Moving at speed… or moving too fast

December 2nd, 2011 → 9:49 am @ Norman

I’m in the office of a start-up company.  The founder is sitting at one of the two desks.  His local Sales Manager is at the other.  I am perched on a chair with my laptop open.  All three of us have our heads down, as we focus on our keyboards.  We’re waiting for team members from the West Coast of the US to Skype in so we can prepare for client meetings tomorrow.

We’re all multi-tasking; fielding emails, throwing comments back and forth about the upcoming meetings, and coordinating our diaries.  When the Americans join us, we’ll do more of the same, although we’ll primarily focus on establishing the client meeting goals.

I’ve been in business since before the internet, and I relish the speed with which we can now get things done.  But I also see how quickly we can now make mistakes.  Tomorrow’s client meeting almost ‘turned to custard’ yesterday.  As we prepared for the meeting, along with the client, emails were sprayed to and fro.  The leader of the client’s team drew some conclusions about what we were offering, and suddenly his emails became laced with concerns… “Could we really capture the data he wanted?”, “Did we really understand what he was after?”  We were quickly on the back foot.  A new round of emails and phone calls calmed his concerns, but I have to concede that we created the problem by sloppy communication.  We’ve had similar problems with internal communication in the past, again a factor of speed.  We’re moving fast, and paying a price for that.

Yet I look at the gains we’re making as well.  With a very small team we are making great strides in product development, market understanding, and sales.   Our business has a long sales cycle, yet our high speed of action means we can operate for an extended period with a small team, which translates to a small budget.  The investors love that. Clearly there’s a balance between speed and effectiveness.  Too fast, and there will be too many mistakes to be corrected, and strategic opportunities will be overlooked.  Too slow and we’ll burn a lot more money to get where we need to be.  But the cash cost of slowing down is my lesser concern.  I think back to past start-ups I’ve worked on.  All the successful ones had high energy and a high pace.  For the others, a slowing pace was often the first sign that we were headed for failure.

Today our energy levels are high, and they have remained high all year.  It’s easier to drive hard towards our goals than to plod slowly toward them.  For that reason alone, I prefer a high-speed start-up building process.

Entrepreneur behavior &Entrepreneurship &Fast Growth Companies &Start ups

Why Invest in a company with the growth trajectory of a woozy snail?

February 18th, 2011 → 1:05 pm @ Norman

I was a judge at the Unlimited Investment Challenge last year and supervised a format that many entrepreneurs are familiar with – a contest to pitch investors, Dragons Den-style to gain a let-up to accelerate their company.

In almost every case, they had “runs on the board” and had demonstrated a market for their products. While most of them were looking for further investment to grow their companies, they were also looking for experienced investors who would come aboard with good advice on how to grow.

“Too often Kiwi start-ups focus on their founder , or product and forget the importance of brand the ability to scale quickly – probably the thing which interests investors most.

After all, why would you put your money into a company with the growth trajectory of a woozy snail?

It’s easy to pick holes in most start-ups and their ambitions. But what I observed was a turning point in New Zealand entrepreneurs and their nascent businesses. Maybe we are beginning to see a tipping point in the kind of people involved in new enterprise.

What I liked is that we are starting to see genuine entrepreneurs coming though. Finally I get people talking brand at me and ultimately that’s all that matters. We saw a group of entrepreneurs pitching to us, not a succession of techos obsessed by their inventions.

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Entrepreneurship &Fast Growth Companies &Start ups

Global Entrepreneurship Week begins

November 16th, 2010 → 4:39 pm @ Norman

This week millions of people across six continents again join the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Week.   They will share new ideas, embrace innovation and seek better ways of doing things within their businesses.

Global Entrepreneurship Week was launched in 2008 when Kauffman Foundation and Enterprise UK decided to provide young minds with the platform to prove their entrepreneurial calibre and turn their ideas into reality. Since its creation, around 10.65 million people from 102 countries have participated in entrepreneurial related activities.

This year, the Week runs from November 15-21 and 103 countries are participating in the event, each running a campaign tailored to their audience and geographic milieu.

New Zealand’s participation and celebration of the GEW 2010 is concentrated towards entrepreneurship in

  • Sports,
  • Clean technology,
  • Women and entrepreneurship,
  • Entrepreneurship in the Creative sector
  • Social entrepreneurship.

The launch event will feature a panel of discussion including entrepreneur of the year Tim Alpe, of Jucy Rentals and Sam Morgan, founder of Trade Me. Further information regarding the list of event held in New Zealand can be found here.

I hope that this platform helps the new age of young entrepreneurs acquire knowledge, skills and networks needed to grow innovation and help bring positive impact on the corporate community and society as a whole.  I’m sending some of my clients along to the Wellington event.

Are you getting involved?  Tell me how.

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Entrepreneurship &Fast Growth Companies &Start ups

One of my companies won an award – I’m proud of them!

August 17th, 2010 → 11:12 am @ Norman

On 6 July 2010, a dinner was held to celebrate TracMap’s success in winning the Emerging Company Award at the NZ Hi-Tech Awards and being recognised as the 8th fastest growing company in the Deloitte Fast 50.

Peter Chin, the Mayor of Dunedin, presented Norman with an award to recognise his contribution to TracMap’s success.

The Award was made, appropriately, from a TracMap mapping unit.  And it is now sitting in my office.

Mayor Peter Chin presenting the Award (photo Mike McQueen)

Colin Brown (CEO), Norman, and Pat Garden (Chairman)

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Entrepreneurship &Fast Growth Companies &Mentoring entrepreneurs