A few days ago, I met with a startup that I have been mentoring for a while. Among the many interesting topics the came up – one really stood out – and that was “how can I get my team to focus on the sales target?”.
The founder has been holding weekly meetings with his 3 young staff and in each meeting, he is showing them literally all the numbers on how the company is doing as well as the sales targets that they individually and collectively need to meet in order to have a fruitful year (again individually and collectively).
Whilst every situation is unique, there are a few points worthy of consideration:
1. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, being completely transparent about everything may not always be a good thing (at least for companies at this early stage). I don’t mean you should hide or lie about facts – as a small startup, you can’t anyway. But at the same time, given most of the people that you would hire at this stage are young ‘interns’, all these numbers can sometimes be too overwhelming and leaving space for unnecessary (and often incorrect) speculations. So be simple more than trying to be thorough.
2. It’s all about momentum – it’s the same for startups and big companies. When the company is doing well, you don’t need to give motivational speeches every week to get people pumped up. Similarly, if the company is struggling, very few (and I may even challenge almost none) will be able to change people’s mindset completely through sheer “leadership”. So as founders, instead of thinking what you should say at weekly meetings, focus on growing the company. I always believe that if the founders do not consider themselves to be the best salesperson of their startups, the chance of success is almost zero. You may be able to outsource the ‘sales’ function, but you can never outsource your enthusiasm, commitment and confidence to succeed.
3. Stay focused. Too often I see startups (again similar to bigger companies), when they seek for growth, they want to try everything. Obviously it’s normal for startups to explore the market, but startups are best equipped to switching the tatical directions quickly (when things don’t work out) rather than focusing on everything (something that no one can do well no matter how big the company is). Being selectively stubborn is way better than stubbornly selective too! So make a choice, stay focus, and go deep. And yes, if things don’t work out, you can always change, and change quickly.