PODCASTS / E72
JUNE 15, 2022
So, look, there are two young founders I know driving the SW and SE in wrapped vans and demoing the shit out of their early territorial wins. In some cases, sampling, and right out of the van. They even sleep in the vans to save money. Yes, they invested their seed money in mini-camper vans forcing them to be in the field, close to the consumer, the customer, and everyone.
Apparently, they sleep in the vans enough to require pest control and regular detailing.
I’m not naming them because it doesn’t matter for my point in this episode. And they didn’t give me permission. AND I haven’t even eaten their product. And I don’t want to seem like I’m endorsing this or that brand because my LinkedIn inbox might blow up. And I would get super cranky.
I once had a conversation with a rich founder who was doing it alone, from his comfy desk. In his lovely fancy home, somewhere on the West Coast. When I suggested that he had to do something to build awareness inexpensively and that he should sample the hell out of his product locally to generate traction, his response was: “I don’t want to do that.”
Don’t. Want. To. Do. That.
Let’s break this mental trap down, shall we?
I = our hero’s primary dumb assumption is that you can build a brand solo in CPG, with some part-time help, like I’ve built my 1-man consulting business on LinkedIn.
Sorry, no. Just no. Fuck no.
Don’t Want = So, even when you’re rich like this individual, guess what? When you’re in Phase 1, you don’t have the luxury of choosing the growth levers you want to pull based on your bum knee, your lack of social skills, or, in this case, your obscene level of entitlement to a sweat-free growth curve.
Do = Look, execution is everything in growing businesses. It’s 99% execution, 1% strategy. DOING is all there is to do. You never hire a strategy expert into your company for any full-time role (especially COO). You don’t want people like me inside your company, for God’s sake. But see, our rich hero dude doesn’t have an analytical bias issue preventing execution. That might be solvable. Oh no. He’s just not motivated at all. He’s middle-aged and rich. Hence all that ‘doing’ sounds terribly exhausting and annoying and something for young people.
That = Ah, yes, tactics. Avoiding tactics because they make us uncomfortable. We all do this. The “that” in question might take too long to work, or we don’t think we’d be good at it. It could be something simple like sampling furiously at local festivals or events. It could be something sophisticated like boosting our negotiation skills to re-negotiate shelf advantage at the following year’s category review at Kroger.
Don’t be like my wealthy hero, the startup hobbyist who wants to scale alone with minimal effort and heavy application of keyboard tapping. When you herself say, “I don’t want to do that.” the next time, ask yourself these questions:
I can’t tell you how many folks could have experienced Skate Ramp growth had they had a broader, more exhaustive view of the possible tactics to drive rapid awareness inside their niche audience. Instead, they scaled in a B2B model that gets tiring and frustrating after ten years. Trust me.
Anything that keeps you stuck at your laptop beyond financial analysis should be networking to build your professional brand and get in front of investors years before you need to ask for money.
Otherwise, the early years require you to get out of the office, close the laptop and interact with consumers and every stakeholder you can imagine, especially store managers.
Hiding behind a keyboard by yourself is guaranteed to keep your growth rate geometric in most cases. That may be fine with you. If so, great. If not, close the laptop and get out into the world.