How to End Every Meeting

Every time you meet with a customers, partner or investor end the meeting with the following phrase.

“Can you introduce me to three other people that I should talk to?”

Three is the magic number because if all you ask for is one introduction then that’s all you will get. Asking for four feels like too big a imposition. But when you ask for three they will generally be able to give you one immediately. They’ll have to think for a bit before they come up with a second and then promise to get back to you with a third. 

Mostly that third introduction never comes, however that gives you an open invitation to reconnect with them at a later stage to ask for that third introduction that they promised.

No matter how useless a meeting felt always ask for introductions. That each meeting lead to the next opportunity.

Strategy 101

Everytime I meet a startup for the first time, I ask the founders what their ambition for the company is.  Normally I have to clarify that “I’m looking for what the company will do for them at the end, not at some intermediate point”.  What I’m looking for is the end point – the destination.

Frequently I’m talking to idealistic young entrepreneurs that honestly answer that they don’t mind where they end up, they are doing it for the experience – for the journey. Other times co-founders look at each other and it is clear that not only is there no consensus but it hasn’t been seriously discussed before.  Both answers makes having a strategy impossible.

Strategy defines how you get from where you are today to where you want to go. Strategy tells you how you are going to get from Point A to Point B.  If you don’t know where you want to go then you cannot even have a conversation about strategy, let alone actually have one.

Many people get confused between tactics and strategy. Tactics define how you are going to hit some interim goal, strategy defines how the tactics combine together to achieve the ultimate purpose of why you founded the company. That should be in terms of you, afterall you’re setting up the company. What will the company have achieved for the founders when the game is over?

Do you want to exit the company through trade sale? If so, for how much? After how long? Do you want a comfortable lifestyle? What does that comfort look like? Do you want to leave a legacy? What legacy?

Imagine your friend says that they want to go on a journey – but they have no idea where they want to go. How can you decide if you should walk, drive, take a bus, fly or boat. How can they convince anyone else to join them? How much money will they need? This is all impossible until they eventually decide on an actual destination, then everything becomes simpler.

Whatever your destination, it defines the strategy, not the other way round. If your ambition is to trade sale the company for €10M then a strategy to raise €20M to fund growth is not compatible. Similarly if your ambition is to sell the company for €1 Billion then a strategy of bootstrapping the company is incompatible.

Once you know your destination it is normally possible to work backwards from that destination. For example if you are going to trade sale to €100M then who is likely to buy you? Why are they going to buy you?

  • For your IP?
  • For access to your customer?
  • For your revenue?
  • For your Profit?

Once you can answer these questions it becomes clearer what type of company that you need to build to achieve your ambition.

Strategy starts with knowing where you are and where you want to go

Ask Questions that Force People to Think About Their Breakfast

Whenever you are looking for feedback from customers try and avoid asking questions that are easy to answer. Rephrase the question in a way that forces the customer to think before they answer.

It doesn’t matter what stage your company is at: customer discovery, product/market fit, market entry, scaling or exiting. Customers will typically answer questions the way you want them answered or in a way that gets rid of you the quickest. This is not what you are looking for – you are looking for insights and understanding.  These are revealed when your customer is forced to think about the problem and in the process not only answers the question you want answered but also provides a lot more context and detail.

Don’t ask

“Did you have breakfast?”

Ask

“What did you have for breakfast?

Don’t ask

“Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?”

Ask

“If you could only eat one meal tomorrow, which one would it be and why?”

Don’t ask

“Do you like eggs for breakfast?”

Ask

“Can you tell me what you ate for breakfast every day this week?”

Don’t ask

“Do you often have Starbucks for breakfast?”

Ask

“In the last month how many time did you buy breakfast at a coffee shop – how often was this at starbucks?”

Don’t ask

“Do you like maple syrup on your waffles”

Ask

“When was the last time you ate waffles? What did you put on the waffles? Would you have preferred to put anything different on them? Why didn’t you?

Think about the questions you are answering and the insights that you are trying to get. If you don’t spend time thinking about how to phrase the question don’t expect your customer to think about the response.