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PARTNER CHECK LIST
Selecting the right business partners can make or break a venture. What starts out all enthusiastic can lead to exponential growth, bitter bickering or suffocating stagnation.  In order to line up an A class team with the unified spirit and mission of the Three Musketeers, we produced a simple check list.

Careful consideration can make sure that you are aligned with the right people, for the right project and at the right time.

THE CHECK LIST

  1. VALUE: How do we create more value together than apart? Do you agree on the weight of that value in equity terms?
  2. COMMITMENT LEVEL: Is this a marriage, casual dating or simple flirting?
  3. ETHICS: Solid, Soft or Sketchy standards?
  4. EXPERIENCE + KNOW-HOW + KNOW WHO: Useful now, in the future or never?
  5. MINDSET: Hustler, hunter or farmer?
  6. RISK LEVEL: Same or Different.  Complementary or Conflicting?
  7. EXTERNAL VOICES: Supporting or Concerned?
  8. SURVIVAL FACTOR: Are you in the same boat in financial terms?
  9. SCALE: Small is beautiful, Go Large, Super Size Me?
  10. EXIT: Keep It or Sell It?

THE POWER + IMPACT OF CHOICE STYLES
Building effective teams demands total clarity on how potential candidates make choices.  Powerful teams align the different decision making styles.   Failure to understand this can weaken the venture´s foundation and slow down growth.  The three main styles are: generators, selectors + de-selectors.

GENERATORS
green paint brush Generators see the gaps, visualize alternatives and produce options.  The best generators are called visionaries.  The upside of generators is their ability to constantly open up fresh doors of opportunities.  The challenge of this profile is diffusion.  Generators tend to be the founders, CEOs, heads of business development and the engines of research groups.

SELECTORS

two blue doors Selectors see the gap, yet struggle to visualize endless options.  The best selectors apply strategic and operational logic.  They keep focused on measurable results.  In other words, they convert a generator´s concepts into concrete value. The challenge of this profile is missed opportunities or worst yet failure to recognize serious competitive threats. Selectors tend to be the COOs, line managers and responsible for profit + loss centers.

DE-SELECTORS
single green door
De-selectors are tough ones.  Everyone knows these types.  You ask them what they want for dinner.  They respond with a smile and say whatever you like, what do you have in mind? You say this, that and the other thing.  Each time they give you a disapproving look until eventually you say Swamp Stew.  They respond, perfect!  You see, the de-selectors only ever had ONE option in mind.  And anything short of that is a threat, problem or fails to get them fully engaged.

Now the challenge is, that de-selectors enter the ranks every single day.  They make solid YES MEN at the lower ranks in non-democratic companies where they have relatively little decision making power.  Yet, as they rise into positions of power, this weakness can undermine a department and even an entire company.  This mindset stifles debate, starves innovation and disregards external dynamics.

While there are some powerful minds who operate through the de-selector lens, it is far better to keep them as friends versus professional team mates.

CHOICE PAIRINGS:
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Pairing of decision makers:

GENERATORS + SELECTORS         = EXPLOSIVE GROWTH

GENERATORS + DE-SELECTORS   = STUNTED GROWTH

SELECTORS + DE-SELECTORS      = STAGNATION

THEN ROME
Military strategies apply here when thinking about launching a start-up venture or expanding into a new market outside of your hometown advantage.  The concept is simple:  small, tightknit, scrappy, underresourced groups driven by an almost maniacal focus gain their greatest number of victories in smaller villages and outlying provinces.

The speed and success they acheive in making their early wins in smaller neighboring towns emerges into a broad based and emergent voice that gains with each market battle secured.  People spread the word, join the team and become advocates of the mission.  Eventually, the big city will open its gates and invite in the oncoming group.

Trier:  Northern Hub of the Roman Empire

Trier: Northern Hub of the Roman Empire

 

SMALLER VILLAGES
Starting up on main street vs wall street might have less sex appeal.  Yet, it is here where you can afford to figure out what you are actually doing without drawing the attention of the T-Rex giants which dominate the cosmopolitan centers. 

This is particularly true in retail.  If you look at the bottom line of most retail chains, the bulk of their profit revenues come from the stores in 2nd and 3rd tier cities.  The flagships in prime locations are de facto counted under the marketing budget and are justified as brand awareness sites.

SMALL TO TALL
Once you overcome the mental barrier that you must launch your next great thing in a major cosmopolitan center, you can shift into winning victories in the places where the buildings are small, win a loyal auidence and build up a pool of capital and cultivate word of mouth champions.

Eventually, people will actually pull your product or service into their big city through inquiry versus you pushing, shoving and kicking the door down into the mosh pit of hyper competitiveness. 

WIRE IN THE TALL WHILE IN THE SMALL
Many urban pioneers feel they are out of the loop and in a castaway location when out of the megatropolis.  They fall into a funk.  This is more about the day to day social scene versus the reality of access to talent and know-how.  With high speed connectivity being relatively cheap and widely distributed, it is a matter of reshaping the mindset to accomdate for a decentralized way of life.  

LOCATION LANDSCAPE
Yes, there are major  trade-offs.  The opera, ballet, rock concerts, jet setter dinners and fancy shops are harder to find outside of the mega urban centers.  That is why it is important to select an environment that appeals to you visually and to your hobbies.

I for one, am almost always by the seaside, lake or mountains.  There is something powerful about those landscapes which energizes me.  One friend and former associate lives high in the mountains in Brazil in a village of 300 people, while he runs his company which employees 5000 that is spread across the country.  He and his family love the high-tech rural lifestyle. 

It is all a matter of figuring out what you want during those build up and frontier years.  Once you gain strength, you can take visits to the big city and then ultimately a proper return to the scene to participate in the market. 

RETURN TO THE FRAY WITH ASYMMETRY
Once your management muscles are developed and your scrappy team stronger in numbers, you can return to the big city and jump in the game.  The reality is, though, the landscape will be filled with well resourced players who seek to fend their client base.  This is when you must apply the know-how, skills and grit gained and focus on your strengths.  On the battle field, this is known as guerilla tactics or asymmetry.

You must find niches, subniches and innovations which win over the clients with your lean pockets.  And at heart, to stay strong in the game, always keep a spirit of asymmetry.

THE START-UP SEVEN

  1. Get operational as fast as possible.
  2. Focus on cash generating, rapid break-even opportunities.
  3. Collaborate first, hire second.
  4. Manage growth. Focus on core offering till you are sustainable.
  5. Focus on cash.
  6. Factor in health activities to avoid burn-out.
  7. Educate and encourage family and friends to understand of your venture to ensure inner stability.