In Part 1 we noted that, just like buyers, you need help. And then, in Part 2, we made it clear that in order for you to understand you need help, you need to understand where you might need that help and that’s why we are doing this series for your benefit and going deep. In Part 3, we completed coverage of our ten best practices, to be as fair to you as we were to buyers when we gave them our Five Best Practices for Buyers, which built off of our articles on five easy mistakes source to pay tech buyers can avoid and even a critical sixth mistake most tech buyers make in source to pay (who need to realize that No Tech Should Be Forever).
The ten best practices are:
- Identify the Market Sector You Are Competing In
… and the Niche Your Solution is Targeting
- Do Your Market Research
- Define Your Target Industries
- Identify the Core Pain Points Your Solution Will Address in the First Release
- Understand the Data Needs and Design the Full Data Model
- Understand the Current Customer Processes and Typical Restrictions
- Don’t Overlook the UX (User Experience)
- Get the Messaging Right
- Price It Right
- Get Advice AND Listen to It
But as we noted, even though this covers the majority of mistakes we see over and over and over again in startups and small companies, this is not everything. And while we can’t cover everything (and wouldn’t even if we could as some mistakes are for markets or solution areas so niche, it would only help one or two companies whereas this advice applies to all the companies in our space), there is one more piece of advice that cannot be understated!
#11 Get The Help You Need! (And Get It Sooner Than Later!)
As a startup/small company, or even a mid-size company, you don’t know everything. You can’t. You have fixed resources to work with, and most of your cash has to go into developers to build the product, implementation consultants to install or configure it, sales to sell it, operations to keep the business running, and finance to keep the lights on. Even if you can find them, when you are small you often can’t afford the best marketers, product visionaries, algorithm experts, researchers, etc. on top of all the people and SaaS platforms you need to keep your business going. Then, as we pointed out above, there is all the expertise you are missing. While you will have many strengths to get to the point where you have a saleable product, you’ll also have many weaknesses.
Get help where you need, or can make, improvement(s), from an industry expert, consulting analyst or consultant. While their quotes might give you sticker shock at first, because you think to yourself that you can hire a FT resource for what a consulting analyst charges for 25% of their time, you have to realize that you would do so with the caveat that it will take that FT resource years of research to get to the same level of expertise that the consulting analyst brings to you in the first minute of engagement.
Your hire will have to do weeks or months of research to understand the market or the problem, while an expert can start working with you on a solution right away as they have already spent years, or decades, researching the market and problem. Your hire will be working at an industry average pace and level of capability at best, while an expert will be working at an expert level of capability and an above average pace as they have honed their processes and techniques to maximum efficiency. Remember that you’re not just paying for time, you’re paying for expertise you can’t hope to acquire in the near term (and expertise you need to be successful and grow your company to the point where someday you can hire someone of their caliber full time), to get the solution you need now (be it an algorithmic or process solution to a difficult problem, a better roadmap, customer intelligence, good pre-sales or marketing materials, engagement strategy, etc.) and not a year down the road (where you could be financially unstable if you haven’t solved the problem or grown your customer base). Furthermore, once that solution is delivered, you don’t have the ongoing overhead of a high-paid full-time resource where their skills may only be needed part of the time.
If you don’t think you need help anywhere (considering all the skill sets it takes to not only take a startup to financial stability, which often happens in the 1M to 5M, but break through this barrier where most startups get stuck until they eventually become founder lifestyle companies serving the same small customer pool in an optimized model or simply fade out of business as renewals end), then you don’t know where your weaknesses are and should get an expert to do a full/high-level end-to-end assessment to help you understand the true strengths and weaknesses of your product, marketing and business model with respect to the market.
the doctor has yet to encounter a startup or small company in our space that doesn’t need help somewhere with the above best practice requirements to success. Never. (This doesn’t mean that he hasn’t encountered a startup/small company he couldn’t help, as the needs of some of the companies he’s talked to, and many others he’s aware of, were not in his core strengths, but simply means that he’s never encountered a startup/small company that didn’t need help from the right industry expert. This should be easy to understand because if those companies had recognized they needed help and sought it out, it is extremely likely they would be larger companies and/or market leaders given the relative lack of modern procurement solutions in an average mid-size or larger company compared to other back-office solutions. In every niche there is room to grow, and if a company with a suitable solution isn’t growing, it’s because they aren’t doing something right and, thus, need help to get it right.)
It’s important to remember that admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness, dumbness, incompetence, or any other negative condition a loser might want to associate with asking for help, but a sign of true courage, strength, and intelligence and what a winner does. If you’d ready any good books on startups or growing a startup to a successful company, including Garry Mansell’s Simplify to Succeed, you’d know you need at least five very different, and sometimes conflicting, skillsets to create a successful company. It’s ridiculous to think anyone could become an expert in all these areas, and remain an expert in all these areas at the same time while simultaneously having the breadth of market knowledge required. If it takes 10,000 hours or five years to become an expert, that means it would take 25 years to become an expert in all the areas, and by the time you reached expert level in the 5th area, your expertise in the first area would be two decades out of date. A good leader knows their strengths and their weaknesses, a great leader also knows the strengths and weaknesses of their core team, and the greatest leader isn’t afraid to augment that with the missing expertise on an as-needed basis to bring to bear a total solution that no one can beat. Only a true loser sticks to their arrogance that they always know best, especially when empirical evidence points to the contrary.