This is the third phase (fourth blog post) of the Acceleration Project.
I was thinking back to a strategy session I was having at one of my early startups I co-founded many years ago and the conversation went something like this…
“We need to flank the competitors with an innovative approach that would allow us to establish a beach head in the market from which we can defend ourselves from a growing competitive threat…”
Not surprisingly, as entrepreneurs we often use military battle terminology to describe our startup execution strategy. That is because as entrepreneurs we are in a battle against multiple forces all the time: competition, customer acceptance, lack of sleep, and most importantly, time.
What also shouldn’t surprise any entrepreneur is how much similarity there is between military strategy and startups in the famous quote by German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, “no plan survives contact with the enemy”.
Moltke’s overly simplified quote isn’t supposed to be interpreted as planning is futile but instead that military strategy should be seen as a systems of options. These options need to be tested and executed based on how the situation unfolds when the battle begins.
Why then, do some entrepreneur’s stay mired in an outdated concept of a fixed plan (business plan) as the way to move forward? Launching a startup is much more similar to starting a battle where you must be ready to pursue a myriad of options based on how things unfold.
That is the bases for this phase of the Acceleration Project, simply stated as, the Acceleration Phase!
After teams have been recruited and armed with the latest weapons (business basics, business model strategy and customer development) they need to start engaging in or simulating their business in order to start discovering what options they have to move forward.
First, each team is required to create an updated one-page business model canvas to describe where they think they are with respect to their business idea. Think of this as their battlefield map.
Next, each team must “get out of the building” and start testing their hypothesis of their canvas by engaging potential partners and customers to see if what they are proposing actually makes sense.
During this phase of the project, there are a couple of structural changes that must happen as well. Each team must be paired with a set of advisors that have been through this process, have investment experience and/or have understanding of potential target customers that the team believes is their best initial set of customers to engage.
Finally, the teams must be held accountable for progress. The advisors should behave more like a board of investors where they push and ask tough questions that keep the team moving while also removing barriers if possible.
Ultimately, we want the teams engaging, testing and reacting to situations as they unfold. As they progress through this process they will learn a tremendous amount about the validity of their business ideas and potential new, never before thought of routes for success.
The results after engaging in this process may be that some ideas just weren’t that good and a team might decide to retire from the battlefield without claiming victory. More likely, however, the teams that have engaged in this process will have identified innovative ways to attack their problems and grow their business beyond the current battle into a long-term viable and successful venture!
Next phase – celebrating success!