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Qi3 Ventures Insight

Advice for Entrepreneurs: Part Four – The Team

This fourth item in my occasional “help me to help you” series focuses on your team.

Most investors regard the presence of a credible team with a track record of success as critical.  This is a challenge for entrepreneurs with insufficient experience and who lack the funds to attract a team at an early stage.  A one person business is a tricky proposition – you need a team.

In Accelerate to Growth mode, we are looking for a well-rounded team that is able to manage the business.  People within the business should cover the main functional requirements. The investment sought should develop the team further, and we’re looking to support accelerated commercial traction, to drive the business toward substantial sales.

The needs of entrepreneurs in Accelerate to Sales mode are very different.  Most businesses come to us with an incomplete line-up.  It’s a catch-22, where you need investment to attract the team, but you need the team to attract investment.  There’s no single answer, but here’s a quick guide:

  • Make sure that the inventor / entrepreneur doesn’t come across as a ‘one-man band’.  There are several jobs that need adequate resourcing
  • It’s hard to be both operational CEO and fund-raising chairman – try finding a sympathetic industry insider as Chairman or Non-Executive Director and remember that fund-raising takes a lot of time which mustn’t detract from the business.
  • Contractors and part-timers are ok if they’re good, but full-time staff will be better
  • Think through the main functions of the business (technology development, operations, finance, sales and marketing) and line up people who will be ready to join when investment materialises.
  • Include an organisation chart in your Business Plan and CVs as an appendix

Try thinking of it from an investor’s perspective.  Whilst we are keen to support businesses as active investors, we’re not looking to be the company entirely.  Our preferred mode of operation is to provide sufficient cash and hands-on expert resource to accelerate the business over a period of 6-24 months.  During that time, we can help you to recruit the staff you need to take the company forward with us becoming more ‘non-executive’ and leaving you strengthened.

So when you come to us, tell us what support you need right now, and let’s plan the next steps together.

Do the British have a poor work ethic?

Commenting on his company’s decision to lay off 1500 people in their UK steel plants, Ratan Tata appeared to single out British managers for their poor work ethic. He reportedly said that unlike workers in India, UK bosses were unwilling to “go the extra mile”.  Do you agree?

Making snowballs on a summer’s day

One of my pleasures is catching up with old colleagues and friends, and seeing where life and opportunity has taken them.  Since I started Qi3 in June 1999, I’ve been involved in over 30 business start-ups and nearly 350 collaborative partnerships, so it’s hard to track them all.  I’ve sometimes described my role in brokering Knowledge Exchange as equivalent to making snowballs on a summer’s day.  Most of my efforts melt away, but others gradually gain momentum and turn into business success.  Business in general and technology business in particular has plenty of risk, so seeing the fruits of one’s efforts is a particular pleasure.

It takes time and patience though.  A British Business Angels Association survey of Business Angel investments showed that the companies sampled take an average of three years to fail, or six years to provide financial return.

Driving value in your business

People often ask me for a simple recipe for success.  The complexity of business is overvalued and marketers often deploy complicated solutions in response.  So how could I boil down the discipline of product marketing into a concise and near universal form?

Some years ago, I was studying several models for buyer behaviour and trying to get to the bottom of marketing as ‘helping buyers to buy’ rather than helping ‘sellers to sell’.  The result was a set of buyer ‘Value Drivers’ that we incorporate in Qi3’s product marketing methodology.  We have deployed this technique with repeated success through the core business of Qi3.

I was recently pleased to read these Qi3 Value Drivers posed in a different way in a book entitled Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, so I thought I’d share it.

  • What jobs do our clients need to get done, and how can we help? (Problem Solution)
  • What are our clients’ competitive goals and how can we help to achieve them? (Competitive Advantage)
  • How can we fit into our clients’ way of thinking? (System Compatibility)
  • What relationship do our clients want with us? (Supplier Relationship)
  • For what values are clients truly willing to pay? (Economic Value)

If you can get the answers to these five questions right for your customers, your chances of success will be significantly greater.  It really is that simple.  Now try it.

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