EP 87: Planning For When The Answer Is 'YES'
The punchline is to plan the four actions you need to take when the answer is ‘YES’. Consider this training to reduce surprise and potential confusion that can come from an unexpected ‘YES’.
Planning for rejection, risk and worst-case scenarios is second nature to entrepreneurs. From the moment the first version of a business model is hatched, we are in de-risking mode. Ten steps back for each step forward. It’s a familiar tune. I love this grind and how it forces adaptation and learning.
I also love being told ‘YES’.
There’s nothing better when the grind pays off. Closing a partnership deal, finalising funding rounds, securing that key hire or having a product launch work better than expected makes it all worthwhile.
Founders feel relief and the team embraces the shot of confidence.
What happens next can make a business. Or dramatically stall its momentum.
If a ’YES’ answer is the suck, then go where the suck is
Opher, my good friend and co-founder at AirShr always used to remind me to ‘go where the suck is’. The essence of this statement is to serve people who like what you do. And we followed that advice but we did so carefully.
In early-stage companies, founders invest a lot of time validating who makes up their actual target customers. In fact, most will tell you that moving from a ‘persona on paper’, or who you think your target customers are, to understanding who they really are is much harder than it sounds. But, you have to start somewhere.
When people start expressing interest by wanting to test and buy what you’re selling, there is a natural inclination to listen more to those people.
And herein lies the cautionary tale: Homogeneous customer groups are not (usually) representative of your total addressable market.
Kickstarter and LinkedIn
There are two interesting examples to illustrate this point.
First, consider Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. While Kickstarter has helped facilitate pledges of more than 4B USD to projects on its platform (of which there have been more than 150,000 successfully funded projects), it is difficult to name 10 household brands that have achieved significant scale from starting on that platform. And while many companies have successfully adopted Kickstarter as their business model (by launching all of their products via Kickstarter), it is hard to scale beyond an early adopter market.
LinkedIn is the second example. As Reid Hoffman described in his Masters of Scale podcast, the early days of LinkedIn attracted a self-organising group called LinkedIn Open Networkers (or LION’s as they became known). This large and at the time growing group believed that they should be able to connect with anyone on the platform. They also believed that everyone would want to connect with them.
That was obviously not true and the LinkedIn team prevented that from happening. The point is that at the time the signal was so strong that LinkedIn could have gone where the suck was but it would have alienated other users and that would have stalled growth. A potentially terminal move.
So the moral of both of these stories and why you should plan for when the answer is ‘YES’, is that if you don’t, you could find yourself course correcting your company to a false plateau. In other words, and in the absence of other recent wins, founders pursue this win as their new strategy.
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