Have you ever heard of the “10 to 1” rule? It’s the philosophy that it takes 10 good things to be said about your company to make up for one bad. Since it’s inevitable that a negative story (legitimate or false) will occur, it’s essential to build up your “good will bank” to protect your image and reputation.
Josh Weiss feels so strongly about this concept that when he started his public relations company several years ago he named it 10 to 1 Public Relations. If you need a visual example of the “10 to 1” rule, here’s a short video that quickly and simply explains the concept.
Josh attended StartupConnect AZ and 10 to 1 Public Relations was one of its exhibitors. Here’s his recap on the day’s events.
Informative. Insightful. Inspiration. Friendly. Busy. Packed. Well worth it.
Those were just a few of the takeaways from the recent StartupConnect AZ conference held on Wednesday, December 8 at ASU SkySong. It was a full day that included a terrific keynote address from Jeff Hoffman of Priceline.com fame, three sets of breakout sessions, a fun pitch competition, and time to network over morning coffee, Spinato’s pizza for lunch and again at a happy hour reception.
Hoffman opened StartupConnect AZ by telling his story, which is actually several stories. He is a goal setter, innovator, leader, entrepreneur and he knows how to let his people do their jobs. More importantly he is a listener, something that helps him connect his product to the everyday person who has dozens of options when it comes to travel.
His success at Priceline.com has transferred to other fields, including music (working with Elton John and NSYNC), movies (producer of independent movies including Cabin Fever) and other tech products like the boarding pass printer at the airport.
He also shared his beliefs to chase excellence rather than money (“Money follows excellence”) and to be the gold medalist at one thing instead of trying to be everything to everyone.
Two things that impressed me about Jeff Hoffman were his interest in the innovation culture here in the Valley and his willingness to engage with the innovators and startups, to hear their ideas and to offer advice. He didn’t have to, but he was a judge in the pitch contest and later participated in the breakout sessions. (Too bad he couldn’t be on all three panels at each session.)
The meat of Startup ConnectAZ came in the three one-hour breakouts (with three session options/topics with panels to choose from during each breakout), where panelists gave their insights, offered advice and answered some really tough questions from moderators and the audience. Craig Fischer from my team (who also helped write this blog post) and I split up and tried to stop in at each of the breakouts. Here’s a recap.
Options for the first breakout session were:
- Finding and Refining Great Ideas
- Tapping into the AZ Startup Ecosystem
- How to Prepare for Insane Growth
Basically, we all see and experience things that make us say, “What if …?” or “Why can’t this …?” or “It doesn’t have to be this way…,” but very few will do something about it and try to solve the problem. This session focused on helping attendees see where great ideas come from – everyday experience and frustrations, the desire to make things better for us and others – and to focus on the real problem.
The next breakout option gave voice to the reality it’s difficult to be a start-up on your own, so take advantage of the resources that are available. The Arizona Startup community is very generous and willing to help – often without expectations of anything in return. So take advantage of the several incubators, co-working space, accelerators, investment sources and events in the Valley and the Southwest.
The “insane growth” breakout had a panel of several well-known Valley companies that experienced exceptional growth themselves. They explained that as the venture grows from a small home-based operation to a larger enterprise, you might realize that you have to grow quicker than expected to meet the needs. If you’re not ready for this, you could be passed by or forgotten quickly. The panel gave lots of examples of how they personally have dealt with such issues.
The best advice was to create a “premortum” document that outlines your plans, your goals and where you want to go with the business. It describes how you deal with customer demand, expand the company, bring in an advisory board and measure the company’s success.
Topics in the second breakout were:
- Protecting Your Assets Early
- Funding Your Venture
- Accelerating Your Venture
Many people have the idea and want to grow the idea, but they sometimes forget that others are out there. That’s why we have attorneys who can help coordinate the legal aspects of a company so what’s yours is yours and minimize your risk if things go south. Attorneys can also assist with filing for patents, trademarks and servicemarks, and workspace agreements. As Jonathan Coury said, “Agreements are your friends” at this stage.
Another panel focused on accelerating growth by doing a constant business review to keep you in focus while maintaining growth. These reviews can be twofold: looking at the numbers (sales, growth, etc.) and listening to the comments. Some of the suggestions include constant testing to see what works, doesn’t work, isn’t needed and might be added; website reviews to ensure your online presence is relevant, accurate and reaching your target market; and reviewing your personal plans (do you want to do this forever? do you want to be acquired?). Most of all, always try to narrow the focus of what you do – remember Hoffman’s motto and be the gold medalist at one thing.
The final breakout session offered panels on the following topics:
- Accessing Powerful Advisors and Mentors
- Launching Your Venture
- Exit Strategies: Begin with the End in Mind
The Valley has several experienced mentors and advisors for start-ups to consult. Sometimes they are individuals, while sometimes it may be through a group. The panel spent some time explaining how they view the difference between a mentor and advisor and what could be expected of each, and provided advice on how to approach the right individual to seek assistance.
The panel on launching your venture focused on how this means different things to everyone. The panel encouraged designing goals and devising metrics so that success – personal or financial – can be tracked. The panel encouraged entrepreneurs to learn to identify problems before they happen, such as not knowing what is happening to your company’s products or people, distractions or lack of focus, and your customer base. Emphasis was placed on working with your team to present a consistent face by reviewing your goals, and agreeing on what success and failure is; presenting a common message; and defining the culture of the company.
The final panel asked that you consider creating an exit plan before you get started. You need to be prepared when the buyout offer comes, but slow the process down. After all there are other considerations such as:
- People who are important to you: family, employees, investors
- Do you want to stay with the company or is it time to move on?
This can be a tedious and drawn out process that may take a year or more to complete. You will need top-flight representation and to be prepared if the process falls through the cracks.
Between nine different breakout panels, Hoffman’s keynote and the Pitch Contest, it was a very full day of learning and networking. I walked away very impressed by the professionalism of the conference, the number of high-quality local tech leaders that participated in panels, and the questions asked by the entrepreneurs. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.