Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lesson #192: Combat Management by Committee and Analysis Paralysis

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/30/2014

Back in Lesson #15, I talked about "hands-on vs. hands-off" management styles , and my...


Back in Lesson #15, I talked about "hands-on vs. hands-off" management styles, and my preference for a "hands-off"style, empowering a smart team to do their jobs without getting in their way, and only jumping into the details when absolutely necessary.  This post is less about management style and more about management process.

I once had a client that brought me in as an interim executive, to fill in for a departing employee.  I was excited to join the company and knew I could have an immediate impact.  In my first week on the job, I noticed something very strange.  My calendar started to fill up with about three days a week worth of committed meetings.  And, it was eating into my time to actually do my job.

Some of these meetings were related to my department (micromanaging my team).  Some of these were related to the executive team (with a culture of managing every department's decisions by committee).  And, some of these were related to other departments, and I had no idea why I was even needed in the room.  All in all, I was losing over half of my week doing everyone else's job, except my own!  That wasn't going to last.

So, I quickly reorganized the meetings.  I got my department meetings down to one per week, plus the one-on-one meetings with my team members (in case they needed me for anything--not me need to micromanage them).  I got the CEO to reorganize the executive meetings, so that we were only meeting one time a week (more to keep us updated on what we were all doing in our department, not for group decision making).  And, I cancelled all the meetings with the other departments.  I was able to get these meetings into one day a week, giving me two days a week back to do my job.

Related to this, I was watching how the CEO was making decisions.  He wasn't trusting his team to make the right decisions on their own.  He needed to be involved in all decisions they were making.  And, because he did not understand their jobs as well as they did, he would force them to run through circles creating numerous iterations of business cases and financial models until he understood it and could approve the decision.

All that did was irritate his team, from the lack of trust and again from slowing them down from doing their jobs.  And, the pace of making progress in the business screeched to a near halt, with managers having to wait for the CEO's approval before progressing.  The business had a materially bottleneck in their process for making progress--and the CEO was that bottleneck.

I told him this process was broken, and if you don't trust the team to make their own decisions, he should hire a new team.  That message resonated, and he changed his focus from helping make decisions for everybody else in their jobs, to actually doing his own job!  And, the business's growth and rate of change improved as a result.

So, make sure you all fine tune your processes.  Only schedule meetings that are absolutely necessary, trusting your team members to make their own smart decisions.  In a perfect world, the key department managers should be telling senior management what to do, for their support, not vice versa.  And, don't over-think and mentally masturbate every decision, since "analysis paralysis" can suffocate the life out of the business and your team.

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




Lesson #193: The Best Medicine For Your Business -- A Fresh Set of Eyes!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/30/2014

Over the years, I have had many clients with problems in their business that they didn’t know ho...


Over the years, I have had many clients with problems in their business that they didn’t know how to solve.  They would invite me in to take a look to see if I could solve their problem.  And, sure enough, a very easy solution to the problem presents itself in quick order.  Not because I am smarter than them.  But, because I came in with no pre-conceived ideas or past experience with the company, and simply came in with a fresh set of eyes and logical business sense.

Let’s talk about an example.   I had one client that hit a wall with growth.  They successfully grew from zero to over $10MM in revenues, but then growth flatlined for a couple years, and despite their efforts to break through that level, revenues just stayed flat.  After I came in and looked at the historical sales and marketing efforts, it became perfectly clear what the problem was: they were not materially investing in sales and marketing at all!!

The founder had assumed that a “business as usual” approach would help him solve the problem, with him being the primary salesperson of the company.  But, that presented a huge bottleneck for the business.  One person has a fixed capacity for selling, and regardless how good he was at selling, he was never going to sell more, without expanding the sales team, and investing in marketing to help drive new leads.

The point here is, sometimes a CEO, especially a founding CEO, is just “too close” to the business, immersed in the day-to-day work, that they can’t take a needed pause to see the forest through the trees.
So, a few key learnings here: (i) set aside time to get out of the day-to-day work to better think strategically about how you are running your business; (ii) understand that just because something worked before, doesn’t mean it is going to continue to work forever; (iii) the needs of the business will change as your business scales, so adjust your plans accordingly; and (iv) oftentimes, bringing in a fresh set of eyes can help you more clearly see, what you may not have been able to see on your own.

So, it doesn’t matter whether that fresh set of eyes is a paid consultant, or a mentor or a peer in a similar role at a different company.  It just matters that you quickly identify when you have a need for a fresh outside perspective, and bring someone in to help you brainstorm through the problem.  As the odds are, an easy solution will be staring you in the face, but you just can’t see it.

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


Don't Be Overly Infatuated With Your Own Startup Idea

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/30/2014

I have previously written about the importance of being passionate about what you are building at your startup .  And, that passion would be...

I have previously written about the importance of being passionate about what you are building at your startup.  And, that passion would be the key driver to successfully get you through both the good times and the bad times of your startup’s growth.  This is still a very true assessment.  BUT!!

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, December 18, 2014

Red Rocket's Best Startups of 2014

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/18/2014

Red Rocket gets introduced to a couple hundred startups each year, in the normal course of doing business, or via our involvement with FireS...

Red Rocket gets introduced to a couple hundred startups each year, in the normal course of doing business, or via our involvement with FireStarter Fund, TechStars, Techweek, VentureShot, Founder Institute or other startup groups or events.  We wanted to honor the best of these startups that we met, or got reacquainted with, in 2014, in Red Rocket's 3rd Annual "Best Startups of the Year".  This list is not intended to be an all-encompassing best startups list, as there are many additional great startups that we are not personally exposed to each year.  And, this list is not intended to be only for businesses that launched in 2014, it is open to startups of any age, that they or their advisers had some personal interaction with us in the last 12 months.  The business simply needed to have a good idea, good team or good traction, that caught our attention.  Congrats to you all!!

THE BEST STARTUPS OF 2014 (in alphabetical order):

Abe's Market (CEO Richard Demb) - B2C E-commerce for Natural & Organic Products

Change Lane (CEO David Harig) - B2C Mobile Oil Change Station at Your Home

ClutchPrep (CEO Marcio Souza) - B2C Video Guides for College Textbooks

Datatopia (CEO Paul Brizz) - B2B Buy and Sell Data Marketplace

DoggyLoot (CEO Jeff Eckerling) - B2C curated ecommerce and deals for pet supplies

Dryv (Co-CEO Dan Parsons) - B2C Dry Cleaning Delivery App

eForward (CEO Josh Morales) - B2C Low Cost Overseas Shipping

Fitness Cubed (CEO Arnav Dalmia) - B2C Under Your Desk Pedal Exerciser

HealthIPASS (CEO Rajesh Voddiraju) - B2B Healthcare Payments Platform

Inventables (CEO Zach Kaplan) - B2C Digital Invention Manufacturing for Masses

Legal Funding Central (President Dylan Beynon) - B2C/B2B Legal Funding for Plaintiffs

MightyNest (CEO Chris Conn) - B2C School Donations From Kids Ecommerce

MoxieJean (CEO Sharon Schneider ) - B2C upscale resale ecommerce for kids clothing

Office Hero (CEO Marcelo Lanzarotti) - B2B Lease Free Office Space Finder

Options Away (CEO Robert Brown) - B2C Call Options For Airfares

Public Good (CEO Jason Kunesh) - B2C philanthropy portal site

Ridogulous Labs (CEO Sean Kelly) - B2C Smart Dog Collar Technology

Sensor Jet (CEO Julia McLachlan) - B2C Fire Supression System for Home Kitchen

Shelfbucks (CEO Erik McMillan) - B2B in-store beacon promotion platform

Social Market Analytics (CEO Joe Gits) - B2B/B2C Social Listening for Stock Trading 

The Tie Bar (CEO Michael Alter) - B2C E-commerce for Men's Accessories

ViralHeat (CEO Jeff Revoy) - B2B Predictive Social Analtyics

Wavve App (CEO Andrew McNealy) -B2B On-Premise Marketing for Hospitality Industry

WeDeliver (CEO Jimmy Odom) - B2B Same Day Delivery Service

And, don't forget to check out the 2012 winners and the 2013 winners, many of whom continue to be doing great things.

Congratulations to you all!!  Keep up the good work.  

For future posts, please follow us at: @RedRocketVC

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Six Chicago Venture Capitalists Reveal the Best Pitch of 2014

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/07/2014

Crain's Chicago asked six of the city's busiest investors to describe the best pitch each heard this year: the ones that got their a...

Crain's Chicago asked six of the city's busiest investors to describe the best pitch each heard this year: the ones that got their attention and, in most cases, pried open their checkbooks. The front-running companies have two things in common: They solve a clear pain point in the marketplace and they're headed by dynamic leaders. Read on for an edited version of our conversations.

Read the rest of this post in Crain's, which published this week.

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


Friday, December 5, 2014

Lesson #191: Targeted Marketing Has Never Been Easier, Especially in Social Networks

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/05/2014

The marketing world has substantially evolved over the last few years, in terms of how you can t...


The marketing world has substantially evolved over the last few years, in terms of how you can target prospective customers for your business.  Before, your primary options for targeting, were largely around demographics or geographies through media buys on larger websites and ad networks, or through keywords through the search engines.  But, the major social networks have made some very interesting strides in the last couple years, in terms of letting advertisers drill down like a laser beam on very narrow targets within their broader audience.  Below are a few examples of what I am talking about.

VIA LINKEDIN

If you are a B2B business, looking to target B2B buyers for your product or service, LinkedIn in the place for you, where you have a couple really good options to consider.  Let's use a case study, assuming you are selling technology that serves event marketers and you are trying to target heads of event marketing as prospective buyers.

The first option is to target your media buy around LinkedIn users that are members of targeted user groups therein.  In this example, look at all the groups that serve prospective end-buyers in the event marketing space, and target your ads only to those users.  As an example, the 20,000 members of the "Event Marketing Pros" group is probably a pretty good place to start.

A second option is to target your  media buy around LinkedIn users that have the right business title and work at the right size company you are targeting.  In this example, anybody with the title "Event Planner" or "Head of Event Marketing" in their user profile page and work for "Companies in Excess of 1,000 Employees" (if trying to get to Fortune 500 accounts), would be really great to target your ads.

VIA FACEBOOK

If you are a B2C business, looking to target B2C consumers for your product or service, Facebook is the place for you, where you have some really good options to consider.  Let's use a case study, assuming you are selling a new line of line of upscale men's fashion.

It has never been easier to steal potential customers from established brands in your space.  Imagine that you can now target yours ads to the Facebook fans of Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger, or the male fans of logical retailers like Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue.  These people are obviously interested in men's fashion, and with the right messaging might be interested in learning about new men's fashion brands.

The same holds true for targeting followers of major media outlets in your space.  Facebook fans of  GQ, in this example, would be pretty ripe fishing grounds for your product.  And, it would be a lot cheaper trying to access those users via Facebook's pay per click model, than paying GQ thousands of dollars for CPM based display ads in their magazine or website.

VIA TWITTER

And, let's not forget Twitter, whether you are B2B or B2C.  You can target your ads to users that have certain desired keywords in their profile description, or in their stream of conversations.  Or, again, piggyback on the followers of your key competitors, industry groups or media outlets, to get your messaging in front of those known users that should be really interested in what you have to offer.

Anyway, for all you startups out there on very limited budgets, or bigger companies trying to drive a higher ROI on your marketing spend, the better you can target your messaging to the right potential buyers, the higher your conversion rate, the lower your cost of acquistion and the higher your  ROI will be.  And, hopefully, examples like the above show it has never been easier or more affordable to get good levels of targeting into your ad campaigns, on this pay-per-click basis.

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


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Top 4 Reasons Passion Drives Startup Success

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/04/2014

Passion is one of those intangibles that drives an entrepreneur, gets them through the good times and the bad times, and ultimately dictates...

Passion is one of those intangibles that drives an entrepreneur, gets them through the good times and the bad times, and ultimately dictates the success of any startup. If you are not passionate about what you are building, you might as well pack up your bags right now, as your startup will never work.

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

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


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