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Entrepreneurs’ Top 10 Mistakes from Apple’s Former Chief Evangelist

Entrepreneurs’ Top 10 Mistakes from Apple’s Former Chief Evangelist

Building a business is hard. Don’t make it harder for yourself by making these avoidable mistakes. Take it from Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s first Chief Evangelist, serial entrepreneur, and VC investor. He’s written 13 books on entrepreneurship, startups and business. Below is an extraction of his 10 tips from a talk at Silicon Valley’s Startup Grind.

1. Projecting based on the 1 percent

How hard could it be to get a little piece of the pie? Guy open by talking about the entrepreneurs who project a huge market and figure that the conservative estimate is to capture 1%. Getting that first 1%, say one million, is no small number. Do you even have traction with your product? Also, no investor wants to hear you only have ambitions for 1% of the market. If your product is worth investing in, it should take significant market share.

Use a realistic projection funnel. Based on your traction and sales, do a more realistic prediction. Do a market feasibility test before prototyping. When you prototype, continually get feedback from your target customers and grow your customer base as you are refining your product. By the time you pitch, you will have real numbers to base your calculations on.

2. Scaling too soon

After raising money, entrepreneurs often put their capital into the wrong resources; they get multiple offices and hire in anticipation of sales to come. As Guy puts it, you have people in Bangalore waiting to provide great customer service to non-existent customers. Because re-hiring later when sales catch up seems inefficient, one isn’t willing to let go of that expanded team. However, your product will never ship on time and your sales will likely never meet your projections.

Don’t hire until you’ve shipped product. Don’t hire in anticipation of growth. Also, the most stable thing to do is to grow a company based on sales revenue and pivot based on market demands. For example, the team of programmers who loved coding began by making Pandaform, but then evolved into a web and mobile development agency that builds products in-house and for clients.

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3. Partnerships…why?

If you have a strategic partnership that translates to opening your sales spreadsheet every day, keep it. Most partnerships are just a patch for a company’s shortcomings. Partnerships entail e-mails, meetings, plans and distractions from selling a product and generating real revenue.

Only sales matter. Guy summarises sales as keeping your investors happy. A startup’s ultimate survival test is to make revenue. Make revenue and you have happy investors, employees, and (a bit more) peace of mind.

4. Treating pitches as silver bullets.

Y Combinator Startup School

    A good pitch may help you win a business plan contest and give a good impression. However, a prototype with real traction is the best way to convince an investor. Guy references bootstrapping to get your startup off the ground. He urges founder to use Rackspace and Amazon Web Services for hosting and social media for free marketing.

    Prototypes are worth a thousand pitch decks. Build a basic prototype and make sales to demonstrate the product you are pitching has potential.

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    5. Slide overkill.

    Despite all the great examples of pitch decks out there, you’ll always have the entrepreneurs who can’t help thinking they’re the exception. They’ll give you 60 slides with 8 pt font. It never works.

    Go with the tried-and-true rule: 10-20-30. 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font

    How can your business model in 10 slides and 20 minutes? Think of the limitation as a challenge to crystallise your idea. If your product is unique enough, it should be easy to convey in one sentence. Also, your slides are not your notes. If pitch shows enough concrete numbers, an investor will follow-up. Check out some of the most successful startup pitch decks online.

    6. Making life serial.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if life went step by step: prototype, raise money, hire awesome people, get sales, hack hockey stick growth, then have a spectacular exit.

    Life doesn’t wait for step one to finish before starting the next. Realistically, an entrepreneur needs to be building that prototype, fundraising, recruiting top talent,making sales, and figuring out business strategy. The chicken and egg feeling will never go away. If you are growing, your next opportunity will always be that uncomfortable stretch.

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    7. Recognise that 51% is an illusion of control.

    The moment you’ve taken outside money, you’ve lost control. Walked out of your last fundraising round with 51% of company ownership? As a founder, you are accountable to all your stakeholders. Your investors may not be that involved in running your business, but they can get 100% involved in voting with their feet. You need your investors behind you, and they get behind you when they think they will get $50 per $1 that they invested in you.

    8. Using patents for protection.

    Guy puts it succinctly: patents are for your parents. You’ll make them happy, and if you’re lucky, maybe the company acquiring you in the future will like it. That’s a big maybe.

    Realistically patents do not bring you sales and if a larger company produces something similar, are you going to sue them? Are you really going to spend all your investor money on litigation? Your investors probably wouldn’t want to take on Microsoft or Apple.

    Market share is the best self-defence. Get over yourself. For every product that you come up with, someone else in the world has probably developed something similar. One of Oursky’s favourite in-house products is Filesq, which is similar to many other prototyping and wireframing tools out there. Companies like InVision got market share. We didn’t. They didn’t steal our idea; most product managers and UX professionals wanted the same thing. Life moves on.

    9. Thinking VCs add value (and trying to make friends).

    Your investors are busy people. VCs and angels alike are looking at a dozen portfolio companies and maybe even running their own business on the side. Of course, they want you to succeed and will pick up the phone to connect you to the right person, but they won’t do much more.

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    Earn attention by performing. VCs think you may be a good investment and after closing the round, they’ll hover to see how you do. Your investors are much more likely to engage if they see you’re gaining traction and growing sales. Guy suggests you expect 2-3 hours from your investor. They’re not there as a buffer for your screw-ups. Guy summed it up as a Tindr world.

    10. Hiring yourself.

    He just gets it. From the moment you sit down for coffee, you two can go on and on for hours. You both have the same vision, concerns, working style and, of course, sense of humour. He fits the company culture. He’s hired. By the time you’re on your 10th team member, you’ve got a hundred blind spots and one big HR problem.

    Fill the gaps with complementary people. Hire someone who is different from you and brings in a complementary perspective. Bringing in men, women, people of colour, people with experience, people with inexperience depending on where you are. You need a team that can make, sell, and collect your product. A systematic way to do so is to map out all the different hats you (and your early team members) are wearing. Figure out where each of you are weakest and where the company has the greatest need. Start scouting for someone to fill that gap, even before you’re ready to hire.

    You can check out Guy Kawasaki’s talks on Youtube. Let us know what your best biggest learnings were as a founder!

    Featured photo credit: Drew Bennett via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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