Stop staying around people who have your problems and start staying around ones who have your solutions.
– Jeffrey G. Allen, Instant Interviews
About a month ago, I was at local Startup Drink night and met Mohd Shahnawaz. Crying in my beer about my inability to get traction for my startup, Mohd recounted Jeffrey G. Allens’ quote & suggested I try finding events where people may actually have the skill-sets I looking for. Oddly enough, my favorite Startup Lessons Learned is Steve Blank’s “Get Out Of The Building”. Unfortunately, my myopia equated it with Customer Development & not recruiting. But as luck would have it, I had just received an email inviting me to the weekly Westmount Networking Breakfast & figured that’d be the perfect place to start.
Westmount Networking Breakfast
With about a dozen people in attendance, we went around the room giving our respective 60-second “info-mercials” (or, “Elevator Pitch” in geek-speak) and concluded by describing the perfect new contact we’d like to meet. Being the week after the International Startup Festival, I figured my pitch was in fine form. I figured wrong! It was met with confusion. However, it did validate that I definitely needed someone in Marketing.
During the meeting & over the next week, I met with some & gathered more & more feedback. As each week went by, I tweaked my Pitch & tried my best to come up with something that not only resonated with the audience but had potential to even help some.
Going For Coffee is Not a Waste
As a techie startup, not every challenge can be resolved writing code – like Customer Development (Steve Blank). Instinctively, going out for coffee seems to align more with Lean’s definition of Waste (“Any human activity that absorbs resources but creates no value”, Taiichi Ohno, Toyota Production System.) But nothing can be further from the truth. Providing you’re not going out for coffee to listen to yourself pitch, or, drink your own Kool-aid, getting out offers huge opportunities to save precious time & resources.
Recently, I started attending a weekly business networking breakfast of 10-15 regulars where we all take turns presenting what we do (Elevator Pitch) & the ideal contact we’d like to make. And while I’m the only Techie Startup, everyone else in the room is pretty much a Startup, whether they’re a Small Medium sized Business (SMB), or, an agent for a larger organization. Personally, I love presenting/pitching, so I look forward to every meeting where I could tweak & tune my Pitch, hoping it aligns better with the audience’s needs. It’s a lot cheaper to change a 60-second Pitch than to keep cranking out scalable code that customers will may never execute.
For those who shy away from presenting, there’s no better place & forgiving audience to practice in front of, week after week. (Steve Jobs doesn’t wing it.) Going for coffee is not a Waste – it’s a opportunity. Blowing a face-to-face potential stakeholder (employee, business partner, customer) meeting, now that’s a Waste.Thanks Mark for drawing those thoughts out of me. I feel a blog post coming on 🙂
Lessons To Learn
Read Mark’s post, join a local business networking group, go beyond “Getting out of the building” and “Coffee Meetings” and “Stop staying around people who have your problems and start staying around ones who have your solutions.”