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Super-launching Your New Venture

Learn the super tips and pitfalls to breaking the $1 million barrier with a new business launch.

Superlaunching through the $1 million barrier when creating a new business, means you’re taking your idea, your product, your dream to the next level, superfast – and often – super smart. For many entrepreneurs, this is what it’s all about. Superlaunching requires time, investment and making all the right moves.

Joan Lyman, cofounder and partner of the Lyman Management Group of Atlanta , works with entrepreneurs, executives, board members and investors to provide strategic and financial advisory services to early- and growth-stage companies. She says that superlaunching takes entrepreneurs who are able to combine vision with execution.

When Joan evaluates an entrepreneur’s ability to superlaunch, she asks three key questions:

  1. Does your background or industry experience qualify you to recognize a winning idea?
  2. Who is going to buy the product? This question is more important that who is going to fund your idea or invest.
  3. Is your family or support system 100 percent behind you?

 

“You’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs are out there and they don’t get the support of their wives, their partners, their children,” Joan says. “No one’s going to let them take [money] out of their bank account.  No one’s going to give them the time to work on the idea.”

Managing the Bird in the Hand
For entrepreneurs who are already running a company while in the process of superlaunching, there are additional obstacles. Tony Mines, CEO and cofounder of Catch Media, says his company has learned that raising money is a full-time job.

On top of selling Catch Media to prospects and taking care of existing customers, Tony’s staff also spends time talking to potential investors and providing them with needed information. Mines has decided to manage the process by incorporating it into the company’s weekly and monthly planning and strategy, rather than allowing it to become a stumbling block.

“That whole balancing act has been a challenge for us, but it’s been a good challenge,” Tony says. “Everything that we’re going through, all the information that we’re providing for investors, directly feeds back to our plans. So we look at it in terms of a planning exercise. But it does get a little distracting, and we’ve got to walk that tightrope, in terms of making sure that we’re able to execute for our customers, as well as execute for potential investors.”

By having existing customers, Tony is also able to have built in market research. Catch Media has been going to its customers to really figure out which of the company’s many offerings do customers value most. With that information Tony has been compressing Catch Media’s services into a stronger offering for when it superlaunches.

Systems for Success
To ensure that a launching company doesn't waste its initial investment and exhaust its funds, Joan suggests three must-haves for a superlaunch. The first is accountability. The launching company must be held accountable by investors and its own managers. Joan says she can tell that a company is on the right track when they have a project manager  accountable only to the CEO, who ensures that everyone is delivering to the timelines.

“You can’t do that soon enough, because when you don’t miss milestones, you have a superlaunch,” Joan says.

Secondly, Joan recommends that companies incorporate sales methodologies that everyone is required to follow. With a sales methodology companies can hire salespeople, not because they came from a particular company, but because they are able to work within the chosen methodology. Otherwise, says Joan, an entrepreneur may realize too late that “I’ve got the United Nations here. They’re all speaking their own languages, and they’re all convinced that they’re right and yet I have no sales.”

The third key ingredient is an effective human resources manager. This person should have a thorough understanding of employees and the hiring process so that the team is built upon a solid foundation.

“We had one great gentleman who knew how to interview people and say, ‘You’d like this job’ or ‘You won’t like it,’” says Joan. “You do that so you don’t have the United Nations. You know someone has hired them. They know what to expect.”

Recruiting the Dream Team
Who is the most important hire when superlaunching? Joan tells entrepreneurs to look to their weaknesses. A great salesperson who lacks skill at handling the financial details should immediately take out an advertisement for a strong CFO.

“I find that the most critical people to bring on the team immediately [are those who] counterbalance yourself,” she says. “Always bring them on first, so you have an absolute balance.”

That balance can even be found in funders. Tony says that Catch Media will consider their investors as members of their team, active and involved in helping the company reach its goals.

“Obviously money is important, but even more important is finding those partners that can bring their connections to the table,” Tony says. “[We want partners] that can bring industry expertise, that can bring management expertise because we know that we’re going to need some assistance to help us get to that next level.”

Tony has also been putting together a core competent team of people who can wear many hats, saving staff costs.

“Obviously we don’t want our CFO out shooting video or doing podcasts,” he says. “But from a production standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, and from a client services standpoint, everybody in the organization understands that everybody needs to be able to do someone else’s job.”

Some hires can be put off, and should be put off until there is “proof of execution,” according to Joan. Support staff such as marketing communication or sales support can wait.

“The only thing that matters when you’re starting a company for the first hundred days is paying customers,” she says. “That’s all you have to worry about.”

Avoiding Errors
Joan believes that there are four common mistakes entrepreneurs make during the process of superlaunching. The first mistake entrepreneurs make is hiring people who think like they do.

“The reason why that’s a mistake is that you don’t know why you think the way you do. You just think the way you do,” Joan says. “And just because people are sitting there smiling and nodding in agreement doesn’t mean they’re qualified to do what you do.”

The second mistake entrepreneurs commonly make is hiring friends.

“When you hire your friends, your friends and you have never had a bad day,” she says. “When you’ve had a bad day, I promise you it was never over money. When you build a business, it’s all over money.”

The third mistake is taking the attitude that running the business gets easier once you have adequate investment money Raising money has its benefits, but it also has its strings.

“When you take funding, you’ve guaranteed the hardest job you’ll ever take on, which is managing investors,” she explains.

The fourth mistake is inattention to corporate governance.

“So many companies get started, and they have no idea that the state of Georgia expects them to pay taxes, and to register their company, and to hold the shareholder meeting that they say their going to hold if it’s in the articles of incorporation,” Joan says.


Superlaunching a business is about more than a great idea and a desire to make it big. Achieving success requires vision, coupled with execution. Sharp focus, smart decisions and endurance bring the goal in sight and allow the entrepreneur to become the $1 million man or woman.  

 


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