In Robinson’s experience, strategic advisors are those who help CEOs and companies identify opportunities and common mistakes at an actionable stage. Here are a few of the concepts from his firm’s playbook developed over years of working with Fortune 500 companies to startups:
- Be mindful of pricing your first round
Price too high and you may struggle to raise follow on capital; too low and you and your founders will end up owning too little of your business. Create the model and run various scenarios to understand how you will be impacted over time.
- Product, product, product
Maintain a ruthless focus on product with an eye towards avoiding the temptation to grow revenue purely on services.
- Business development = true partnerships
A partnership can change the trajectory of a company – both up and down. Make sure your business development and corporate development functions operate with a balanced sense of vision and realism and harvest deep relationships from board members or advisors.
When acquiring revenue bearing and/or profitable companies, use advisors or back channel methods to learn what customers really think about the change; often revenue growth can be misleading in terms of customer delight.
- Customers first
Create a growth marketing plan that is both direct and indirect; go where your customers are.
- Partner with early customers and/or pilots
Develop truly strategic customers, not by building custom products, but by listening to pain points and solving them. Make sure they have a vested interest in your success.
- Leverage outside advisory and/or consultants to acquire early customers and partners
Hiring a sales leader is expensive and has a low success rate if repeatable sales have not already been established. Instead, find shorter term help that delivers a few key relationships and/or deals, then move to hire from there.
- Evolve and explain
Be able to concisely articulate your competitive advantage and back it up with data. Illustrate through case studies when possible and evolve your messaging regularly. Your customers and product are evolving; your soundbites and storyline must follow suit.
- Find co-founders, investors and business partners who share your values
Work with advisors who can help provide an outside perspective on talent, culture and team building.
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