How to manage your minions

The below is a satirical piece written by a budding young  marketer and app developer John. John was once upon a time an intern and has been kind enough to provide his experience to all up and coming fashion designers on the utilisation of interns.

I see internships and work experience as a process of natural selection. These people are the future of our industry, we need to weed out the weak ones as well as take the opportunity to look down on those who may become future heavyweights.

You have to start somewhere and young people who are looking to build a career in fashion or advertising always need to seriously consider internships or work experience. These kids are our greatest source of labour and it’s almost always free! It should be utilised to the fullest! However, you must always be mindful to operate within your legal and moral boundaries.

Here are 10 simple rules to get the most out of your minions:

1)   Never under any circumstances refer to them by name. Work experience should always be addressed as “intern” or “minion”.

2)   Whenever sending a minion out on errands always provide complicated directions and an unrealistic time frame.

3)   If a minion is attractive you can try to sleep with them – in this case you can make an exception to rule 1.

4)   Never completely break the spirit of a minion; they should always have a glimmer of hope to maintain motivation levels. Besides, it’s costly and time consuming dealing with Work Cover.

5)   Whenever a minion fails or makes a significant mistake you should always document it and remind them of it regularly to keep them in line. Sometimes if a minion is particularly competent it can be prudent to set a few of these failures up to keep in the bank.

6)   Always invite minions to prestigious industry events but never provide them with tickets or put their name on the guest list. It’s also a good idea to have them turn up after or as the event finishes.

7)   If you haven’t tried in the last week and they’re attractive or your drunk you can try and sleep with them. Again.

8)   If you have two or more minions always favour one over the others. This will incite jealousy and dissention among the ranks.

9)   If you have three or more minions do not group them together. They should work in groups no larger than twos. This will stave off rebellion and limit peer support.

10) And remember; a confident minion is corrupt; a melancholy minion is marvellous; and a defeated minion is useless.

Work experience or interns generally have a shelf life of around 1-3 months. If you stick to these 10 rules you can get the most out of them in the shortest amount of time.

 

Digital Colour Forecasting – Pimkie Color

Here is a novel approach to the evolving digital landscape that we find ourselves in. Ever though to yourself – I wonder what they’re wearing in Antwerp? Ever ended up drunk on a train only to wake-up in Milan with everyone in blue and you’re in green (damn, so last year)?

I came across the Pimkie Color Forecast today to solve just such first world problems. The forecast shows you in real time what colors people are wearing in the fashion capitals. The service currently investigates Paris, Milan, & Antwerp via Big Brother type approach utilising live web feeds and daily, weekly, and monthly colour trending charts in each city.

The movement from a web 2.0 world, into a truly interconnected world harnessing the full resources of web and mobile, plus all the demographic, geographical, and other data sets the latter allows for, will thoroughly change the how fashion is forecast and planned for in coming years.

 

Tagged , , ,

Designer Tip – Getting the contacts you need

Starting out on your own can be an extremely daunting exercise. Top of the list of all things scary has got to be all the people that you know you need to know, but just don’t know: those elusive contacts that can make your business. The buyers of department stores, planners, merchandising, suppliers, and all the other players in the fashion business value chain.

To help finding these people, and importantly, securing their contact details I was told of a super simple and effective trick. Nothing unlawful, just playing the game… (note that this technique can work wonders outside of fashion). It may not always work and it has downfalls, but if you’re being blocked in an organisation it might just be worth a try.

Step 1: Know who you want

Find the company you need an in with. Maybe it is a supplier or large department store in a target market or city.

Look on their website, or online directory for the contact phone number of their HQ.

You want the number that puts you through to reception or equivalent.

Step 2: Call the HQ of above company and ask for the name of the person/ role you are targeting 

a) Call the reception at HQ.

b) Say who you are and where you are calling from.

c) Ask one question and one question only. “What is the name of the [buyer, merchandiser, accounts person etc…]?”

d) Write the name down and thank reception for their time.

 

Why: Reception is often trained to filter calls. They are gatekeepers. If you can’t prove you are someone they won’t let you through. But in the vast majority of case they will give you a name as this does not affect their role requirements.

Step 3: Wait a full day then call back

a) Wait a full day before calling back.

b) Again call HQ (you don’t have the direct contact yet) and tell the receptionist that you were “just on the phone with [Mr/Mrs Buyer, merchandiser, accounts etc…] and the call cut-out. The number didn’t come up on your phone. It was an urgent call and you need to call them back.” you can make up your own story, but you get the point.

c) Again in the vast majority of cases this is enough to clear the requirements of the gatekeeper and either give you the number/ email or put you through to the person. If possible try to avoid being put through. It could backfire if reception puts you through and tells your contact that you were just on the phone to them and you were not. This is a risk of this technique.

d) Call or email the person you need directly. Happy times.

Tagged , , ,

3 Interview Questions That Reveal Everything

No designer, irrespective of skill set, networks, creativity, or any other born or learned trait can go out in the world and build their brand, their product, their DNA, without help. At some point in time if you’re on the road of a label you’re going to have to employee someone. Alternatively if you’re working within a label there will probably come a time when you need to hire someone.

It is this reality that leads to this post. Sourced from inc.com this is a great little article on some simple, yet (almost brutally) effective interview questions.

Originally written by Jeff Haden, and published Jul 18, 2012. The full article can be found here http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/3-interview-questions-that-reveal-everything.html

—-

Interviewing job candidates is tough, especially because some candidates are a lot better at interviewing than they are at working.

To get the core info you need about the candidates you interview, here’s a simple but incredibly effective interview technique I learned from John Younger, the CEO ofAccolo, a cloud recruiting solutions provider. (If you think you’ve conducted a lot of interviews, think again: Younger has interviewed thousands of people.)

Here’s how it works. Just start from the beginning of the candidate’s work history and work your way through each subsequent job. Move quickly, and don’t ask for detail. And don’t ask follow-up questions, at least not yet.

Go through each job and ask the same three questions:

1. How did you find out about the job?

2. What did you like about the job before you started?

3. Why did you leave?

“What’s amazing,” Younger says, “is that after a few minutes, you will always have learned something about the candidate–whether positive or negative–that you would never have learned otherwise.”

Here’s why:

How did you find out about the job?

Job boards, general postings, online listings, job fairs–most people find their first few jobs that way, so that’s certainly not a red flag.

But a candidate who continues to find each successive job from general postings probably hasn’t figured out what he or she wants to do–and where he or she would like to do it.

He or she is just looking for a job; often, any job.

And that probably means he or she isn’t particularly eager to work for you. He or she just wants a job. Yours will do–until something else comes along.

“Plus, by the time you get to Job Three, Four, or Five in your career, and you haven’t been pulled into a job by someone you previously worked for, that’s a red flag,” Younger says. “That shows you didn’t build relationships, develop trust, and show a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to bring you into their organization.”

On the flip side, being pulled in is like a great reference–without the letter.

What did you like about the job before you started?

In time, interviewees should describe the reason they took a particular job for more specific reasons than “great opportunity,” “chance to learn about the industry,” or “next step in my career.”

Great employees don’t work hard because of lofty titles or huge salaries. They work hard because they appreciate their work environment and enjoy what they do. (Titles and salary are just icing on the fulfillment cake.)

That means they know the kind of environment they will thrive in, and they know the type of work that motivates and challenges them–and not only can they describe it, they actively seek it.

Why did you leave?

Sometimes people leave for a better opportunity. Sometimes they leave for more money.

Often, though, they leave because an employer is too demanding. Or the employee doesn’t get along with his or her boss. Or the employee doesn’t get along with co-workers.

When that is the case, don’t be judgmental. Resist the temptation to ask for detail. Hang on to follow-ups. Stick to the rhythm of the three questions. That makes it natural for candidates to be more open and candid.

In the process, many candidates will describe issues with management or disagreements with other employees or with taking responsibility–issues they otherwise would not have shared.

Then follow up on patterns that concern you.

“It’s a quick way to get to get to the heart of a candidate’s sense of teamwork and responsibility,” Younger says. “Some people never take ownership and always see problems as someone else’s problem. And some candidates have consistently had problems with their bosses–which means they’ll also have issues with you.”

And a bonus question:

How many people have you hired, and where did you find them?

Say you’re interviewing candidates for a leadership position. Want to know how their direct reports feel about them?

Don’t look only for candidates who were brought into an organization by someone else; look for candidates who brought employees into their organization.

“Great employees go out of their way to work with great leaders,” Younger says. “If you’re tough but fair, and you treat people well, they will go out of their way to work with you. The fact that employees changed jobs just so they could work for you speaks volumes to your leadership and people skills.”

Tagged , , , ,

Nicest cease and desist letter ever

A classic lesson from old No.7 that asking nicely and focusing on a win-win can pay MASSIVE dividends for all parties concerned. Check out the full article about this letter here at Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/avidan/2012/07/26/the-worlds-nicest-cease-and-desist-letter-ever-goes-viral-sells-books/

Cheers to you Jack…

The reality of the situation is that this is actually typical action. I sent this letter to my network of lawyers and their unanimous response was along the lines of

“Ha!   These are the letters they send out when they haven’t got a legal leg to stand on.   The newspaper we act for still regularly receives very polite letters from the US owner of a US trade mark very politely asking the paper to stop using the plain English words which correspond with its trade mark.  As if.  You can also guarantee that if they had a legal leg to stand on the letter would be very different in tone.” 

Condiments – It’s the little things that count…

It was the Fox who said, “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” In a world of rapidly changing real and digital landscapes providing your customers with anything that is going to go that extra little 1% can truly pay off.

I came across a super simple story about this timeless piece of wisdom from Seth Godin this morning.

—-

It takes a bold and confident cook to serve a naked hot dog. No roll, no kraut, no mustard.

And a movie shown on a bare wall in an empty room is never going to be received as well as one seen in a crowded theater.

It might be bold to put your work into the world unadorned, but it’s probably ineffective.

We know that a placebo works better if it’s handed to you by a doctor in a lab coat, and that the little show the sommelier puts on improves the taste of wine.

The packaging, the service, the environment, the hours, the interactions, the way it feels to tell our friends–these are all the free prize.

This bonus, the extra free prize that doesn’t seem to be the point of the item itself, is often more important than the thing you think you actually make. The single most effective way to improve your impact is to do a better job of providing it.

Sure, a better hot dog is always appreciated. But when you want to increase user satisfaction, don’t forget to offer better mustard.

—-

Tagged

Business Tools for Designers – Mastering Negotiation

The following is a great summary of some classic negotiation skills from former lawyer and author Matthew Swyers. During the career f any designer in any market there will be a need to negotiate. Throughout the production, distribution, and sales process, making sure your needs are meet, along with the needs of your various stakeholders will be crucial to success.

Please note this post was first written on inc.com, published 26 July 2012.

Basic Skills

1. Listen

To negotiate, you must learn how to listen and apply what you hear to formulate your next move. Every word has a purpose. Every statement a hidden tell. If you listen carefully, I mean really carefully, you will be able to hear and understand what your opponent in the negotiation truly wants. Listening is the bare minimum skill you must have to start building your abilities as a good negotiator.

2.  Be Willing to Walk Away

When two sides are negotiating, one of the other most basic skills you must retain is the ability to walk away if the deal does not satisfy your requirements. Some may think this is axiomatic, but it is not.

Once I was assisting a friend in negotiating the purchase of a new car. At the end we were close, but the dealer refused to remove some extra charge that was just more fat on the bone for his sales price. After much back-and-forth over this item, we reached an impasse: The salesman would not take it out of the price, and I would not move on him taking it out. I stood up, politely thanked him for his time, and said to my friend, “Let’s go.”

To my surprise, my friend remained seated, turned his eyes toward me, his expression quickly changing to that of a child’s wanting a toy in a toy store, and said, “But I really want the car.” At that point, any chance of continuing to negotiate a better deal evaporated like a puddle on a hot Southern summer afternoon. If he would have stood and walked, we would have never made it to the door before that item was taken off the cost. But by not being willing to walk away, we gave the other side a critical advantage: He knew we would not walk. Always be willing to walk away from a deal, and let it be known in either a subtle or not so subtle manner, as the situation dictates.

Intermediate Skills

1.  Feign Indifference, Don’t be Indifferent

Obviously we care about the thing we are negotiating for, otherwise there would not be a negotiation. But just as we must be willing to walk away from the deal, equally as important is that you must never let the other party know how much you want or need to make the deal.

For example, for anyone who is familiar with my other writings you may recall that I am a trial attorney who has tried hundreds of cases in my career and litigated thousands more. At some juncture during the course of litigation, the parties will discuss settlement. Irrespective of my client’s concerns and directives, I always feign indifference during settlement discussion. Why? Because if the other side ever gets a whiff that you are not willing to try the case, it will have a decided advantage over you in the negotiation process.

So no matter if my client is ready to take the case to the mat or can’t afford or does not want to move forward anymore, opposing counsel gets the same routine from me every time: “We can try to settle the case or just go to trial. I’m good with whatever.” The goal in feigning indifference is to be as difficult to read as a blank page. In the end, however, it is a valuable skill to have in any negotiation. So you may not be indifferent, but never let them know.

2.  Have the Ammunition You Need

In litigation, this is about having your case ready to go to trial if it does not settle and making sure the other party knows you are ready. In other negotiations, such as in real estate, it’s about letting a prospective purchaser know you have another buyer on the line and that if he does not meet your terms, you’ll just sell it to the other guy. In any negotiation that involves an alternative action if the terms are not met, you must let the other party know you can, and will, do a specific act it does not want you to do in the event terms are not met. In short, let the other party know that you have your ammo and are willing to use it.

Many years ago, my then firm represented a man who had been horrifically injured by a product. Our firm was brought in to represent his interests against the manufacturer. Because of certain confidentiality provisions, I cannot mention the product or even the type of product it was. Suffice to say, however, it was the first case of its kind and had significant national exposure on not only a media level but political as well. Well, as in any litigation case, the parties are required to exchange documents whether they are detrimental or not to your case.

We knew that the defendants were holding out on us and saying that these specific very damaging reports did not exist despite the fact we had witnesses that testified to the contrary. We knew if we got our hands on these reports, they would be shaking in their boots. Well, to make a long story short while referencing a great episode from Seinfeld,we employed a special team of people to “retrieve” the reports for us, and “yadda yadda yadda,” we appeared at pretrial with these ultra-damaging reports in hand. The case, one of the most contentious and longest I had ever been involved in, settled minutes later. Why? Because we had the ammo.

So it does not matter if it is litigation, real estate sales with an alternative buyer, or otherwise, always have the ammo—or appearance thereof—to support your side in the negotiation.

Advanced Skills

1.  What Motivates the Other Party? Use It

As a prerequisite, you must always listen. Listening, as stated above, is critical to hearing what the other side wants. But on a higher level, you must strive to understandwhy. What is motivating the why? If you can listen between the lines to understand that which truly motivates the other party, you will gain a decided advantage in the negotiation of the deal.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Making the Most of Mentorship

Post originally sourced from The Business of Fashion – http://www.businessoffashion.com/2012/07/finding-your-m-o-part-4-making-the-most-of-mentorship.html#more-35154. Full credits to Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, co-founder and CEO of Moda Operandi for writing this timeless piece on personal and professional development.

———-

Earlier this month, my mentor, former boss and business partner, Marvin Traub, passed away at the age of 87. Marvin was a defining figure in the American retail industry and the man who, in his longtime role as president and CEO of Bloomingdale’s, pioneered the concept of bringing entertainment to retail. With his out-of-the-box ideas and ability to rally people around his vision, Marvin put an indelible stamp on the way the industry operates today. And even in his later years, possessed of a rare energy and passion for life, Marvin worked harder than anyone I have known. I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with him, learn from his vast experience and meet many of the industry contacts that he nurtured over half a century of work.

Marvin’s passing got me thinking about the extraordinary importance of good mentors. In life, in general, we often rely upon select people — parents, teachers, spouses — to help mold us into who we are. The business world is no different: we need bosses to grow us into successful business people. And, in turn, we need to mentor those who are looking to become the same. Marvin was a boss and mentor who greatly shaped my career. And now, with him gone, he has inspired me to do the same for others.

Not all bosses are Marvins. Sometimes a boss is and will always be nothing more than somebody you work for. But even in a more favourable scenario, mentoring and being mentored isn’t easy. We don’t always like to be shaped and it’s not always fun doing the shaping. Indeed, many of my most important learnings from bosses like Marvin came during bumpy moments when we did not see eye to eye on a particular issue. Similarly, the process of mentoring some of the people of whom I am most proud was almost as painful childbirth. The fact is, great mentors and mentees are not necessarily great friends. With that said, here are some words of advice on how to mentor and be mentored effectively.

HOW TO BE A GOOD BOSS AND MENTOR:

1. Lead by example — and stick to it.

Good bosses and mentors take a stand on how they want things done, which sets the standard for the organisation at large. No manager’s style will make everybody happy. The key is to be consistent, so that employees learn how to operate within your particular approach.

While at McKinsey, I worked on a project for a manager with incredible attention to detail. His reports were premeditated and polished to a tee: the structure of the document, the choice of words, the rigour of the analysis, even the labeling and placement of the footnotes. At first, I grumbled about his “anal-retentiveness.” But I soon learned that his painstaking approach drove real results and I benefited greatly from employing it throughout my time at the company.

In my next job, I made investments for a billionaire entrepreneur who was a risk taker, unbound by process, structure and other norms. At first, this was chaotic and confusing. But he, too, was incredibly successful and he taught me to be comfortable operating in an environment in constant flux. I learned how to anticipate the unpredictable. And without this guidance, launching and running an internet start-up would have been a daunting task indeed.

The key is: whatever your style, teach it and bring others onboard. They may not love your approach, but they will adopt it. Nobody respects a flip-flopper.

2. Inspire through conviction.

The best mentors and bosses are those who inspire through passion and conviction. Marvin was a master at getting people to do things they normally wouldn’t do because he believed in his ideas so strongly. He got Diane von Furstenberg to ride an elephant to a Bloomingdale’s store opening event. He convinced the city of New York to change the direction of traffic on a major avenue so that the Queen of England could visit Bloomingdale’s. For Marvin, the sky was the limit and his passion inspired those around him to dream big. Whatever you believe in, whatever you stand for, broadcast it with all of your heart. Conviction is infectious — demonstrate it and your people will dream big with you.

3. Give honest feedback frequently.

You need to be extraordinarily honest and forthcoming about the feedback you give your mentees, positive and negative. Your people can’t be proud of what they don’t know they’ve done right and they can’t fix what they don’t know is broken. A month into my job at McKinsey, I was shocked by a performance review from the partner leading my first project, detailing my need for improvement in several areas. But I sucked it up, made changes and came to really appreciate granular criticism on a regular basis as critical to my growth. I probably would not have progressed at the company without the constant, tell-it-like-it-is feedback loop.

Last month, when M’O completed its latest round of financing, I received a message, out of the blue, from that same partner who gave me my first performance review. “I am so proud of you,” it said. So the cycle of feedback continues. Be honest, be critical, be forthright.

4. Share yourself

Have the confidence and willingness to share your experiences and relationships with your people. That’s half of what they are looking for.

Marvin Traub went out of his way to share with me his vast network of contacts. Over daily breakfasts at the Regency and lunches at the Four Seasons, Marvin and his business partner, Morty Singer, introduced me to hundreds of colleagues and associates — including my co-founder, Lauren Santo Domingo. Many of these introductions have formed the basis of my professional community. And Marvin’s generosity in this regard motivated me to work even harder for him. The point: be generous with your network of knowledge and contacts and your mentees will bend over backwards for you. Hoarding only slows their growth and fosters resentment.

5. Encourage debate

Just because you are the boss, it doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Sure, you know that, but you really have to believe and show it. Encourage debate among your people. Get them to speak up and voice their opinions, even if they’re unpopular opinions, particularly with you. Let feisty people tell you your idea is stupid. Help timid people articulate their support for your idea. Good mentors listen and learn and develop outcomes that take into account different personalities and all sides of the argument. To be clear: this is not about letting people be rude — it’s about enabling people to say whatever they think about the idea at hand.

HOW TO BE A GOOD EMPLOYEE AND MENTEE:

1. Debate respectfully

In keeping with the previous point, when your mentor encourages debate, be vocal in expressing your opinions. Articulate your point and provide evidence to back it up. But don’t get out of line if your boss doesn’t see it your way. Your boss is usually your boss for a reason. Pattern recognition and concern for other factors may influence the final decision, even if the outcome seems counter-intuitive to you.

2. Learn from the good and the bad

Nobody is perfect. All bosses and mentors have good and bad qualities, just like you do. Don’t lose sight of the good because you are preoccupied with the bad. And try to learn from what you don’t like: make a note of what you don’t agree with, so that you might do differently when you find yourself in a similar situation. If you’re not also a mentor already, you will be one day and you’ll want to draw on all of these notes.

3. Overcommunicate

Make sure you share the work you are doing. Your mentor isn’t psychic. So share loudly and share often. Provide regular updates and schedule frequent one-on-ones. Pick up the phone, pop into the office. Do not wait until a mentor or boss has to ask about something. Indeed, if he or she has to ask, it’s a clear sign that you are undercommunicating.

4. Ask for help

Always ask your boss or mentor for help when you need it. Whether you don’t fully understand a task or feel stretched by your workload, it’s your obligation to ask for back-up. If you think you might need help, then you need help. Said differently: it’s unacceptable to not ask for help and then miss a deadline. That’s a sure fire way to get fired. No boss should be upset with you for asking for help. A boss will, however, look at you critically if you overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t mess this one up.

5. Your boss is human too

Just as you want your mentor to take a genuine interest in what you are doing, take a genuine interest in return. It can be lonely at the top and there is often a lot of good that comes from trying to get your boss to open up in an appropriate but personal way. Having a relaxed human dialogue with a boss or mentor is often the best way to strengthen your relationship and make the most of your learning. But be honest and respectful about how you reach out. Idle chatter or kissing-up is interpreted as just that and may do more harm than good. Better to pick a topic of common interest and dive deep, batting stuff around over a period of time, like an extended chess game. Bosses need love, too, and sometimes the best form of love is a conversation with about something where both parties temporarily put business aside and lose yourselves in something personal or even frivolous.

Tagged , , , , ,

The Need For Speed

Written by Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, co-founder and CEO of Moda Operandi for The Business of Fashion.

When founding a company, one of the most important decisions you will make is how and when your company grows. Growing a young company is not an involuntary, linear process, like how a baby grows. Growth tends to happen in sizeable, step-up increments, like a set of stairs, based upon deliberate decisions you and your team make. The key is to balance careful planning with speed of execution.

The implications of this tricky balance are multiple and very real. Do you “get it right first,” subordinate growth to perfecting your product or service, or do you “get big fast” and shun polishing the decks while it’s full speed ahead?

As you will hear me say often, there is no right solution to this kind of puzzle. But as co-founder of Moda Operandi (M’O), I mulled this balance carefully and decided I needed to “get big fast.” I saw an opportunity for M’O to be first to market with our unique “pre-order luxury goods” concept and I knew that meant aligning myself with key people and companies to help me do it quickly and cleverly. In short, I felt the need for speed was a critical competitive advantage that outweighed hoarding equity and control. This decision had significant implications for how I thought about taking on a partner, where to raise financing, and how much. And since, 16 months later, M’O remains the only store in the business with our dedicated pre-order model, this decision has turned out to be one of the most important I’ve made for the company to date.

TO PARTNER, OR NOT TO PARTNER

One of the first decisions to make when you come up with a business idea is whether to do it alone or with a partner. You have probably heard that entering into a partnership around a company is like entering into a marriage, and it is true. Partnerships, like marriages, are exciting because the whole is greater than the individual parts and together amazing offspring can be born. But also, like marriages, partnerships require work and compromises and they have real costs. Decision-making and control is shared; equity and wealth potential is diluted. So just like getting hitched on a whim in Vegas is not necessarily a great long term idea, you shouldn’t pick a partner unless you think you need to. And if you do need to, make sure that person is kick ass.

I knew Lauren Santo Domingo, my co-founder, would be the perfect partner. Why?

    • Lauren got it immediately (Warning: if you have to explain the concept twice, it’s probably not a good fit.)
    • She added to it immediately (i.e. “We should do this as well, we should call them as well,” etc. Her complementary experience was apparent from the get-go.)
    • She threw herself into it immediately (“When do we start?” No dilly-dallying, this was a partner who wanted in yesterday, already.)

After our first chat about it, I knew there was nobody else I wanted as a co-founder of the company. But we can’t all be this lucky. And taking on a bad co-founder can kill your business before it is born. So here are a few things you need to think about when making the decision about partnering-up or going solo:

    • Is there a sizeable hole in what you bring to the table (skills, relationships, experience, etc)? If yes, would that void be better filled via a partner, or a contractor, consultant or temporary hire? In short, do you need a partner?
    • Do you generally prefer to work in teams or alone? Put bluntly: can you have a partner? (What does your significant other think? Always a good reality check.)
    • Is the scope / complexity of your business idea robust / complicated enough that you need a partner during those crucial initial months? In other words, does the company need a partner?
    • Is the size of your business big enough to support an additional partner? Can all mouths be fed? Can your company support a partner?

Divorce is a mess, not least because it will really slow you down. So only pick a partner if you need to. And if you need to, pick someone who will help you get there faster and smarter. The last thing you need is the old ball and chain.

INVESTOR EXPECTATIONS

Investors are your friends. They give you money, you build cool things, consumers spend money, everyone is happy. However, there are different kinds of investors and each has pros and cons. Specific to speed to market, here are a few things to consider:

    • Angel investors are typically more flexible and hands-off, but often lack industry expertise. They are your rich uncle who ponies up cash and wishes you the best, but doesn’t really want or know how to help you do your thing. This is not always the case — some angels are brilliant and available — but this is what you should anticipate.
    • Venture capital investors (VCs) typically have deeper pockets, can provide good advice and resources, but require a lot of control and hand-holding. They’re professional money makers, so understandably, they want to know what the hell you’re doing. This can be a good thing but it also takes up valuable time. Again, there are exceptions, but this is a general rule.

The key point: if you believe you need to get your company to market now, make sure you match your expectations with those of your potential investors. You may not have the luxury of options. But you don’t want to take on an investor who wants you to get it right first, when you’re focused on getting big fast.

HOW MUCH MONEY IS ‘ENOUGH MONEY’?

Another common question I am often asked is, how much money should I raise and how quickly should I raise it? Fundraising is painful and time consuming. Some founders prefer to raise just enough to get something to market now. On the other hand, some founders prefer to go the extra mile and aim for a bigger raise so they won’t have to suffer through the process all over again in just a short while. There are pros and cons to each approach.

At M’O, we went the extra mile. While we were fortunate enough to have some seed money to get our proof of concept going, we parallel-tracked the fund raising process in full swing until we secured our first round of venture capital. Grabbing market share was critical. We had to build the car while driving it down the highway.

This may not always be the right decision. A young company might be better served in its early days focusing its attention on perfecting the product rather than on fundraising. And depending on the economic environment and the appetite of the investment community, raising more early on might mean giving up more equity to investors than if you wait. But you probably will need more money than you think. And it is always good to stash away cash today for a rainy day tomorrow, like a sudden downturn in the market or the unexpected arrival of a formidable competitor.

During our latest fund raising, I had a meeting with a Chinese businessman, one of the most successful retail tycoons in the world. He said, “You guys are hot. Everyone is talking about M’O. Raise as much money as you can now.”

The point? If capturing market share is of the essence, raise as much money as you can now. Having too much money is a good problem, even if it means dilution, giving up control and sharing the throne. But get to market. Raising all the money in the world means nothing if you aren’t open for business.

Tagged , , ,