need to take the lead.  Compare that to having an inexperienced person working during that same period, but inching along like a turtle in perpetuity.


I also hear things like, “but he is a really nice guy and good worker, and I wanted to find a place for him”.  Yes, I can see the appeal of that.  It is hard to find people that have the right personality fit or work ethic to fit into your culture.  That said, if there is not an open position for that person in which that person is trained or capable of succeeding, sometimes you need to make the hard decision of finding a different employee that is best qualified to do the job.  The same point I made above, about finding your Olympian sprinter as opposed to a turtle.


I had a client that firmly believed that internally shuffling talent was the best thing for the business.  That could have been related to giving somebody a new promotion opportunity, putting out an immediate fire created by a departed employee, satisfying an employee that wanted to try a new department, rewarding somebody that had been with the company a long time, etc.   Not one of these internal shuffles bore fruit.  And, worse yet, the company’s revenues stagnated for years; they simply could not break through to the next level of their growth.  When you manage with emotions or move too quickly, instead of data-supported experience, you often end up trying to put a “square peg in a circular hole”.  And, by the time you realize it, it is often too late.


I am not saying you should never internally shuffle people.  There are many scenarios it can work out great.  Maybe that is moving a salesperson into a similar business development role, or an accountant into a similar controller role, as examples.  But, when you try to mold “gatherers into hunters” or “artists into intellectuals” or “doers into leaders”, you often end up with a big mess on your hands, and losing a lot of valuable time in the process, versus filling the role the right way from the start.

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

How to Build a Startup Ecosystem

Posted By: George Deeb - 11/03/2017

Chicago’s startup ecosystem is exploding . But so are others all across the country and around the world, with varying levels of suc...

Chicago’s startup ecosystem is exploding. But so are others all across the country and around the world, with varying levels of success. I wanted to talk about the mix of ingredients that are needed to make a startup ecosystem thrive over time, so leaders in your local communities can have a blueprint to follow to propel your local startup ecosystem, and hopefully, your own success in the process.

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

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

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