Better planning from the outset will steer founders clear of many problems that can plague them later on

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Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

I’m here today to talk to you about the importance of really nailing your strategy from the outset. I see problems with bad strategy all the time.

Companies that haven’t thought through their retail presence and find themselves in too many doors with not enough marketing money to drive velocity.

Companies that didn’t look at their competition deeply enough to see a new product coming that’s now knocking them off their new product development or innovation game.

Founders who are spread so thin dealing with the day to day that they can’t get to what Stephen Covey called the “important, not urgent work” of deciding what really matters, and what does not. …


When your project goes sideways, don’t point fingers. Lead a post-mortem.

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Photo by Headway on Unsplash

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When people ask me what is the number one skill that change-the-world leaders and founders need to learn, I answer, “learning.”

As founders, we need to fail as quickly and early on as possible so that we can learn from our failures as quickly and early as possible. Learning from failure requires learning how to learn, and to foster faster learning, some of my colleagues and I created a tool called a “pink sheet.” (No, not a pink slip!)

A pink sheet gives you everything you need to conduct a post-mortem on a project or process or event or even a conversation that went wrong. It’s about evaluating something in the past to learn from it. Click here to download a pink sheet to use in your own company. A useful post-mortem includes fully evaluating the situation from beginning to end, identifying and capturing key learnings and lessons, and, most importantly, identifying the tangible steps you and your team will take to ensure that these learnings are redirected or reflected in new projects and tasks going forward. …


Wrestle your schedules to the ground and make those calendars work for you — and your teams

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Hey, folks, I’m not lying when I tell you I had at least three conversations last week with entrepreneurs who were pulling their hair out because meetings were disrupting their days and preventing them from getting . . . stuff done.

My interpretation of their plight was that they allowed different kinds of meetings on different days to fill up their schedules, giving them little or, at any rate, insufficient time to plan, think, inspire, dream and create — in other words, to do the things a founder is best equipped to do.

I asked them when they had their “one-on-ones,” when they had weekly team meetings, when they met with their marketing firm or other outside resources. Sure enough, these meetings cropped up through the entire week and left little time for individual work. I suggested that maybe they could take their weeks and optimize them based on what would make them most efficient. …


A two-day exercise that just might change the way you run your business today and forever

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Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

I’ve led a ton of strategic retreats in my day, as a CEO, consultant, and an investor. I can speak with some assurance that startups are notoriously timid about doing them. Many startups with brilliant products and awesome teams can be too reactive and often focus on chasing the next PO into whatever corners of the marketplace it pokes its heads out of, rather than operating from a well-thought out and formalized Playbook.

Yet your Playbook is the strategic backbone of your company, and retreat is the single best place for creating your Playbook and revisiting it regularly to keep your team focused and on course. …


Your goals don’t have to be identical but they can’t be mutually exclusive either

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I just got off the phone with a terrific group of startup co-founders I know, and we had a good two-and-a-half hour conversation about how important stakeholder alignment is to a young, change-the-world company. Let me tell you a quick story I told them.

About 15 years ago, I met a couple of co-founders who had an exciting company but were also having conflict.

Over a two-day retreat I scheduled with them, we worked through the core tenets of the strategic approach I continue to use at Findaway Adventures. …


Now your job is to show investors they are the right doors. Here’s how.

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Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

My company Findaway Adventures has been looking into a change-the-world startup that makes a product we love.

The company seems to be killing it. In their deck, they boasted that their goal was to get into 1,200 doors, but they wound up getting in 4,000 retail doors. Pretty impressive, huh?

Well, if that’s all I had to say there wouldn’t be much of a blog here. But the hard truth is that “doors” (or the number of physical, brick & mortar storefronts) you are in is not enough. …


A 5-step method for turning a tension into a teaching moment that empowers your team

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Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

One of the biggest complaints I hear from entrepreneurs is, “Why can’t my people think for themselves and make their own decisions?”

I think the answer is threefold: they’re not empowered, some feel they can’t be heard over their louder colleagues, and they rely on gossip and politicking to voice their tensions. Conflict and tension are unavoidable in groups of two or more people. Handled correctly, tensions can help your company identify and work through roadblocks.

As a leader, your task is to create a work culture in which your team feels empowered to resolve these tensions. The alternative is to let gossip and ill-will take their course until it reaches your ears, at which point you may already have a serious division within your team. …


Here’s a tip founders can use when their nice, neat forecasts run smack into reality

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

I was on a call recently with one of the startups in which my company Findaway Adventures is invested. They’ve been in business for several months, and we were talking about their sales. They put together a beautiful three-year budget, including a one-year projection, and have begun to get some actual sales data.

They’re experiencing some pretty wild swings, quite frankly, which is another way of saying they’re not hitting the revenue targets they thought they would.

This is totally normal for a startup company, especially for an emerging new brand in an emerging category for which there isn’t much data and forecasting is difficult at best. The likelihood of budget accuracy for startups is very low because a single account — gained or lost — can create a huge swing in your budget. …


Retailers expect even the youngest brands to come to the table with targeted data

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David Browne is a well-respected marketing research mind in the natural products industry. His career includes tenures at Whole Foods and SPINS, as well as Healthshop.com, where he ran merchandising. However you cut it, David has a deep understanding of the role of data in a brand’s success.

Findaway Adventures recently hired him to help us with one of our investments, so I was delighted when he agreed to be interviewed for the Findaway Adventures Club series “Nail Your Strategy in 8 Weeks.”

In this short video clip, excerpted from a longer discussion of tips and techniques for how startups should be doing marketing research, David picks up on some key issues for early-stage entrepreneurs…


In a fast and fluid environments, titles can create more headaches than clarity

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I’ve been thinking about job titles lately, as they pertain to small startup companies that are gearing up for fast growth. And I think I’m in favor of holding off on them, at least as they are currently used.

The problem with using job titles is that founders tend to give everybody lofty job titles such as director or vice president. There are reasons for this — new hires may be the only ones doing their job, and elevated job titles often come in lieu of near-term salary security. But the problem with making everybody a director or vice president is that someday, probably sooner rather than later, your company is going to outgrow these early-stage workhorses. …

About

@RobertUCraven

Robert is the CEO of Findaway Adventures. He has served as CEO of MegaFood, NewOrganics and Garden of Life & is the creator of the Change-The-World CEO Project.

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