Super Bowl LI was devastating for me, the Falcons fan. I was extremely saddened that the win went through our hands. It would be nice to call foul or #deflategate or whatever on the Patriots but, they were the clear winner. I ended up watching the game again and I finally understood the problems in Atlanta’s approach and saw the benefits in New England’s approach. Both made crucial decisions that lead to one getting the ring and one just being sent home.
There were several moments in the game where penalties cost the Falcons yards on offense and defense. At one point, the Patriots progressed down the field on more penalties than actual yards gained during their possession to score a touchdown. The Falcons were not gaining as many yards as they were giving away which led them to a high burn rate and losing their grip on the ring.
For startups, those yards are your cash and customers gives you cash. Many new startups will spend a large portion of their budget on marketing for proper brand position and some new marketing process that’s “guaranteed” to convert. If you are overspending regularly, it won’t be long until you run out of runway and another funding round may not save you.
To avoid high burn rates, make sure you are creating good habits to keep down penalties. This could be as simple as establishing a good CRM automation workflow to guarantee you are nurturing leads. 17hats, Ontraport, and Hubspot offer great CRM automation tools and you can always pair them with Zapier for other tools. These tools can assist in keeping vital engagement that leads to customers giving you cash.
The Patriots had an issue with burn rate as well in the first half. Brady was sacked a few times, costing the team yards and, of course, that interception that led to an Atlanta TD. Both teams were experiencing similar problems but the Patriots did something the Falcons did not. They redirected focus and attention to the plays that worked the best for their team.
As a startup, you will have plateaus where growth has slowed or you see a decline in revenue. Throwing money at it may not solve the problem. Look at the analytics of the business and redirect your efforts on the best performing products and the customers that have purchased them. A coupon or offer can assist with retention to keep your customer engaged and bring new ones.
SurveyMonkey and Google Forms can assist in your renewed focus by providing a platform for you to poll your customers. Find out how they are using your products and get ideas on how you might improve them. The renewed focus will help you improve on already proven models to restart your market traction and get out of your rut.
The Atlanta Falcons is a young team with new ideas and ranked in the top five of the league for the 2016 NFL Season. Their plays are fresh and athletes like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have become household names because of the work they have done. This team brought some new ideas and showed just how much of a threat they could be to the league.
New ideas and innovation can easily get a young company the spotlight because their product is shiny and new. It could be an improvement on long standing ideas or a complete disruption. The downside to innovation is that it can be uncharted territory so it may or may not make long term practical sense. You must decide if your innovation can stand the test of time. Vine is a great example of an innovation fad. We all miss it, though.
A great way to test the viability of your innovation is use case scenarios with potential customers in your target market. You may offer a free trial or discount of your product or service to that company if they will apply it to real world application for a use case study. Attaching a brand to a use case helps to validate your products and your brand.
In the last 6 minutes of the regulation game, Tom Brady became one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He applied pressure and took chances based on his veteran qualities of being against the wall and pulling out a championship anyway. He thrived under the pressure and made smart decisions that led his team to close a 23-point lead to win it all.
In this instance, Brady relied on ideals he already knew would work because he had the wisdom and knowledge to produce the moves needed for the win. This wisdom can only come with doing and most startups don’t have as much experience with the doing. Wisdom in your team could mean the difference between failure and success if you do not have the right players.
Vet your team extensively by asking questions about their knowledge of the industry and check their LinkedIn profile for referrals or other companies in the industry. They don’t have to have 25 years’ experience to bring wisdom to the team but they do have to know the history to anticipate the direction it will go with your innovation. It will be challenging to improve on a process if you have little knowledge of the pain points and how they came to be.
Additionally, you NEED a mentor! Every business at any level needs a mentor. Mentors are there to provide a wealth of background and feedback to educate you and improve your company. Mentors will likely also give you access to vital connections to help build your brand and prepare you for your industry.
Both teams played well, Atlanta in the first half and New England in the second half. The remaining lesson there would be to never think you have it in the bag. There’s always time on the clock to fail but you can be on the path to success if you control your burn rate, redirect focus during slumps, innovate for long term application, and keep wisdom in your circle.