Sometimes, You Need to Scale Back Your Own Dreams

When it comes to transforming a startup business into a sustainable company, I keep reminding myself that it's a marathon -- not a sprint. And I'm also reminding myself that sometimes I need to scale back my dreams.

That doesn't mean that I need to abandon dreams. Let me explain a bit: After Nines Inc. will gradually transform toward a recurring revenue business -- even as we remain engaged with a range of consulting gigs that we really enjoy and value. 

For the recurring revenue side of the business, we'll be incredibly data driven. That doesn't mean we'll be a Big Data company. (The world has enough of those.) Instead, it means that we'll gather the right information, synthesize it, and share the outcomes with you and some other carefully selected audiences.

Look, Something Shiny Over Here

But what data should we gather? And how should we synthesize it and share it? That's where the conversation gets really complicated. One of our first data projects involved interviews with a dozen-plus IT-savvy executives -- a straightforward project that generated lots of insights.

But at the same time, Amy Katz and I have embarked on another project that so far involves about 900 tech-savvy companies -- and about 30 unique pieces of information for each company. And it keeps growing. Plus, we've got ideas for several other projects that will involve information gathering from hundreds of additional tech companies.

On the one hand, we have a clear vision on how our information gathering efforts could serve you -- and us. On the other hand, we could stumble on our execution. Chase too many shiny objects at once, and we could wind up blinded by the light.

By the end of 2015, I suspect at least one of the information gathering projects will see the light of day -- transformed into competitive intelligence for you to leverage. The big question is how soon -- or how late -- we embark on those other projects. The list of ideas is looking strong... Timing is the question mark.

Our Advice to You (And Us)

The seeds for this blog entry were planted Friday morning, when I  got a call from a startup seeking some guidance on new product launches. The executive rattled off about a dozen different launches he hoped to pull off between now and the end of 2016.

The problem: I had no idea how each piece part fit into the larger story. Nor did I understand the larger story. I told the exec to focus on his top goal for the end of 2016. Where exactly did he want the company to be in 21 months? Once you answer that question, it's far easier to reverse engineer the path toward that goal.

  • Does it really require a dozen different product launches?
  • Or can he build -- incrementally -- toward that goal with a few ideas that reinforce one another?

To me, it sounded like the executive was obsessed with a specific revenue goal -- and then trying to launch products to meet that revenue goal. Bad idea. Instead...

  • Focus first on the customer problem you're trying to solve. Why does your business exist?
  • Then outline the specific components you need to solve that problem. 
  • At the same time, figure out how to monetize those components.

Keep your component list to a bare minimum. The fewer moving parts you're trying to manage, the better. And please... please... remind me of my own advice as Q4 2015 approaches.

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