Crowdfunding and the importance of early engagement

Even if you’re not crowdfunding, engagement with your community is equally as important if you’re seeking investment via other sources, just as it is if your focus is ‘simply’ on building your business. So read on.

Many of you will know that one of the keys to a successful crowdfunding raise is your ability to bring a fair bit of the crowd, and their wallets, to your campaign. Opinions differ as to what proportion needs to come from your own networks, but if pushed to a number 30% isn’t an unreasonable figure. There is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence clearly showing the higher proportion you can introduce the better. The variables, such as sector, business maturity, campaign target, current market conditions etc are far and wide so do note that this 30% figure, or any other one you may hear of, is very generalised. Nevertheless whatever the size and financial status of your network, communicating and engaging with that network is critical if it’s to be of any use to you. For avoidance of doubt, engagement isn’t a passive activity and sending off a three-sentence email isn’t communication.

Having been around the startup and crowdfunding scenes a while now, my observation is that typically businesses take way too long to start talking to their networks about what they’re doing. Same story when businesses are marketing and building their prospective customer bases. Often there’s some sort of precipitating event….or a platform catches fire….and suddenly there’s an imperative to start talking to people urgently. Problematically, this is usually associated with needing these people to do something, which might be support a crowdfunding campaign or buy your service, and for them to do that now. Such time constraints aren’t helpful for various reasons; people often don’t respond favourably to time pressures. And especially if you are crowdfunding, your campaign-clock will be ticking; you won’t have the luxury of time.

There’s another truism to be mindful of. And it’s very much part of the British psyche. In a nutshell, your typical Brit is more comfortable sharing the intimate details of their sex lives with friends, colleagues, and random strangers than they are talking about money. There’s a whole other topic here, but suffice to say arousing your network of friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances etc. takes time and can’t be successfully rushed. Yes, I resisted the urge to continue the double entendre and we’re back to talking about crowdfunding. Cutting to the chase, you don’t want to first start sharing the details of your exciting business opportunity with your network on the day your funding campaign gets underway. The courting needs to start much earlier in the piece.

The solution is alarmingly simple; get your early conversations underway early. (Social Media channels, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are ideal for this; but one day you’ll need to include other communication tools, including old-style face to face chats.) You may be 6-12 months away from launching your product or crowdfunding campaign, but there’s nothing stopping you from casually socialising your plans and ideas at these early stages. The fact that you won’t have much detail isn’t a problem, and it will all probably change anyway. And as you get closer to the day you need your network to come to the party, you can and should progressively lift the level and frequency of what you’re saying to who. This will include, when the time is right, becoming very clear on what your call-to-action is i.e. the ask you will have of your network. Amongst other things, when you start having those more direct conversations about how you’re wanting people’s support, it won’t at all come as a surprise to them. Decisions will come quicker and easier. Objections will have been identified earlier on and dealt with as appropriate.

Hopefully you’re reading this article at the right time; if I have however suddenly ambushed you by identifying a problem you didn’t previously know exists, my apologies. That being the case, and taking liberties with part of an ancient Chinese proverb, “the second best time is today”.

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Richard works with entrepreneurs, startups, and other high-potential businesses helping them to fly. You can get in touch with him at richard@mojel.co.uk

He’s also a director of IdeaSquares Worldwide Ltd. We at IdeaSquares support businesses raising investment through equity crowdfunding. Working with us significantly increases the chances of your crowdfunding campaign succeeding. Get in touch http://www.ideasquares.com

It May Not Have Worked Because You Didn’t Do It

I’ve had someone reply to my suggestion about getting some time management training that they didn’t have time to attend. Similarly someone who had attended such a course told me that it wasn’t any good. When I asked which of the techniques taught on the course had been implemented the response was, ‘none’. Go figure.

In the days before I knew better, I tried to paint new timber without bothering with primer or undercoat. I reasoned it would save time and effort and a long-lasting result wasn’t necessary, the timber being part of the stage set for a play.

A fellow more seasoned in matters DIY pointed out that my approach wouldn’t work. He explained the gloss paint I was applying wouldn’t stick properly and the bare timber would also suck up a lot of it. Naturally I ignored this guidance; after quite some time and with close to no paint left I came to the horrifying conclusion I had indeed done it all wrong; the old guy (probably all of 30) was right.

Amongst the consequences were that once I did get the job done it had taken probably three times longer than it should have and I wasted a lot of paint.

I see parallels of this scenario regularly. Sometimes I’m the ‘seasoned DIY expert’, other times an observer from the sidelines. And once in a while I guess I’m still the one trying to gloss unprepared timber….

On occasion the learning experience for the other party is pretty tough. They had been guided to Take This Action in order to Make This Happen. For whatever reason they didn’t TTA and MTH didn’t happen, potentially a significant and unwelcome outcome. It is sometimes true that TTA won’t guarantee MTH happening, but often it’s clear that not doing TTA certainly doesn’t help to achieve the goal being pursued. This doesn’t of course mean you should blindly follow every piece of advice given to you; often exactly the right thing to do is consign it to the ‘not-on-my-watch’ basket. But if you’re seeking out qualified guidance to achieve a certain end and glibly ignore that guidance without seeking to understand it or drilling down to the pros and cons etc., be prepared to find the reason for ‘It’ not going to plan in the mirror.

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Richard works with entrepreneurs, startups, and other high-potential businesses helping them to fly. You can get in touch with him at richard@mojel.co.uk

He’s also a director of IdeaSquares Worldwide Ltd. We at IdeaSquares support businesses raising investment through equity crowdfunding. Working with us significantly increases the chances of your crowdfunding campaign succeeding. Get in touch http://www.ideasquares.com

Does your busy produce cash?

Back in the days when the term entrepreneur was somewhat avant garde, a former colleague decided to leave the corporate jungle and set up her own HR consultancy. Sally spent the next several months kitting out her new home office. She devoted each and every day to researching the best office chair for posture and back health, locating just the right size desk, buying all sorts of stationery ( I helped her with that, I’ve always loved stationery) setting up an elaborate filing system, and of course choosing the best coloured laptop.

What I didn’t see Sally doing was anything related to actually creating her business. There was a rudimentary outline of a business plan – from a typical corporate template- and a simple budget based largely on how much money she wanted to earn from the business. But there was nothing which even approximated determining things like target market and routes to that market let alone going out to find prospective clients to have a chat with.

After quite some time, Sally felt the inevitable pinch of no money coming into the household. She was genuinely  bewildered. Why didn’t she have any clients? After all her friends and former colleagues knew what she was doing including how they could support her. Didn’t they? And what about all the hard work she’d done, including stuff like preparing swathes of useful material such as staff appraisal templates, a guide to managing poor performance, training needs analysis tools and much more. She had certainly built it; why did they not come?

Unsurprisingly Sally came to the conclusion that the commercial world wasn’t quite ready for her yet. She returned to the familiar surroundings of management meetings, report writing, and those business lunches which to be fair she had missed. But Sally Global HR Consultancy Ltd was no more; and nor was it ever.

Sally’s journey was and is far from unusual. And it’s no less prevalent today than it was when Mark Z. was recruiting his fellow under-grads onto a totally new way of organising frat parties and sharing study tips. And rarely is the outcome Sally experienced any different.

Today’s entrepreneur has more tasks on their to-do list than they can ever hope to clear, even with help. Most of these tasks are important. All of them can be confidently justified. And there’s absolutely no doubt that many of these ‘things’ must be done. Yes you do need to see what your competitors are up to on social media, and tracking where your website traffic has come from is pretty much critical. And the myriad of other things that need doing in any business.

But here’s the kicker. At the end of the proverbial, your business needs cash. Cash means clients paying you actual money. Clients are not self-generating.

Most – but not all – of that ‘other stuff’ is important, but if you’re not devoting adequate time to those activities that directly result in more money coming into your bank account than you’re needing to spend, your next best scenario is this: You’re going to be catching up with Sally for a skinny no-foam double mocha, ideally a bit before the lunch rush.  Please tell her Richard says “hi”.


Richard works with entrepreneurs, startups, and other high-potential businesses helping them to fly. You can get in touch with him at richard@mojel.co.uk

He’s also a director of IdeaSquares Worldwide Ltd. We at IdeaSquares support businesses raising investment through equity crowdfunding. Working with us significantly increases the chances of your crowdfunding campaign succeeding. Get in touch http://www.ideasquares.com

Planning isn’t necessary

Said no successful entrepreneur ever. Establishing and running your own business is exciting and rewarding. It’s also challenging and most of us need some discipline to keep the multiple plates spinning. You need to plan your success. 

There are lots of new ideas out there; and there always have been. That doesn’t make the tried-and-true clichés wrong though. Yes folks, feel free to disagree at your peril but failing to plan is planning to fail. Really. 

Look at your diary for next week; next month; the next six months. 

  • You should know right now where most of your time will be spent next week. 
  • You should know right now what your main objectives are, what needs to be done and achieved, for next month. 
  • You should know right now what the higher-level outcomes are must haves for your business six months out. 

If you don’t honestly know what your future plans and objectives are in those terms then that future could well prove to be bleak. How can you hit your target if you don’t know where to aim? 

Of course you can’t plan and predict for every minute of next week. And yes there does need to be flexibility for unexpected and ad hoc events and happenings. But most of what you can and should achieve will happen because you planned and prepared for it in advance. Argue the semantics if you like, but it’s a fair general rule that if you’re not getting the results you’re needing it’s because you’re not planning to achieve them. 

Finally, what tools should you use? Who cares! Go with what works for you. There are numerous planning and task apps, such as Trello, out there. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a paper diary or a wall covered in post-it notes. If it works for you it will work for you. 

As an entrepreneur time is your most valuable resource. You’ve got to be smart in how you use it. And sometimes you’re going to need to devote energy to stuff you don’t like doing; but that’s another topic! 

Do yourself a favour. Check if you’re really planning effectively. If not…well just do it! 

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Richard works with entrepreneurs, startups, and other high-potential businesses helping them to fly. You can get in touch with him at richard@mojel.co.uk. 

Change – It’s Just Business As Usual

Writing about change is an open invitation to roll out any number of cliches. While many of these change describers are to varying degrees true and accurate, I’m of the view that change is a fundamental strand inside each and every organisation’s DNA. Change is not something an organisation endures or embarks upon over and above its ‘real business’; change is certainly an integrated and vital part of an organisation’s business. Therefore developing, delivering, implementing and following through organisational change is a fundamental skill required at all levels within an organisation. Why does change therefore often not live up to our expectations or indeed fail entirely? The answer probably lies in our own belief systems.

Contrary to what some managers and leaders must think, the ability to make change happen and make it stick is for the most of us not an innate skill. Rather than being something intuitive, change is an acquired skill. And that skill is most effectively deployed when those charged with delivering change recognise know and understand that there are steps to be followed with a number of defined phases and stages. Without a basic level of ‘change knowledge’, most people will stumble on and probably get some of the outcomes desired. However they and/or their bosses are likely to be disappointed and there’s a better than average chance that such introduced change won’t bed in for the long term; it won’t stick. Often that’s due to the rubber-band principle; we all know what happens when the energy applied to keeping a rubber band stretched is removed. John Kotter in his book Leading Change describes an eight-stage process to change:

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency
  2. Creating the guiding coalition
  3. Developing a vision and strategy
  4. Communication the change vision
  5. Empowering employees for broad-based action
  6. Generating short term wins
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

Change-failure can often be put down to one or more of these stages simply being totally passed by. Especially the earlier and often softer stages, such as underestimating the power of vision. It’s all very well instructing a work force to just get on and do it but this command-and-control approach fails to appreciate the power and cunning of the forces of inertia.

Again according to Kotter and certainly reflected in my own experience, an organisation of 100 employees needs at least 2 dozen active leaders and zealots in order to produce significant and lasting change. For an organisation of 100,000, that might translate to 15,000 people totally behind making it happen. And you don’t get that sort of commitment by issuing a memo.

So my message is quite simple. If you want your intended change to happen the way you want it to, do it properly. School yourself up on what you need to know. Or bring in an expert who can help you with your change initiative, and also transfer some skills and knowledge back into your organisation. Put a change plan together which addresses each of the key stages and follow that plan.

Of course you’ll have plenty of chances to skip steps or stages you don’t really think are necessary. These will more than likely be the same items that will appear on your list of ‘why it all went wrong’ when you’re asked by your boss to provide a post-mortem report on the outcome you were meant to deliver – but didn’t!

I’m certainly a fan of John Kotter and others who teach similar approaches; simply because these approaches work. If you and/or your organisation would benefit from some help with any part of your change objectives, I’d be happy to hear from you. richard.mojel@consultmaven.com

Marketing is really about all those P’s. Or perhaps C’s. Or E’s…….

In my first formal marketing role office discussions were regularly around the “4 P’s of marketing”, being Product, Price, Place, Promotion. These days there seem to be any number of marketing P’s.  A quick web search shows that 7 is now commonly accepted but scanning down the results page amongst the varying versions I spotted one heading, “The 44 P’s of marketing”; suffice to say I didn’t open the link to discover where the additional 40 have come from.

Any number of market dynamics have obviously had significant impact on marketing tactics and certainly the jargon and therefore presumably the proliferation of P’s. It’s a brave business that elects to ignore the power of social media and rejects the concept of digital marketing; and it’s foolhardy for almost any entity wanting to sell something to someone to deny the existence of those elements. I’m therefore amused/bemused by the number of times I hear self-confessed non-marketers make apparently factual statements about the effectiveness or more to the point, the ineffectiveness, of various marketing channels.  I call them the P-Atheists.

I will however agree that the original P’s may have moved on and morphed into perhaps the 4 C’s, the 4 E’s, and no doubt several other letters of the alphabet. Nomenclature aside, I’m not sure the core principles are vastly different. There just needs to be recognition that the “market-place moves at pace”.

An excellent example is to ask a group of business folk, especially those not formally in a marketing role, their views on the use of Facebook for business marketing. In my experience, the strength of view that Facebook is no place for business activity is astounding especially when those views are based on little or no objective data or facts. To be clear, I’m not advocating or otherwise the merits of Facebook or any other social platform for marketing and other business activity. What I do know is that there are plenty of businesses who do use such social media channels and I have no reason to assume that none of them do so successfully. It’s a safe bet, which I base on absolutely no robust research and analysis whatsoever, that at least a reasonable number of such enterprises do very well thank you from bringing their products and services to their customers through Facebook and similar mechanisms.

I therefore find myself somewhat conflicted. The view that in an organisation everyone is responsible for marketing sits very comfortably with me indeed. However there’s also this Jiminy Cricket thing going on chirping “leave the marketing to the marketers”. My solution for this dilemma is to suggest my own P’s when considering your marketing approach:

  • Be clear on the Purpose of your marketing strategy;
  • Have a documented Plan to address that purpose;
  • Base your conclusions on Plausible analysis and consideration;
  • Ensure your action plans are Pragmatic.

Expert or not, getting down to those basics will launch your marketing thinking off to a good start and all those P’s will become second nature. Well, perhaps not 44 of them…..

Staff Engagement – no it’s not just another fad!

There’s a lot of ‘stuff’ running around about staff engagement and the topic is hardly new or ground-breaking. Nothing I say here is going to change any of that. I do however have a number of observations.

I’d start off with the cliché it goes without saying that staff are an organisation’s most important asset, but from what I’ve seen it clearly does need to be said and, vitally, acted upon. There’s an abundance of lip-service paid to staff engagement, satisfaction, organisational culture or whatever you want to call it. I don’t however see anything like the same level of walking the talk.

It’s a great example of the often huge chasm that exists between the CEO, middle management, and the teams on the ground. The CEO genuinely believes that his/her organisation is highly active doing what is right for the staff, whereas the majority of the people either don’t see any of it or have no faith that anything they say or suggest will be taken seriously. In a simplistic and superficial way, the problem more than likely sits around middle management but that’s not necessarily the actual source of the core problem. Middle managers typically see themselves as the ones who have to act on senior management’s vision and strategy, adapting and modifying it to recognise what they see as the realities on the ground. This is often where it goes pear-shaped and everyone, well at least the senior and middle managers, seem surprised.

Without doubt, I am a big fan of engagement/leadership/culture measurement surveys and related tools, with the caveat that in many ways how these tools are used is probably more important that which particular tool is used. That said, there are some approaches which are better than others especially around the types of questions asked and how the data is interpreted and then converted into actions. (Presuming results of such surveys aren’t buried never to be heard of again, which sadly does happen.) There are still in use some classically stupid questions, such as those around satisfaction with personal remuneration. I’m of the view that you shouldn’t ask questions where the answers are likely to be obvious NOR those which you may not be able or willing to do something about. Consider the scenario where the vast majority of your workforce tells you that they consider themselves underpaid, or they ‘work harder than they should’ for their pay (whatever the hell that means), not exactly an atypical outcome. If the organisation is brave enough to publish, unsanitised, such results then unless they are actually prepared to do something about it all that will happen is they will further alienate their workforce.

Akin to asking the right questions is also getting the context right. For example, many surveys ask a question something like “has your manager praised you within the last week?”. Potentially there could be a lot of ‘no’ answers to that ultimately resulting in said manager being required to address that problem. This is an example of an experience question but the factual answers may not reveal the true position. To do that there needs to be a recognition of the desire i.e. a staff member may have answered no but had they been asked they may also reveal that they’re totally happy with that outcome because they’re not looking for this type of regular feedback. Asking only experience-related questions has a strong chance in resulting in incorrect interpretation leading to misguided, and potentially damaging, corrective actions. I’d also say that this is an area where ‘willing amateurs’ are often seen to venture, believing they are able to design satisfaction surveys which will reveal what the organisation needs to know. The risk of embarking on a correction programme which will probably at best to be ineffective is significant. In all likelihood it won’t be recognised that the root of the failure goes right back to the survey design, data collection and interpretation phases. Much easier to blame first and middle level managers for failing to properly implement the corrective action programme!

Yes this ‘engagement stuff’ is important and it’s not just a management fad. But like so many leadership and management practices, it needs to be done properly and with true commitment.