I remember well the fights with my parents over tidying up my room. I mean, is that really necessary? Organised things are for dumbs, smart guys can navigate in chaos!
Over time, I found out I can avoid this boring task when there is nothing to clean. Everything can be put back to place after I stop using it. And this simple principle works great everywhere. When I do it right at first, I don’t have to get back to them.
It’s even more important in business. Your goal is to build a successful business, and you may want to have an option to sell it in the future. It won’t help if you know, how to navigate the chaos. The investor wants to be able to navigate it itself. Each missing contract, IP or makeshift arrangements will be grounds to hammer the price down. And cleaning the mess during the due diligence is nerve wracking and sometimes even impossible.
Do I know, where and how all my contracts are organised? Do I have that code from a friend covered with IP assignment? Is my accounting showing real accruals and aging of A/R? … Anywhere where I can be tempted to cut a corner and have a temporarily easier way, I should ask myself – if I was an investor, what would I say to this? Well, I rather work overtime to do it right. Because cleaning sucks.
One of my best business rules is 2x ASAP, a.k.a. “As Soon As Possible & As Simple As Possible”.
Imagine two beach bars: at one, you may select one of five main courses. Costs for the operator are lower and service is way faster. Everyone is happy (except 2% customers, who always complain). Compare to a bar with 60 main courses selection. It will take 20 minutes at least for each customer to make an order. It will cost a fortune to handle the complexity in the kitchen. And because it will also take longer to prepare, you will only be able to serve about a half of the potential customers. What’s better?
We are seeing this all the time with our portfolio companies. They come up with a genius idea, but then they fine tune it for so long that it becomes a monster. Typically, a price list. Instead of a price for a service, we read through many exceptions, bundles etc that all make perfect sense alone, but together it is almost impossible to get it right. And implementing it takes soooo long that the world is different by then.
Customers are no rocket scientists. They hate studying complicated proposals. Their attention span is short and if they are overwhelmed, they leave. Focus on 90% of them and make the decision simple. And do it now.
When dating with prospective portfolio companies, we often get asked about our role in our portfolio companies. How much hands-on are we? Do we interfere in the founder’s decisions? Our reply to that is: “As you wish“.
We are a team of entrepreneurs who have seen that and did that. We have deep vertical expertise in different areas, but we do not push anything. If you wanna go your way, fine with us. If you wanna ask for our experience (and then do it your way), even better :-). We seldom ask for extensive veto rights or Board seats. We believe in accountability of the founders and to be accountable, you need to be in the driver’s seat. Our central value is to support the founder: with finance, with experience, with contacts, with being someone they can trust.
Do all of our founders ask for help? Nope. About 20% prefer to be left alone. With the rest we try to help as much as we can.