Accomplice believes in the tireless push forward, the sometimes tenuous, always anticipatory grind involved in pushing change and creating sustainable businesses. We have lived the grind of start up life and we uniquely understand the passion. We recognize that excited, passion-driven, at times uneasy, leap of faith because each one of us have made that jump at some point. We’ve learned how to survive the leap and sustain the growth over time. We bring to the table the benefit of perspective from the other side. This drive has become the center of our ethos as a team — the heart behind our name, Accomplice, and the soul behind our conviction of our method: we conspire, we create and curate alongside you—with your goals held as closely as our own. Which is why, when we were presented with the opportunity to be a part of Season 2 of The Pitch podcasts, we were all in. The Pitch offers select startups the platform for connecting with investors directly, by allowing them to give their “pitch” on the podcast and receive feedback and, hopefully funding support from a panel of seasoned investors. Think Shark Tank for podcasts.
During the 2-day production and recording of The Pitch Season 2, we had the privilege of spending time with each of the start-ups looking to scale. The strategy teams of Accomplice met with each start-up for a 2-hour work session. We spent time hashing out target market, sales cycles, market differentiators, brand and tone development, key product strategy, user personas, potential pitfalls, and laying out a prioritized checklist for scaling. The industries represented by the start ups varied, from healthcare to social media platforms to food delivery mobile apps. Yet, many of the challenges they faced were similar regardless of the industry.
On everyone’s mind was the conversation of fundraising — how do we raise enough capital to grow? And when we really dug into those conversations, the burning questions weren’t necessarily about fundraising per se, rather they were about strategy. The funny thing about strategy is, everyone thinks they have one. But how do you know when your strategy is actually….strategic? And how do you know that it is, indeed, the correct strategy to solve your problem?
Truth is, moving from an idea to operation is daunting. And scaling that operation for maximum growth can be overwhelming at best. Somewhere between product development, design, revenue, and understanding profit margins — it seems success is won and lost in the details. It is in these moments that strategy feels less like a roadmap and more like a wish list.
In these moments, strategy seems almost ambiguous. The ritual of defining it seems to be subjective. But the truth is, it’s a mental model of step-wise growth. Taking apart an entire picture, putting it back together again — in steps. And understanding that those steps are critical in creation. Good strategy is the game-plan derived within the context of the end-goal. Without taking into consideration the end-goal, the influencers, and the process over time — it can be difficult to hone in on clear, real strategy.
So what are the tricks of the trade in the strategy game? What would you say if I told you that the tricks are rarely one-size fits all, but they always start with the same considerations?
1. The right product pointed at the wrong audience, is still wrong. Knowing your target market helps define your product, your features, and your outcomes. Who is your buyer and who is your product user? This is the first step in managing your expectations of performance. Once you identify the players in your product existence, you can begin to cater your approach —whether sales or experience —to the audience you are talking to. This saves you money and time in the long run. The first step in strategy is knowing who, what, and where it is from this point, you build. Without this information, you are just guessing.
2. Feature sets that don’t add to the brand experience, take away from it. Products are either an extension of your brand or comprise the entire brand offering. As a general rule of thumb, offering feature sets that add to the brand experience and bring value to the interaction are worth pursuing. If you tell me that the feature is the “next big thing”, “everyone’s doing it”, or “it looks really cool”, I will likely tell you, “no”. Because at the end of the day, if the feature set is not useful, it’s distracting. And if it’s distracting—then you are losing the attention of would-be brand promoters. Putting the kibosh on random feature sets is the first step in strategic design. It tailors the conversation you are having and helps you define that roadmap that everyone needs.
3. If you expect your sales cycle to take three steps, chances are it takes five. Here’s the thing..people don’t make decisions in a bubble. Sales cycles are funny things. We used to be able to define them clearly. There was one step for every intention — however, today’s consumer is more connected, occupies more than one consumer space, and can access information in seconds. This connectedness dilutes typical sales cycles making the need to outline the expected and actual sales cycle to be even more necessary in defining your go-to-market strategy. If you are going to sell something, probably a good idea to know how long it’s gonna take until you see cash.
4. Burn the Boats. In 1519, Cortes announced to his waning army of conquistadors to burn the boats. No going back now. There’s something strategic about being all in. At some point, in your quest for strategy and your push to create something sustainable—making the decision to jump and iterate as necessary — is key to pushing through. Be in, all in. Half in is as good as all out. But make sure you are flexible because you need to survive— you don’t have a plan B, remember, you burned it. Don’t hold any single idea too closely. Be willing to adapt to your evolving growth and circumstances. Be malleable as you grow. Burn the damn boats, claim your stake, and set out to thrive.
They say that making something difficult look effortless is the sign of skill and skill is born in those tireless moments of the push forward.
To that point, here at Accomplice, we move one direction — that’s forward. Strategically of course. And when we are in, we are all in.