Lessons From The IBA 2019 Accelerator - Part Two
Following on from Part One, here are some more lessons and reflections from our final two months together…
I won’t ever fully understand the complexities of being an entrepreneur in an indigenous community, but it’s humbling to learn
Not a shock, but a constant reminder – I know very little, and I have great admiration for the amazing leaders I work alongside.
The negotiation table is for trading
The temptation for entrepreneurs is to create a product/service, state a price to a prospective customer, then haggle the number lower based on their demands.
While this is common, a better approach is to trade higher or lower;
e.g. offering a lower price in exchange for reduced demands/requirements, or if the customer adds another kind of value (like writing a testimonial).
This changes negotiation from just a fight over money, and instead becomes each party using a range of different valuable currencies (time, money, energy, networks) to reach a win-win deal.
An action plan needs a lead measure and a lag measure
When creating goals and action plans, most people state a future target without specifying any measurements around it.
e.g. We’re going to approach more customers
We’ll relaunch our website
We’ll grow our revenue.
While these have the best intentions behind them, they each need a lead measure and a lag measure.
Lead measures predict results, lag measures track results.
i.e. counting your steps is a lead indicator of fitness, whereas the number on the scales is a lag measure of fitness, and you need to track both of them.
For entrepreneurs, each goal needs a lead measure (I will approach X customers) and lag measure (we’ll see sales increase by Y).
This nudges you towards useful action, and helps you check if your efforts are working.
If you can’t break a big task down into 2 hour components, it probably won’t get done
Making bold declarations are intimidating and exhilarating, but they don’t always translate into genuine change.
My sense is that this is heavily influenced by the number of pieces the challenge is broken into.
For statements like “We are going to scale our methodology” or “We are going to strengthen our online presence” do you know how to get started?
If you see this as one huge challenge, it’s hard to keep the momentum up.
However, if you can identify the 30-40 smaller steps that need to be achieved, the task tends to happen quickly.
For a lot of people, they have a lot of two hour windows to make a dent in a challenge.
If your challenge requires them to spend a full three days on an issue to get started, it’s unlikely to get done any time soon.
Advice and feedback from customers counts double
During feedback sessions, not all opinions are equal.
If 50% of the room love the idea and 50% aren’t sold, don’t stress until you work out which people are representative of your market.
If the prototypical customers love it and everyone else doesn’t, then you’re on a winner.
If the prototypical customers don’t love it and everyone else does, then you need to ignore the false positive and address the real issue.
By all means be gracious to everyone, but don’t take all feedback at face value.
Learn to recognise and record great testimonials in the wild
People come out with incredible quotes all the time, often without realising their value.
When you hear people speaking highly of your business, quickly grab your phone or notebook and write it down.
These are highly valuable, and can become excellent quotes for your website or marketing material.
Bonus points for quotes from former skeptics, their words can help other skeptics to overcome their hesitations.
Coffee with an industry expert is incredible valuable
We hold a showcase event at the end of the program, but this is by no means the only place to connect with industry mentors.
In fact, a coffee with an expert is 10x more valuable than a 3 min chat in a loud room.
You have their undivided attention, enough time to establish context, and the chance to learn from the types of questions they ask and suggestions they make.
Be inspired by elements of other people’s ideas, and repay them with encouragement
Stealing entire concepts rarely works in business, the other person tends to have significant insight and momentum that makes them well placed to succeed with their idea.
However, imitating small elements of other people’s ideas can be valuable for you and harmless to them.
These might be the way they tell stories, the type of business cards they hand out, the way they define their social mission, how they use social media, the ways in which they thank/reward customers, how they recruit good staff, etc.
I suggest repaying the people you imitate with gratitude and encouragement – tell them how much you value and respect the way they conduct themselves.
Gratitude and appreciation beats envy and jealousy every day of the week.
Momentum is contagious
There is something electric about being surrounded by people who get shit done.
Sharing in their momentum is joyful and contagious, and will inspire you to keep chipping away at your project.
It’s a cliché for a reason – surround yourself with good people and good things will happen.
Our WhatsApp group is full of news about little wins that stack up over time, and it’s great to have so many other people genuinely cheering for you as you grow.
You can tell how well your pitch went by the questions you receive
The test of a pitch is not “Did it get questions?”.
Some questions are good news – they prove that people understood what you said and they are interested in learning more about your idea.
Some questions are bad news – they prove that your communication didn’t hit the mark, and you end up repeating yourself.
Some questions lead to an opportunity, suggestion or introduction.
Some questions are an excuse for others to crap on your idea or prove their intelligence.
Expect to receive all of the above, and mentally sort through them after pitch night.
Facts are getting in the way of a good pitch
Just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s a helpful addition to your pitch.
The audience needs to know the bits about your idea that are interesting or remarkable, and those points need some space around them in order to be recognised.
Think of it as the difference between an art gallery and a picture framing shop – dedicating space to something makes its beauty more apparent.
Worst case scenario, trim facts from your pitch and use them as supporting evidence when people ask you questions.
Stories explain your mission really well
Mission statements are often dull, whereas stories are captivating.
If possible, consider using stories as a way of “showing, not telling” what you believe.
They will stay with your audience, and quickly explain the purpose and mission of your business.
You can use the voice of your customer to praise your work
In some cultures (especially Australia), we take self-praise badly.
A solution to this is to use the words of your customers/fans as a proxy, e.g. reading out quotes and testimonials of people who appreciate your work.
This gives you the chance to highlight the strengths of your programs while still remaining humble.
Not articulating your secret sauce is like not having secret sauce
If you can’t define what your business/methodology does differently, do you actually have a unique/superior business/methodology?
We call this your “secret sauce”, it usually starts out as something that you do instinctively.
For your impact to scale, you’re going to need to start producing this sauce in larger quantities, which requires a clear recipe and an eye for detail.
Otherwise you build a job instead of a business, and will struggle to train new team members to get the same calibre results as you get on your own.
Don’t put small text on your slides
Guy Kawasaki says to “Use a minimum of 30pt font”, and it’s a great principle.
If you have to shrink your text below 30pt in order for it to fit, then it doesn’t fit.
Only use videos if you control the tech setup
There are so many parts of a video that can go wrong, so I only recommend using a video in a pitch if:
a) You can live without it
b) It’s downloaded and fully offline
c) You’re using your own computer to play it
d) You have your own connectors/cords
e) You’ve practiced with the TV/projector in advance
If these are too hard for you, scrap the video and use a series of photos/screenshots instead.
It’s often classier and harder to derail, so you won’t lose confidence when the venue’s tech inevitably misbehaves.
Apparently I have a new nickname:
I’m grateful to have been so heavily involved in this program, and have really enjoyed watching some wonderful entrepreneurs find their confidence and their voice.