Wednesday, March 28, 2012

10 Ways to Make Your Customer Experience Stand Out

A while back, I wrote about the value of Michael Porter’s Five Forces framework for analyzing the competitive environment, and using every opportunity to highlight and emphasize your relative advantages, whether they be price, features, or bargaining power. But once you start selling products, all of these pale in comparison to the level of customer experience you provide.

I agree with John Spence, in his book “Awesomely Simple,” that in a world of nearly limitless product options and highly educated consumers with instant access to price, features, and benefits of almost every product, delivering consistently superior customer service is the only differentiator left for creating loyal and engaged customers.

Here are the top ten suggestions from John and others for how to create a culture of extreme customer focus in your organization:
  1. Create a customer service vision. Much like creating a vision statement to direct the organization, you should also create a clear and compelling “customer service vision” that describes the level of service your organization aspires to deliver.

  2. Exceed customer expectations. Show a relentless commitment to exceeding, not just meeting, expectations. Customers can’t tell you how to exceed their expectations, but they know it when they see it, they remember, and they tell their friends.

  3. Continuous customer service innovation. Many companies have an ongoing product innovation focus, but rarely think about customer service innovations. Define specific innovation objectives and rewards for improving the customer experience, such as deploying Astea's field service management.

  4. Create superior customer value. Focus on creating superior value for your customers, and they will love you. This means know your competitors, technologies, and alternatives available. Match your offerings to your target customers better than anyone else.

  5. Own the “voice of the customer”. The only critic whose opinion counts is the customer. Create strong, trusting relationships with your customers. Solicit feedback, communicate that feedback to the entire organization, and then be sure to take action on the feedback.

  6. Be the expert on delivering superior customer service. Find out everything you can about how to deliver great customer service. Steal the best ideas, benchmark against the top performers, and make improving customer service a core competency.

  7. Train every employee to be a customer service champion. Empower employees with the tools, training, equipment and support they must have to deliver excellent service consistently. Reward and praise those who deliver, and deal quickly with any employee who does not embrace the service values.

  8. Destroy barriers to delivering superior service. Look at all systems, policies, procedures, reports and rules. Wipe out anything that creates roadblocks or frustrations in the effort to delight and amaze the customer. Stupid rules that make it hard for employees to serve superbly can kill your business.

  9. Measure, measure, and communicate. Create a clear, specific, well-thought-out and over-communicated program for systematically collecting and communicating the most important customer service delivery measurements to the people who can then act on them. Make it easy for your people to win.

  10. Walk the talk. Every level of the organization, starting at the very top, must be a living example of your service strategy. If you do not deliver excellent service to your internal customers—promptly returning phone calls, showing up on time for meetings, and acting professionally—there is no hope that your front-line people will deliver great service.
Sustainable competitive advantage was once based primarily on characteristics such as market power, economies of scale, technology lead, and a broad product line. The advantage today has shifted to companies whose customer focus is superior. As a startup, you have the opportunity to lead. Use it, and don’t lose it.

Marty Zwilling

Disclosure: This blog entry was sponsored by Astea and I received compensation for my time, but the views expressed here are solely mine.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5 Dysfunctions That Make Your Startup Unfundable

Every investor I know can tell you at least one story about a great startup team that failed, even though it was well-funded and staffed with qualified and smart people. The reason almost always given is that the team didn’t work well together (dysfunctional). What does that really mean?

In my experience, genuine teamwork is hard to find, and even harder to predict in a new team. A lot of studies have been done on this, and most have focused on recognizing the symptoms of a dysfunctional team, rather than searching for personal attributes that will likely lead to a cohesive or high-performing team. So I don’t have any magic to prevent this problem.

One of the most popular writers on this subject, Patrick Lencioni, published a book a while back, titled, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” He and others have identified the key functional elements, proposed an assessment methodology, and provided structured approaches to recognizing and fixing the problem when it occurs.

Here is my summary, abstracted from his book, of the top five indications that team dysfunction is occurring:

  1. Absence of trust. In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates are not uncomfortable being vulnerable with one another.

  2. Fear of conflict. All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business. Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo, stressful, and inefficient in many situations, especially at work, so it doesn’t happen when it should.

  3. Lack of commitment. Team commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. The two greatest causes of lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty. Neither is usually possible. With an executive team, lack of commitment causes irresolvable discord to ripple down through the organization.

  4. Avoidance of accountability. Team accountability refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team. They may not want to risk a friendship, but this ironically causes relationships to deteriorate as team members resent one another for not living up to expectations.

  5. Inattention to results. The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about individual status or sub-team status more than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.

If you suspect any of these elements on your team, it’s probably time to dig deeper into this subject, or find some outside guidance before it’s too late. Like so many other aspects of life, teamwork comes down to mastering a set of behaviors that are theoretically uncomplicated, but extremely difficult to put into practice day after day.

Some startup founders try to supersede this challenge by single-handedly doing all the work, or establishing a monarchy where only one voice counts. Neither of these strategies can succeed, since even a small business will soon scale too big for one person to manage everything. So cohesive teams are required, and will normally outperform star individuals.

Remember also that dysfunctional teams are not necessarily made up of dysfunctional people. Getting work done with a team is all about people working with people, and people working for people, toward a common goal.

If you have a dysfunctional team in your startup, it’s your responsibility as the leader to recognize it and act quickly. It is a curable problem, if you step up to it before too much damage is done. It probably means replacing some people or changing their roles, but remember that your investor alternatives are to replace you or stop the funding.

Marty Zwilling



Thursday, March 22, 2012

Customer Loyalty Can Be a Startup Competitive Edge

You hear a lot of talk these days about the importance of customer satisfaction, but customer loyalty is the real win. A satisfied customer is necessary, but not sufficient, to be a loyal customer who will come back repeatedly, refer their friends and family to you, and be faithful even when your price is not the lowest. Herein lies an opportunity for startups to beat the big guys.

Not too long ago, everybody thought customer loyalty was dead. Price was everything, and customers would switch suppliers for pennies. I think these tough economic times and social networks have re-awakened consumers to the fact that there is more to a business transaction than price. People are tired of being serviced like a commodity by a faceless computer robot.

Whatever the reasons for the change, and there are many, it represents a big opportunity to the small businesses and startups who recognize it. Building customer loyalty means a first priority on keeping the customers you already have, rather than focusing always on getting new ones.

From my own research, here is a collection of seven top tips on how a startup or any company can build and maintain real customer loyalty:

  1. Communicate more personally more often. Get to know your customers, and actually call them by name, or even remember their likes and dislikes. With today’s technology, make sure they get a monthly newsletter, a reminder care for a tune-up, or a holiday greeting card personalized just for them.

  2. Educate your customers on your business. Today you have the tools, like blogging, videos, and new web technologies, to explain and make your customers appreciate what you do, and how you do it better than anyone else. They haven’t lost interest in cutting costs, so help them understand how you are a leader in this regard.

  3. Customer loyalty begins with employee loyalty. Loyalty works from the top down. If you are loyal to your team, they will pass that loyalty to their team, and to their customers. Employee loyalty starts with good communication and training on their role, as well as how to better interact with customers.

  4. Don’t take existing customers for granted. Many businesses will do anything to win the business of a new customer, but tend to ignore existing ones. Spend as much time thinking of special ways to reward existing customers as you do rewarding that first-time new customer. Don’t ever give better deals to new customers than existing ones.

  5. Provide stability in terms and prices. Most customers tend to question their own loyalty only when prices go up, or their favorite option (like challenge-free returns) goes away. Do everything you can to show your customers how they can cut their own costs and yours too, like online service. Ask your suppliers for help in maintaining margins.

  6. Be reliable and flexible. If you say an item will be back in stock by Monday, make it happen. If something does go wrong, be proactive in letting customers know and compensate them for the inconvenience. Be flexible in solving your customer’s problem. The phrase “That’s our policy” should be eliminated from your lexicon.

  7. Don’t let customer service slip. As your business grows, it’s easy to lose your focus on customer service, or take away the empowerment and accountability of key personnel. Customers say it takes ten good experiences to make up for one bad one. If their experiences are all good, they will tell eight other people.

Statistics also show that building loyalty and retaining current customers is 3 to 10 times cheaper than acquiring new customers. Successful businesses realize that 80 percent of their business actually comes from a stable 20 percent of their customer base. You will grow faster and more profitably by nurturing this solid base of loyal customers, who then do the best job of selling to new customers, at no cost to you.

Marty Zwilling



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Gauge Business Potential for Your Invention

I’m often approached by people who claim to have invented the next big thing, and ask me how much it’s worth, or complain that they can’t find an investor who will fund it. The honest answer is that ideas and new technologies are worth nothing, outside the context of a specific entrepreneur and a specific business plan that meets a market need for a fair price.

Invention is the process of creating a new technology. Business innovation is taking that technology and successfully bringing it to market in a way people want. There is a variation on an old quote that sums it up for me: "Invention is turning money into technology. Business innovation is turning technology into money."

A Techdirt article argues that if you look at the true history of major breakthroughs, you might conclude that the invention was the easy part – the hard part was the business side. In fact, if you look at all the "great inventors" championed by history, you'll realize that many weren't great inventors at all, but rather entrepreneurs, who later took credit as the inventors they never were.

Innovative technologies are essential to business progress. Yet, even in the best of times it is difficult for business innovators to get the kind of financial and people support they need to realize their technologies. Here are some tests every technology must pass before proceeding:

  • Can you build a winning team? What investors want is a proven entrepreneur, someone who can invent a product, find capital, and find a way of getting the product to market. It's better to have an average new product and a great team than the other way around. People are the most important element for success of a business.

  • Can it even be commercialized? First you need to be able to manufacture and distribute the product in volume. Then you have to worry about politics, government regulations, and infrastructure. Hydrogen is a great fuel for cars, but who builds the network of service stations, upgrades vehicle engines, and implements safety regulations?

  • Can you sell it for five times the cost? This multiple may seem high, but it’s the rule-of-thumb most large corporations use in early analysis for new products. R&D is expensive, “overhead” is high, and they have to cover the cost of the nine out of ten products that fail. Even a single-product startup better assume twice the cost if they want any profit.

  • Is it competitive to the current alternatives? New technologies are surfacing every day for alternative energy sources that will solve the global warming problem, but all are stymied by the low cost of energy from fossil fuels. Maybe your invention is “ahead of it’s time.” The pain level is not yet high enough for people to buy “green” at twice the cost.

  • What is your barrier to entry? File a provisional patent as a place holder, a full patent, trademark, copyright, or all of the above. Patents may slow down competition, but they are not a real barrier to entry. Speed to market is the best protection, and continual innovation. Don’t count on development being a “one-time” expense.

  • Is someone ahead of you? Don't be afraid to ask people in the field if they've ever heard of anything along the lines of your idea. Do a patent search, but that doesn’t cover patents in progress, or ones now being written (six month blind spot). Check published papers, scientific journals, and trade publications.

  • Are you sure you want to be first? Being the first with an revolutionary versus evolutionary idea, or a “disruptive technology,” is the riskiest domain, and investors try to avoid these. Everybody wants to be second. Being really first probably means you will have to go with your own money, or friends and family.

The ultimate test is to remember that people buy and invest in solutions to problems; they don’t buy technology. Check your elevator pitch, investor presentation, business plan, and your leading comments to friends. If you lead with technology or the fact that you invented something, you probably don’t have a business.

Marty Zwilling



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Get a View From the Customer to Close Sales Faster

All the experts these days are talking about the increasing need for customer focus and maximizing sales. Typically entrepreneurs and even professional sales people think this means more emphasis on the customer selling process, when in fact it really means spending more time understanding the customer buying process (view from the customer).

According to Kevin Davis, as outlined in a recent book “Slow Down, Sell Faster!” and a related article, the single biggest mistake people make is that they try to close the sale too fast. They arrive at the end of their "pitch" just as the customer is beginning to recognize they have a need! They leave the scene just as the prospective customer begins shopping around for a solution by looking at the competition. Not good.

Assuming you are serious about competing with big companies for customers, and realize that a fast sales pitch doesn’t mean more sales, here are some tips from Kevin that every entrepreneur needs to understand even before attempting their first sale:

  1. Work to understand how your customers will buy. "What are the steps of your customer's buying process?" When the product is simple, and there is no competition, buyers can make a quick decision. But these days, that is rarely the case. Thus most customers need to do some research and learn more first. You need to think about a purchase from the customer's viewpoint, and be there for him.

  2. Define the steps of your sales process in customer terms. Understanding buying is where selling should start. Get very clear and specific about the steps customers take as they move through their buying process. Replace your "sales process" labels with "customer actions," which then become the objectives for your team when they call or meet with customers.

  3. Manage the pipeline based on where customers are in their buying process. What should matter to you is not where you are in their sales process, but where the customer is in their buying process. Ask, "What actions has the customer taken thus far?" And, "What action should they take next, and by when?" The answer to these questions provides you with a better understanding of the true status of the sales opportunity.

  4. Map out who will be involved in the buying decision, and what step they are at in the buying process. If the buying decision is complex, you need to determine what factors are working for you in the sale, what factors are working against you, and what you can do to put yourself in a better position to win. Don’t get ahead of your customer.

  5. Focus on the most influential decision makers. Often the real buy decision is not made by the person doing the interaction. Find the C-level executives behind the scenes, or the key influencers, or the personal relationship connections that can override simple price and benefit arguments.

  6. Provide coaching early in the sales process; avoid last minute interventions. We’ve all heard the complaint about the executive "riding in on a white horse" to save the day and close a deal. The end result of this white-horse ride is often three-fold: white knuckles for the salesperson, a bigger discount for the customer, and lower profit for the company! What kind of win is that?

Speed is important in getting to multiple decision makers quickly, identifying what is important to each player, and knowing where each player is in the buying process. After than, it’s time to slow down and stay in sync with each customer’s buying process.

Customer focus has nothing to do with your selling or service process, whether the customers are individual consumers, or large company buyers negotiating a complex transaction. The key is to put yourself in their shoes, and lead them through their own process. Customers want to buy from leaders, not pushers. What a novel way to exceed your customer’s expectations!

Marty Zwilling



Monday, March 12, 2012

Website Ads are Not a Revenue Stream for Startups

One of the biggest red flags I see in many Internet-related business plans today is advertising as the initial revenue stream, or a key part of it. If challenged, the founder usually cites the Facebook business model (free service to users, revenue from ads), but forgets that Facebook has had several hundred million in funding, and has been profitable only in the last couple of years.

The most challenging time is your first years, when your site is unknown, and your page-views are low. Until you get a million page-views per month, your revenue will be negligible, and advertisers won’t be interested in your site. Don’t count on that to fund your startup.

This is a tough business. It can be very successful like it now is for Facebook, but entrepreneurs usually underestimate how long it will take for page-views to ramp. They might see early traction due to early promotions, or special advertiser deals, but then reality sets in.

To better understand these realities, let’s clarify some terminology. Unless you live in this world every day, you are probably as confused as I was by the different advertising models, so let me outline the common ones:

  1. Pay per click (PPC). In this most popular model, advertisers pay each time a user clicks on an ad and is redirected to the advertiser website. Advertisers do not pay for each ad view, but only when the ad is clicked on. For advertisers, this is called cost per click (CPC).

  2. Pay per view (PPV, PPI or PPM). With this model, you get paid for each ad view or page-view (same as impression). For advertisers, this is cost per impression (CPI), or cost per mille (CPM) per thousand impressions. Advertisers normally prefer CPC, since they don’t like to pay when you ignore their ad.

  3. Pay per action (PPA or PPL). This advertising model was added a few years ago to mitigate the risks of click fraud. Here the advertiser pays only if a customer has been delivered to a website and takes a further action (conversion), such as buying a product or filling out a web form. The advertiser side is called cost per action (CPA) or cost per lead (CPL).

Now back to the revenue realities. If a startup wants to get the attention of investors, it needs to show large growth, like $50 million in revenue in five years. Today, without highly specialized targeting, the rule-of-thumb expectation should be no more than $1 in advertising revenue per thousand page-views.

To get to $50 million in revenue you would need 50 billion page views in a year, or just over 4 billion per month. Facebook is far above this range now, now with over 1 trillion page views, but only the top 10 sites in the US are in the right ballpark, and all took several years to get there, and none of these have been startups for quite some time.

It doesn’t matter that the ads themselves come in a myriad of shapes and sizes – banner, panel, floating, expanding, wallpaper, trick banner, pop-up, pop-under, or even video. Costs and payments vary by size, level of targeting, and volume. A current trend to increase revenue is to make advertisements more interactive, but the basic numbers haven’t changed much.

The bottom line is that any online advertising revenue you project in the first couple of years for your startup will be heavily discounted by any savvy investor, and will likely cause your business plan to be rejected. Face reality.

Investors know that during this early period, you will likely be spending more heavily than you expect, to build page-views, rather than collecting revenue from the millions of users you won’t have yet.

Marty Zwilling



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Entrepreneurs: Connect to Today’s Customer Network

Every startup needs to understand that the customer paradigm has dramatically shifted over the past two years with pervasive social networks and smartphones. The customer base is no longer a mass audience that can be driven by mass media, but a dynamic network of individual customers who interact with each other, and expect to interact with you as a business.

If your business doesn’t connect with your customers, individually and as a community, demanding customers will not only ignore you, but will actively keep other customers away. For example, while the customer paradigm is shifting rapidly to smartphones, a survey last year indicated that just 12 percent of small businesses had that reach.

A recent book by David L. Rogers, titled The Network is Your Customer, elaborates on this paradigm shift, and outlines the following five key strategies to thrive in this digital age, prioritized from the most basic to the most complex in value to the customer:

  1. Access to your business from the relevant network of customers. Every organization today faces the expectations of an always-on world. To compete, startups must find ways to provide customers an easier, faster, more pervasive connection to digital networks, via mobile as well as the Internet.

  2. Engage customers with relevant and valuable content. In an environment of media overload and rampant ad-skipping, startups that want to engage customer networks need to create content that customers actually want to consume. Funny videos and worthless give-aways won’t make your website go “viral” these days.

  3. Customize your interactions to meet unique customer needs. You need to give customers the tools to customize products, services, and content to suit their needs and interests, to engage them more deeply, add value, and differentiate your offering from competitors.

  4. Connect to the customer in your communication. Join in conversations with customers who are already shaping brand perception and sharing their ideas and opinions on the Web. Conversations may be on existing social media, or on your own brand forum established specifically for this purpose.

  5. Collaborate with customers on shared goals. One of the most powerful ways to engage customer networks is to invite them to collaborate with your startup on shared goals and projects. This requires the right balance of motivators (love, glory, and money), and the right balance of bottoms-up versus top-down control.

Many businesses that seem to understand the new paradigm still fall for some common mistakes, like the following, that can blunt the effectiveness of their efforts:

  • Infatuation with technology. Founders too often see a list of the latest hot tools, and go after them, without first making the proper analysis and connect to relevant customers. The best tools, if not relevant or used incorrectly, can’t save you.

  • Lack of customer insight. Startups launch plans without taking the time to understand the networked behavior of their customers, or the drivers for that behavior.

  • Lack of clear objectives. Without a clear scope and vision, efforts become unfocused, lack impact, and are impossible to measure. Everyone on the team has to be involved and on board, or the efforts will be fragmented.

This book outlines a good process for planning and implementing a customer network strategy to match your customers, your business, and your objectives – whether you need to drive sales, reduce costs, gain customer insight, or build breakthrough products and services.

The bottom line is that today, whatever your goals and whatever your business, the network is your customer. Connect to it and win customers.

Marty Zwilling



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Begin With a Job at a Startup, Then Start Your Own

For those of you who want to get in on the ground floor of a new venture, but haven’t yet worked up the nerve to start your own, begin with a job at a startup. But first you should ask yourself if you are prepared for the realities.

Working for a startup is not a career choice, but more of a lifestyle. The long-term opportunities may be large, but near-term paychecks will be small, compared to large companies in the same industry. Stock options, if you get them, won’t help you pay the mortgage for a least a couple of years, and the value then is totally unpredictable. Don’t even think about health and dental benefits for your spouse and kids.

So here’s a strategy I recommend (definitely the most common strategy in Silicon Valley). One family partner works for a startup, and the other sticks with a large enterprise company like Intel, HP, Apple, IBM, or Fujitsu. The large enterprise provides one stable income, an excellent set of benefits for the family, and that partner can get off work at 5pm to pick up the kids.

The other partner, and hopefully there is only one crazy one, goes after the startup lifestyle. Here are some approaches and considerations in finding a good fit with real odds of success:

  1. Check Craigslist. Most startups don’t have money for listing fees, so they pick this free service that is popular with the younger crowd. There are many other job boards and specialized services, as well as the local newspaper, so pick a couple and get busy.

  2. Start networking. People hire people they know, so nurture your relationship with friends already active in startups. They know the quality of work you can do, and they have friends in other startups. Skip the recruiting agents who hover in these networks – they don’t usually represent you well, and often antagonize the startups with aggressive selling.

  3. Visit venture capital websites. Most VCs list the startups they are funding, with pointers to their websites. The VC website may even directly list opportunities in the companies they support. Start here for a list of VC organizations. Same thing for Angel organizations.

  4. Peruse startup directories. There are multiple online sites, like the Startup Directory and VentureLoop, that you can browse by company name, region, or technology. Then you find someone you know in one of these companies, or polish your resume for submission to the startup websites advertising openings.

  5. Join local organizations. Every area has networking events, like the NYC Tech Meetup, and organizations like the Silicon Valley Forum. The more active you are in these, the higher the probability of finding opportunities early.

But a word to the wise, be picky about what startup you join. Ask around about the founders. Make sure you meet more than the boss and check the culture before you take the job. Reporting structures are fluid in startups, and unfortunately many startups are like dysfunctional families.

Make sure you believe in the product and the people. Here are some specific questions to ask:

  • How much money is in the bank?
  • What's the monthly burn rate?
  • When is the next round closing?
  • How many options are being offered (% of total)?
  • When do they expect to be cash flow positive?

Most importantly, make sure you are ready for the realities of working for a startup. The hours are long and unpredictable. Personalities are strong, and the hiring process for good ones is tougher than big corporations. But if you are aching to be a part of the next big thing, and change the world, a startup is where it happens. It’s the next best thing to starting one yourself.

Marty Zwilling



Friday, March 2, 2012

10 Ways for Startups to Expand Their Reach in 2012

As entrepreneurs, you always need to be on the lookout for ways to expand your current business, and always on the lookout for your next big thing. The competition never stands still, and new opportunities are evolving, based on culture changes in your customers, new technologies, and new problems in the world which need to be solved.

Steven Schussler, in his latest book “It’s a Jungle In There” characterized this well in relation to his own success by recommending to all entrepreneurs that you observe the world around you and make a consistent, conscious effort to ask yourself: “Is there something here I could change (by providing a service or product) that would bring me financial gain?”

He provides several examples of how he used this approach to advantage in his own career. I’ve netted out his and others to create the following basic strategy for entrepreneurial growth:

  1. Apply your core competency to related markets. Look for competitors that have the same capabilities as you in a different market area, or for different customers. By utilizing economies of scale, location, and common design, you may be able to provide a better solution faster for a lower cost.

  2. New products or services to existing customers. You already understand your existing customers and have a relationship with them. They know you and your brand, so this should minimize your customer acquisition cost for the new product.

  3. Add services that are complementary to your product. Or add products that are complementary to your services. These could be support related, or education related, or a package of product and services for a new class of customers.

  4. Extrapolate the technology you already know. With today’s rate of technology movement, you need to assume your current products will be superseded quickly. Look hard at where the technology is going, and don’t hesitate too long to kill your “cash cow.”

  5. Open more locations, expand online and globally. The alternative to selling more volume more often to existing customers is to reach out to new ones with the same needs. In addition to adding physical locations regionally and globally, the cost to provide an online Internet presence is now at an all-time low.

  6. Offer your business as a franchise. Franchising is essentially cloning your business, and contracting with others to run the clone. It may sound easy, but requires tremendous effort to document every process, establish vendor relationships, and monitor all stages of every implementation.

  7. Merge with or acquire another business. M&A is a common way of acquiring new products and services, without the incubation time of building and testing the product. This often works best if you find a company similar to yours with great potential, but drowning in debt, or short on the necessary skills.

  8. License your product to a partner or alliance. If your bandwidth is exhausted, or you lack access to a key market segment or customer set, licensing your product, adding a strategic partner, or building an alliance with a related company will help.

  9. Hire people smarter than you. They will see things that you don’t see. Foster an active culture and reward program for new ideas. If you don’t, the smart people in your company will give their ideas to someone else, or leave to be your competitor.

  10. Be an active part of your community. Volunteering to help your community will provide insight into current problems, challenges, and business opportunities. At the same time, you are building the credibility that future customers will pay for.

Great entrepreneurs must always be on the lookout for new products and services that people need, and at work on ways to provide these needs in exchange for fun and profit. Not looking forward or standing still as an entrepreneur means you are slipping backward.

Marty Zwilling