After four exits, I have learned there is a straightforward recipe for building a company. Most companies fail because they want a great product or marketing campaign to replace the work of sales.
Revenue creation makes every problem in a growing business easier or irrelevant.
Prospecting-based firms win nine times out of 10. Sales is an art, science, and methodology perfected through experience. Selling is also highly misunderstood by many firms who want a salesperson and need a sales system. Here are the Ten Commandments of Scale.
- Your product works — if you want to sell your offering and close new clients — it has to. Sales only works through confidence and belief. We kicked the “hopium” habit years ago. A product that works is the number one thing most startups lack. It’s next to impossible to sell products that don’t solve core business needs or don’t exist in a ready to deploy way.
- Your firm solves a massive problem and seeks to scale. The great thing about being a founder is you can decide what type of company you want. A boutique, lifestyle business is honorable. A firm grows through sales. Significant growth requires a sizable market, pricing, and product alignment with impactful client value and sales-focused leadership.
- Your offering delivers a clear and demonstrable ROI — solving business needs is sustainable. There is a straight and precise line from your offering to revenue created or saved, or there isn’t. A path to creating income or saving money is the second most common thing startups miss. The first 100 clients are the hardest to acquire, and taking a risk on new tech requires you to solve real pain.
- Your product, UX, and economic model is built with the end-user/client as its Northstar. No genuinely great product solves a problem at the expense of its users, even if it makes paying clients happy. Firms fail to grasp that they must build products users want. Many companies think they know what users want, and a founder often solves a problem they believe exists without validating it with the market. You are not your client. The market and client need dictates the value of your offering.
- Your offering/firm has a profitable economic model or path to profitability — we do not believe in scale first, figure it out later. You have to make money, no exceptions. If you don’t make money with your model, start over now. Growth requires cash to support. Clients will pay for products that deliver value.
- Your firm and its product provide a net positive impact on society. Hard problems in entrenched verticals inspire us. New ideas take root in business and sectors through revenue. Solving big and boring issues is far more critical than buzz.
- Your company has incredible leadership in every department that understands scalable sales is the fastest path to growth. Good leaders are realistic and accepting of what they don’t know. That means the whole team has to want to win and is realistic about how that happens.
- Your business is well funded to support and deliver on its objectives. Sales is the cheapest investment a firm can make. We love scrappy startups, and a passionate founding team with a dream is not a business. The third most common place where startups fail is believing an idea or product is a business and focus their efforts on fundraising instead of business building. A company gets funded, not a concept.
- An incredible culture of success and team support exists in all facets of your business. Scale requires leverage through talent. Technology changes fast; culture is what makes an organization last. My team tells me what to do. Get what you want instead of trying to own all things in your business. Leverage creates scale, and by cultivating talent, you can focus on your highest value.
- Only work with firms that have the rare intersection of product, leadership, and timing. Carefully choose who you work with, so you can be of the highest value. The ability to pay is not the same as the ability to scale.
Anytime you say no to something, you should be saying yes to something better.