Being the CEO of your entrepreneurial start up is overwhelming. And that’s an understatement. Eventually you realize you are not just a figure-head who delegates… because there’s no one else to delegate to!
You are your company’s first Chief Executive Marketing Sales Financial Officer (CEMSFO). Perhaps you have a Chief Technical or Scientific Officer as a partner. Bottom line: you’re “It.” You are responsible for understanding how everything is interrelated in your company.
Are you “there?” If there’s Angel or VC partner who’s interested in your company, are you are speaking the language of a real, live CEO? Not just a person with their hand out hoping to get some “free” money. Not just a person “acting like” a CEO. No such thing as a free lunch in the entrepreneurial world either. You have to understand what’s involved in negotiating this partnership.
It’s exhausting when your funds are depleted, your family’s beginning to ask you when your start up is going to market, you’ve depleted personal funding and cash reserves, and pitched yourself silly at all sorts of business competitions, to all sorts of VCs and Angel groups. Things are not quite as easy as you thought they would be.
You’re tsunami’d. Overwhelmed at the responsibility involved with being a start up.
It’s time to take a 10,000 foot eagle’s eye view of your entrepreneurial landscape. Because that’s what CEOs need to do. Constantly. Get your head out of your cash-poor sand and take a good look at yourself from the outside looking in. Take your own pulse. That’s the view that Angel and VC investors have of you and your enterprise.
Ask yourself these four questions, and see where your answers take you.
- What’s your Value Proposition in their language, not yours? A value proposition is “a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. It is focused on outcomes and stresses the business value of your offering.” (Jill Konrath, Selling to BIG Companies, p. 51). Ask yourself “What’s in it for the investors?” instead of desperately pitching for dollars. Ask yourself “What’s in it for customers?” Connect the dots for them.
- What’s your Market? Have you actually had all those customer discovery and business development conversations you are supposed to be having? Let’s face it, it is far more intellectually stimulating to keep refining your technical offering. If you are not out there speaking with LOTS of end users, real live folks who would pay for your product or service, then your enterprise is merely an academic exercise. Why would you expect an investor to be interested with no tangible market definition?
- What’s your Business Model? Is it based on something you read in a book? Does it look like your last employer’s company, which might have been a tangle of work-arounds and dysfunction? How agile is your Business Model and how able are you to reconfigure and pivot, in response to market definition? Yes, it’s back to those pesky customer discovery conversations with real customers.
- What are your Financials? Realistically speaking, based on projections from your customer discovery conversations and industry trends. Are you cook-booking these projections? Get your arms around how your customer conversations (reality) correlate with the ideal. Become adept in fine-tuning your business model, your product or service offering in response to market fluctuations.
As the CEMSFO, you understand how each of these areas is interrelated with the other. As the CEMSFO, you must be interoperable across all aspects of your start up. At least initially. How else will you be able to not only delegate, but communicate strategy and vision when it comes time to hiring individuals to assume these roles in your organization?
Don’t leave your start up’s future up to anyone else but you. Yes, it’s overwhelming, but exciting once you are truly at the helm. At the end of each day, review these four tips and see how far you’ve taken yourself from the day before.
Let me know how you are doing.