Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Skimming the trees

skim the treetopsI’m convinced that the secret to business success is to stay alive long enough to find your audience.

New business success is fraught with risk, seldom actually related to whether the underlying idea is any good or whether the technology will work.  As I meet other entrepreneurs, I’m almost always convinced of their talent and the credibility of their innovation.

Rather, it seems to be a matter of finding the message, one that resonates with both investors and customers.  It’s a matter of finding a market, one that can be approached economically and that offers a niche for success.  And it’s a matter of defining a narrative, a believable and compelling story that encapsulates the business plan and process.

It’s a beneficial process in many ways, but a long and expensive journey.

In spots along the way, I underestimated the time and risk of particular steps; in others, I extended credit that I shouldn’t have.  The gap between income and expenses can narrow with unexpected swiftness, the needles all going down at once as the ground rushes up.

I heard an interview with Bill Gates, asked why Microsoft kept such an unusually large cash position in its accounts.  He said it went back to the early days, when he realized that he was responsible for paying his friends for their work.  He always wanted a year’s payroll on hand just in case the revenue wasn’t there.

Maybe it’s apocryphal, but it rings true.  This month’s experience is not one I want to repeat: It stiffened my spine for collecting invoices, for assessing resource risks more appropriately, and for protecting the cushion I kept against hard times.  We’re good for another quarter now, more determined to close the deals and get the business rising under power again..

1 comment:

Emile Marston said...

A lot of businesses forget their customers along the way. They focus on revenue, and that's understandable since profit does measure success. But the relationship is lost, which says a lot about how customers are treated. Quality service is a must, but it's important to build lasting relationships, too.