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More is Not Better; It is Only More. Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should!

These are two phrases I use a lot when advising young companies and have touched on in previous blog posts. Attending a couple of recent angel networking events just brought home their importance and how young companies are often done in by not understanding them. They are two sides of the same coin and I believe they are critical traps for young entrepreneurs to avoid, to achieve and build on early success. They are also the reason that many never get much beyond the launch pad.

All entrepreneurs are passionate about their businesses and products (at least the ones who want to succeed). It is that passion, their desire to please prospective customers (and investors) and pride in their offerings that often gets them "out in the weeds" when it comes to keeping their businesses and products simple, whether they are presenting them, planning for them or operating and managing them. They fall into the trap of the "more is better" and the "because I can" philosophies. The results of falling into these traps are, invariably, inefficient use of resources, that short-circuits early success.

Here are tell-tale signs that you should look for in your own small business to determine whether you and your business are headed "out in the weeds," both in what you say and what you do:

Presentations
If you use Power Point slides in your presentations to either prospective customers or investors, where does it say that every square inch of available space on the slide has to be used? Here, less is actually more. White space, lots of it. Fewer slides rather than more. And please no wild graphics or backgrounds unless they help deliver your message. Further, no "drinks from a fire hose." Take a breath. You don't have to tell them everything in every presentation. And don't get me started about reading every word that's on the slide! Invest in the best book ever written about putting a presentation together "Beyond Bullet Points." You'll never make a bad pitch again!

Business Model
How easily can you describe what you do, to whom and why? If your business model is so complicated that you can't describe it in two sentences maximum, you have a problem. Assume that prospective customers and investors have short attention spans. If you make their eyes glaze over two minutes into your conversation, you've dug an immediate hole. Their reaction when you describe your business should be "tell me more" not "that's interesting" or "oh."  Economy of words, no buzzwords. Here's a rule of thumb.Could you describe it to your aging Aunt Harriet so she could understand it?

Revenue Sources/Markets
Do you believe that if you have two revenue streams, that's better than one? And if you can sell to two different markets that's better than just one? More may be better, but mostly it's just more. (I sound like that AT&T commercial with the kids). Volume is only good where it can be leveraged or gains economies of scale. Multiple revenue streams or target markets may mean more ways to make money, but they also mean the necessity to drive marketing dollars across those multiple ways to create the leads to drive the sales, to say nothing of managing and supporting both. With young companies that means taking already scarce resources and spreading them instead of focusing them. Eventually, you may very well have multiple revenue streams and be selling into multiple markets. The operative word here is "eventually." First, build on singular success.

Products/Features
Nowhere is there a better place for creative folks to "strut their stuff" than with their products and associated feature set. So here, it's often more "I do because I can" when it comes to design. And this is more than simple "feature creep." It becomes trying to show the world how smart you (or your design folks) are. This manifests itself in engineers' ideas of usability "I think it's easy to use" - sure if you're Sheldon from "Big Bang Theory!"  Or, extra features in a product because they're "cool" not because the market asked for them or even needs them. Remember this. Every product you develop and deliver and every feature within it, needs to be maintained and supported. And I can almost assure you that the biggest problems you will have in both will be with those "cool" products or features. And believe me, they will know you're smart if your product is both useful and easy to use. Keep the product and feature set simple, especially early on. Know why every product and feature exists. Your market and your customers will help you determine the future of both.

More is never necessarily better, but it is always more. Know why you want or need more. And because you can, doesn't necessarily mean you should.Being able to do something is less important than what that something can accomplish and why. Avoid these traps and you won't end up "out in the weeds" and you'll be on your way to building a successful enterprise.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

Have you fallen into these traps? Include the story in your comments.It will help other entrepreneurs!

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

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3 COMMENT(S)

2013-05-08 10:38:50 by Mike

This couldn't be more accurate!! I've been struggling for more than 18 months to launch a web based start-up (which is an eternity in start-up land). Our plan was to take the best features from each of the competitors in our industry and mold them into one totally kick-butt product. Needless to say it was far too expensive and difficult to develop, let alone describe to potential users or investors. If we truly understood the concept of MVP (minimally viable product) from the start, things would have been a LOT different. Like Lonnie says, 'more does not mean better'.

Start with the fewest number of features and revenue streams you can possibly survive with, get your proof of concept, and then let the users drive which features you add with each iteration of the product/service.

Most importantly, please do yourself a BIG favor and listen to what Lonnie has to say. His guidance is truly priceless. Best wishes to entrepreneurs everywhere!

2013-05-09 18:33:50 by Aaron Hauck

I agree that you should be able to take your business model and goals and explain it to your potential customers easily and in a way that lays is out perfectly for your audience. By keeping everything simple, you are then able to get the message across and in a way that is filled with detail, yet incredibly simple for your customers to understand and connect with. Great article.

ProsperousParadise.com

2013-05-16 12:31:02 by Cecil Archbold Jr.

I've seen many presentations over the years where the presenter reads every word of every bullet point and nothing else. I sit there and think why didn't they just e-mail it to me and save me the time of sitting here!

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