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Entrepreneurship = Being Nimble!

And more advice from Amy Millman. StageNext is led by Amy Millman, Joshua Henderson, and Debra Filtzer, who were founders and advisors of Springboard Enterprises. They have worked together for over 20 years to recruit 800+ women entrepreneurs and invest human capital in their businesses, including the leaders of Constant Contact, Minute Clinic, iRobot, Zipcar, EverlyWell, and Canva. They are leveraging a similar process and network to access preferred deals and empower experienced investors and operators to support their portfolio companies. Their vision is to be the strategic capital of choice for women-led growth companies seeking smart money and value-add investors.

1. Old School Business Plans are Obsolete!

The most important aspect I've learned about working with thousands of businesses is the importance of the plan and then executing it. It goes back to how businesses were taught: how do you start a business or consider projects within large corporations? You have a business plan. Those plans used to be about 150 pages long and were obsolete the minute the plan was done. If you go back to that same foundation, it's about something other than what everybody else wants you to do. It's about convincing people about what you are doing and how you will do it. It was one of those moments about ten or twelve years ago. We were doing a program in Australia, and it was the same thing as most accelerator programs or whatever will do. They'll have experts up front talking about how to do something or their perspective on something. And I stopped in the middle of that presentation and said, you know what? This isn't helpful. So, we will have the entrepreneurs discuss their plan, go-to-market strategy, revenue plan, and product development process. We will react to it and have a conversation. We provide insights or support where we can.

2. In the beginning, it is not about the exit!

When working with entrepreneurs, we focus on the plan. And not about what anybody else thinks you should be doing. Now, you can take a lot of critique and advice and factor that into your plan. Let's consider whether or not that's a better focus to go through. These programs support entrepreneurs, and often, we tell them what they should be doing rather than supporting or encouraging them to think carefully about their execution plan. There was an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur, who I spoke with fairly recently about exits. It is understandable for investors interested in the exit because that's their business model. What do you say when they say that? She said, "There are so many opportunities for an exit in this company. But right now, at the stage of business that we're at, the focus is executing on this particular plan, which I've outlined. And I need that support for this aspect because if I don't have the support now, I can't consider, or I will not be in a position to be considered for all those exit options." And it was, again, out of the mouths of serial entrepreneurs who have been through this process that they understood the most important aspect of this, which was executing a plan and getting alignment from those external to the company.

3. Everything comes down to the financials!

The most important things people should focus on again are their vision and their plan. And then, your business's financials and quantification are the most important things. Have you found out what it's going to cost to do this? And what's the upside? How does it grow, or how does it cover your expenses? And people are very reluctant to do any of that. And it's not just for external purposes; it's your internal focus. You are constantly focusing. Many entrepreneurs have yet to do the financial aspect. They're just excited about the product or service that they're doing. And then they realize that the business is the product. It would help if you focused on the infrastructure of the industry constantly. I've got a company I'm talking to now. She's a scientist. She's doing this product, which is about to be tested, and her financial person came to her and said, we're out of money. Okay. And I said, first of all, let's discuss this. Why didn't you know you're out of cash? That means you need to pay more attention. She said, well, I hired this person to handle that. And I said, no, not as a CEO. As an entrepreneur, you need to understand every aspect of your business.

4. Entrepreneurship = Being Nimble

You will find wonderful experiences with very nimble entrepreneurs. One of them is a woman named Julia Cheek. She has a company called Everly Health. She was doing home STD testing. At the time, it didn't require approvals from the FDA. But, the minute Covid hit, she could use labs to produce home Covid tests. And she got immediate approval from the FDA to do it. She took advantage of understanding the market demand to use what she had and her availability to produce something. She was almost the first one to get that approval. So, you have to understand what the market is dictating. How can we address that issue, given our operations? And the other one was great. It was a snack food company called Every Body Eat founded by Trish Thomas that had started before the pandemic and was working through restaurants, clubs, and other facilities to sell these snack foods. Those clubs and restaurants closed down, and instead of just hanging up and saying, okay, we tried this, they immediately got all their inventory back and then started a whole social media campaign with other partners to sell packages for people to go to their homes. At least keep the market and the brand alive during that time. And she probably wouldn't have known to do that if she hadn't had a prior experience of being hit by a market downturn for her previous company. She immediately knew what to do.


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