3,000 Posts, and Time for Something New

Today marks blog post number 3,000! I’ve been blogging daily for over eight years and it’s time to mark the end. Early on, I did it as a challenge to myself. Can I blog daily for a week straight? A month straight? Then, it took on a life of its own.

So, what’s next? I’m still going to blog, but instead of one per day, I’m only going to blog when I have a topic or idea I really want to share. In addition to the normal short posts, I’m going to do longer, more detailed posts.

Writing is cathartic for me. I enjoy sharing a thought that I found useful or interesting. I enjoy comments and ideas, especially when I’m wrong or there’s another dimension I need to understand. It isn’t always easy, but it is always valuable.

Here’s to the first 3,000 posts, and many more.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

4 Ideas for Finding Customers

TX Zhuo has a good post up titled Teaching startups the art of the sale where he describes several customer acquisition ideas. Most startups struggle with sales — often in conjunction with not having product/market fit — making for a high likelihood of failure. From the article, here are four ideas for finding customers:

  1. Partner with the first three lighthouse accounts and charge them whatever they’re willing to pay (e.g. a big discount) so that they’ll be references and provide testimonials
  2. Spend time with investors and use their connections to find potential prospects
  3. Form a customer advisory board and use it as a way to entice potential customers (e.g. if you sign, we’ll add you to our customer advisory board)
  4. Deliver a good mix of targeted social, email, and event marketing alongside clear messaging to help your voice be heard

Sales and marketing is hard. Try these ideas and more to figure out what does, and doesn’t, work.

What else? What are some more ideas for finding customers?

When Customer Expansion Outpaces Churn

One of the holy grails of successful SaaS businesses is having the expansion of existing customers outweigh customer churn. Meaning, if the business didn’t sign any new customers in a year, the upgrades from existing customers would be more money than the lost revenue from customers that leave, resulting in growth for the company. A business that doesn’t have to sell anything new, but still grows, is in an enviable position.

Here are a few benefits when customer expansion outpaces churn:

  • More Money to Acquire Customers – When customers regularly grow their account, more money can be spent to acquire the initial account, providing additional options for customer acquisition.
  • Faster Growth Rates – The law of large numbers starts to kick in making it hard to grow fast at greater scale. When customer expansion is more than churn, it makes it easier to grow faster as there’s a built-in growth engine.
  • Raising Money – Investors look for unit economics that show the fundamentals of the business are strong, and excellent customer expansion, along with customer renewals, and gross margins are three of the most important metrics making it easier to raise money.

Customer expansion outpacing customer churn is the hallmark of a successful SaaS company.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the importance of customer expansion being larger than customer churn?

Entrepreneur Evolution Over Time

One of the amazing experiences that comes with investing in entrepreneurs is seeing the entrepreneurs evolve over time. Early on, the entrepreneur is blissfully ignorant about what lies ahead and grinds it out to (hopefully!) to an early milestone of a million recurring, willing the startup forward. Then, slowly, it becomes clear that the entrepreneur needs to go from doer to manager (see Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule).

As a manager, the entrepreneur struggles. People require trust, and systems, and patience. The entrepreneur wants results, now. Slowly, after many mistakes, this whole people thing starts to come together. Culture starts to become important. More lessons, more learning.

Then, the next challenge: becoming a manager of managers. More people, more processes. More debating whether to work in the business or on the business. Onward and upward.

The entrepreneur evolution is fascinating. No two journeys are the same, but all are interesting.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the entrepreneur evolution over time?

The 7 Words Entrepreneurs Should Use Frequently

Entrepreneurs have a variety of leadership styles. One my favorites is servant leadership, defined as:

…both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership turns the power pyramid upside down; instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people.

Entrepreneurs that believe in servant leadership should use these seven words frequently:

Let me know how I can help

Pretty simple, right? These seven words show that you’re proactive and want to help. Many people want help. Fewer people ask for help. Servant entrepreneurs would do well to incorporate these seven words.

What else? What are some more thoughts on servant entrepreneurs using these seven words?

Deliver a Simple Message

Yesterday’s post Write Your Equivalent of The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan drove home a really important point: deliver a simple message. The master plan is all of 35 words, in plain English, with no jargon. How many entrepreneurs deliver plans like that? Very few.

Simple messages don’t mean incomplete messages. Take the Simplified One Page Strategic Plan as an example. The document has a wealth of information but it’s not verbose. Every word and every category matter. The fewer the words, the more likely it’ll be read, but the entire message still needs to be communicated.

Entrepreneurs would do well to deliver a simple message, and repeat it often.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the idea of delivering a simple message?

Write Your Equivalent of The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan

Exactly 11 years ago from tomorrow Elon Musk famously published The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me). Few people read it then and most that did didn’t take it seriously. Only, now, over a decade later, it’s come to fruition. And, from that, entrepreneurs should learn an important lesson.

But first, from the post, the master plan is:

  1. Build sports car
  2. Use that money to build an affordable car
  3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car
  4. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
  5. Don’t tell anyone.

Entrepreneurs should take this concept — a simple long term master plan — and write one out for their startup. Make it clear, concise, and easily understood. Then, share it with everyone.

The best way to see the future is to invent it.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the Secret Tesla Motors Plan and entrepreneurs building their own plan?