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Best Laid Plans

One thing that founders can be assured of, is that things will not go according to plan and that assumptions invariably prove to be ill-founded once their theoretical strategic playbook is put into practice in the real world.

It’s only with experience that this can be truly recognised. I say this having spent enough time in the trenches to have found my assumptions and expectations proved wholly inaccurate and incorrect. This has happened across a number of organisations and within different roles, which places me in a good position to help founders avoid some of the inevitable mistakes as they seek to build predictable, repeatable and scalable revenues for their businesses.

While building an international B2B SaaS technology business in the UK from a pre-revenue position the assumption was that bringing an established product from overseas into the UK market would involve the same challenges as had already been overcome in earlier territories. The expected queue of customers failed to materialise.

The reality is that markets are very different and when we launched in the UK there was a sudden realisation that the competition was coming not only from the obvious direct candidates but from indirect competitors as well. The marketing strategy also came with its various challenges as we assumed it was simply about expanding the brand but as a tiny fish in the UK pool there was very little cut-through achieved on available budgets.

Meanwhile, at an online business I headed up for Northern Europe there was the realisation that each market had different feature requirements for its products. This made life tough when needing to win those first clients and generate referrals. The added pressure is the need for quick returns on investment when you are also finding that everything takes longer and costs more than was assumed.

When in these under-pressure scenarios there is all too often a challenge in capturing the data to prove the unit economics of the business, there may not be a CRM in place, or aren’t enough clients to create a meaningful viewpoint. Another major issue is the lack of focus on ensuring clean data goes into these CRM tools. All calls to prospective customers should be booked and each stage of the linear process of the sales strategy should be followed through and meticulously entered in the CRM system or equivalent.

When founders are building their businesses, they often overlook the value of data and this can seriously trip them up. The fact is existing investors and new investors invariably want to see data and in the CRM system this should be the single version of the truth that reassures them of a healthy pipeline of new business and an outlook of repeatable revenues. Then when what looks like a healthy pipeline suddenly becomes blocked for myriad reasons including wrong pricing, incorrect features, and wrong people contacted the poor data in the CRM system offers no help whatsoever.

When caught up in this cycle it is very hard to see where the problems lie because the founder will be well and truly in the trenches. What’s needed, and where I can come in, is to bring in a fresh pair of eyes because I’ve seen all these problems before. None of this is new to me.

It is about identifying the problems, which I could do on an hourly basis, or come in for a specific project, and help the founders of start-up businesses sort out the bottlenecks and get their companies back on track to achieving those absolutely vital predictable, repeatable and scalable revenues.

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