Positioning Your Startup for Success

Starting a successful business takes thoughtful planning and execution. This week, we discussed how entrepreneurs can develop a simple, focused business plan early on to align their efforts to increase their chances of “winning” in their niche. Colin C. Campbell’s “Plan to Win” method involves creating a one-page plan with just a few key components—the story or purpose behind the business, the team, funding requirements, and critical operating metrics to track performance.

Once they have defined their positioning and metrics for success, startups must ensure they have the funding and talent to hit initial milestones.

By defining the space they aim to “own” and their competitive differentiation or “X factor,” startups can strategically position themselves where competitors are not meeting customer needs. This white space strategy, executed well, allows young companies to rapidly dominate an underserved niche. The strategies underscore the importance of laser focus on a target segment rather than competing broadly against big players early on. 

Once they have defined their positioning and metrics for success, startups must ensure they have the funding and talent to hit initial milestones. Colin recommended bringing on business development, marketing and customer support help in the early days over non-essential back-office roles. They can then pour their energy into accelerating growth and control, aiming to hit pre-defined customer, revenue or operational targets that set them up to unlock additional funding and exponential growth opportunities. Following this “Plan to Win” approach positions hungry young companies to earn more by zeroing in on unmet market needs and scaling up efficiently to dominate them.

Check out the full conversation above! 

  • Read the Transcript

    Serial entrepreneur secrets revealed. That is the episode you’re listening to today. This is a live show on clubhouse. My cohost, Michele van Tilborg. We do it every Friday, two o’clock Eastern. So if you’re listening to some podcast or replay, you might want to consider just joining us. Uh, we encourage people to come on stage, ask questions, or even share with us.

    Your, uh, expertise as well. I mean, it’s, it’s a community and, uh, let me tell you, we’re excited. Um, the, the book starts scale, exit, repeat, launched on October 3rd, 30 years as a, excuse me, 30 years as a serial entrepreneur, 10 years writing the book, two years with a staff of six interviewing over 200 people for the book, uh, start scale, exit, repeat.

    And these are experts, authors and serial entrepreneurs. Some of them are billionaires. Uh, we interviewed Jeffrey Moore who wrote Crossing the Chasm. We interviewed, uh, so many people for this book. There’s Kyle. I’ll make you a moderator, Kyle. And if you can, when Michele pops in, if you could, uh, make her moderator as well.

    So we interviewed a lot of people for Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat. Uh, and the story is interesting because. It’s a collection of stories, literally 50 to 60 stories actually made the book, uh, and it’s there, it’s in the book there. A number of them are my stories, and by the way, they’re not just the successes, they’re also the failures.

    Because we can learn a lot from those lessons from The Edge. And today’s topic is plan to win. Be number one at your business, at your startup. Plan to win. Come up with a strategy early on. So we’re actually going to write a business plan today. We’re actually going to put together for your startup. So if you’re, if you’re in the audience, you want to do this, we can actually write your plan and we can do it in 30 minutes.

    And if you do it, you want to come on stage and share it. That would be great because we’re actually, this is something that I do with cohorts. So we do a session, the Alan Levin Center. It’s an innovation center for entrepreneurs. The president calls it a Disneyland for entrepreneurs. And we do a session there and it’s absolutely free to join.

    Uh, we do it about once every two, three months. And, uh, we have a group of about 11 to 12. You don’t have to be a student at NSU. You can be a student at any college, or you can be 60 years old. If you want to join this innovation center. Uh, it’s something that, uh, really enjoy. I have a lot of fun with, and, uh, we start the first session.

    There’s 10 sessions, 10, two, three hour sessions. We start the very first session with my coming in and talking about. Strategy and building a business plan, and we actually build a business plan in under one hour. It’s incredible. It’s a simple business plan. Now, we’re not talking about the business plan you’re going to hand over to investors.

    We could literally take this business plan, pop it into chat GPT, add a little bit of prompt engineering, and that’s the one you’re going to present to your investors. This is a business plan that you can use on your own. It’s called the four sticky note business plan. And why is it sticky? Why four sticky notes?

    Because it is sticky and you can put them up on the board and you can remain focused. I also like sticky notes because sticky notes are small. They’re small so that you could actually write out and be focused. We don’t want this business plan to be overly complicated. We want to make it a very, very simple business plan.

    So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. Michele, I don’t know about you, but I freaked out last night when I saw that we were number one on Amazon in every category that we submitted the book to. Number one bestseller on every category. That was incredible. You know, you don’t think a book that comes out October 3rd is going to hit number one only 29 days later or 28 days, whatever number of days, but you don’t think it’s going to hit number one.

    And we hit number one. Now I know we went on sale for a dollar 99 and you can purchase that book on, uh, on, um, on Amazon. They have an ebook purchase for a dollar 99. And, uh, if you’re listening to some podcasts. Uh, you might want to do that quickly because it was only a 30 day sale. And we, we have about two to three weeks, uh, behind on posting the podcast.

    So you may have a few days left if you’re hearing this in podcasts. Uh, but if you’re hearing it live, you can just jump over there right now and grab it for your ebook. Uh, but I will say the physical book is a lot of fun. Michele, what are your thoughts on the book, the launch, the last 30 days, everything that’s happened?

    Well, it’s been amazing. I’ve been very surprised. No one saw anything intended. But, you know, here you are, a new author, and it’s just been a heck of a ride. It’s so super impressive. But I also know… That it’s warranted because it is really, really a good book. There is a lot of great content and a lot of amazing people that contributed to the content.

    So I, I just think it’s super impressive. Um, you, you dream of these things, you hope for these things, but. I think your hard work and the whole team’s hard work really, you know, is coming to fruition. And I, I really hope and, you know, I pray that everyone who gets it is, can benefit from it and feels touched by it.

    Michele, what’s your favorite chapter?

    All right. So, I think Colin is coming back on here. Yeah, and Michele, what’s your favorite chapter? Well, I personally love the chapter.

    Um, it’s something that in the past I didn’t think that much about, you know, I always just thought of funding as a very linear thing. I love how you talk about and tell examples and stories about ways that people can have their startup and still have control and still get funding. So for me, that, you know.

    That those were some very valuable insights and lessons, but I have a lot of favorite chapters. There’s a lot of chapters. In fact, that’s one thing that’s really cool about the book is I think of it like a reference book. You can’t book it up any, any which, you know, any pages, a number of different pages and just like benefit from it immediately.

    So I, I personally like the utility of it. I’m very much a person that, um, it would be hard for me to sit there and read it all. I like to look for, you know, little actionable things that I can take away immediately, and there are a lot of those. Yeah, I mean, uh, you know, that particular chapter, you know, I, I learned a lesson when I was 28 years old, how not to sell a company.

    So liquidity or control is absolutely critical. And when you read the book, you’ll, you’ll realize that. It was a, it was a huge, huge loss. I sort of don’t want to give it away right now, uh, but the lesson was there and that’s the thing about the book is there’s so many stories and so many concepts in the book that we really delve into to try to figure out, you know, what it is that you need to do to start, scale, exit, repeat.

    Well, I don’t know. Anyway, uh, Just can’t believe that last night we hit number one in every single category that we submitted the book to on Amazon. It’s absolutely amazing. The book is on sale for 1. 99. Uh, favorite chapter. So my favorite chapter, I think, is the one with, um, Joe Foster, the founder of Reebok, because we get into An interesting story, we really learn what he did.

    He, he got to nine million after 19 years. He gets three five star reviews from Runner’s World. He goes into the white space, he develops shoes for aerobics that no other shoe company’s doing. I also call that the X Factor. Does something unique and different that no one else has. He goes into that white space and then Jane Fonda wears those shoes.

    And after, after That aired, the company skyrocketed, went from 9 million in 1979 to over 900 million in 1984, in simply four and a half years. It was an unbelievable story. I’ve gotten to know Joe Foster, and you’ve gotten to know him, Michele. Look, he’s been such an inspiration. He has a book called Shoemaker, and if you get a chance, it’s another great book to look at, but today we’re talking about writing a business plan for your startup.

    And if you’re in the audience, or you’re listening to this in the podcast, you know, feel free to pull out a piece of paper. Okay, if you have For sticky notes. I think that’s even better, right? And I like sticky notes because they stick, they go on the wall, they keep us focused on our startup. So that’s what we’re actually going to talk about today.

    We’re going to talk about We’re actually going to build a business plan and you can, you can, uh, listen in and as we go through the, uh, exercise, Michele, maybe if you want to do this, uh, we could do this for Startup Club, right? I’m putting you to work, right? Yeah, I think, um, the last time we did it for Startup Club, you sure you don’t want to do something different?

    Um, we’ll pick a different one then. Yeah, pick a, pick a different company. We have a lot of companies. Why don’t we do it, why don’t we do it for Pencilla? Just for fun. Oh, I like that. I like that idea. And still is a company that Michele and I, uh, have worked on in the last year. Uh, we’ve invested in or principal shareholders, and it’s an AI company, so it is an AI.

    And the purpose of the company, so you can start right on that first sticky note, you know, what’s the, what is the, what is the company, and the company is a, it is your AI marketing staff. Right. And the purpose is that, I don’t know, we’ll jump into that. What for people? I’m going to just like, since people can’t see, I’m going to tell them the headers on each of the four sticky notes.

    The first one is story, the second one is people, the third is money, and the fourth is systems. Um, this is actually, um, if you want to follow along, it’s on page 125, because I know there are a few folks that do have the book. So the first one, we’re talking about a story. We’re going to talk about purpose.

    And mission, the space you want to own, the front page of Google, who is the customer, your X factor. And here we’re also talking about stage gates, revenue, profit units, and MVP, a most viable product. So what is your purpose and mission? What is the space? And how are you different? Go ahead, Kong. Go for it.

    Yeah, um, hold on. Can you hear me? Yeah, we can hear you. Okay, got it. Awesome. So, I’m sorry. Here, hold on. Are you having a head start with Cheetah again? No, no, no. It’s all, it’s all organized. Cheetah, I like the, uh, the book there. Uh, that’s pretty cool. And, um,

    think of it… In those four modes. Story, people, money, systems. Okay, so we’re going to talk about story. Uh, we want to write down our ideas. So think of it like in five words. What is our idea? Then underneath that, we’re going to want to write out our purpose, our mission, our why. Now why do we have that in the sticky note?

    Why is that part of our business plan? It’s part of our business plan because we want to understand why we’re doing it. You know, my wife and I, uh, travel a lot. And we like to stay in vacation rentals, but we hate the beds, the worn out furniture, the, uh, cookware is absolutely horrible. We love quality of hotels and cleanliness, but we hate the hotels.

    In fact, Michele and I, we traveled to China, I think, 13 times, Michele, for our last company before we sold it to GoDaddy Registry. Uh, I mean, we, we traveled. And, and honestly, we just, I just got so sick and tired of hotels. So when I do travel with my wife, uh, we actually like to choose an Airbnb, but so many times it’s run down.

    And I was thinking this through and I’m thinking, why couldn’t you have a high quality… Airbnb that, that is clean, clean as a hotel, has nice beds, but also, um, has the experiences you get from an Airbnb. So we launched a company called Escape Club, and Kyle here, he helps manage Escape Club, uh, Michele as well.

    It’s a company in the incubator. We’ve got 19 properties, and every single property has a Westin Heavenly Bed. Every single property has the Pottery Barn Furniture. Every single property has, uh, I think it’s Williams Sonoma, or what’s the other one? I think it’s, I don’t know, Pottery, but one of those.

    Cookware. Like, we do the best of the best in every one of these. And by the way, our ratings? That we are one of the top rated Airbnbs on their platform. Absolutely insane. The, the, the ratings matter. The income we generate is much higher because we’ve higher ratings. You know, go back to Joe Foster. 1979, he got ratings.

    That got him attention. A social proof. Alright? The purpose. What’s our purpose? So the purpose doesn’t have to change the world all the time. Doesn’t have to solve global warming. Now, if it does solve global warming, that’s pretty cool. But the purpose, uh, can be simple. And in this case, it’s all about We had a problem.

    We, we, we don’t like hotels and we don’t like Airbnbs. So how can we get the best of both of them? You know, the purpose is that when someone goes on vacation, that’s valuable time. You want them to have a great vacation. I visit these Airbnbs. I go on vacation too, by the way, in these Airbnbs. For the most part, that’s where I like to actually go on vacation because I know I’m actually gonna have a really nice experience.

    I have two of them booked to the next month. Uh, look, so that’s, that’s, this doesn’t have to change the world. Michele, on Meowingtons, I know you run a cat site called Meowingtons, you run a, also, are running the paw. com, you’re working on that now too. So you got a little bit of dog and cat fight going on there, but what’s your purpose for Meowingtons?

    Yeah, this is, that’s a good question. So for us, it is like we want to give cats and their owners a better life. And we do that, um, you know, through content as well as selling products. That helps them live a healthier life. For example, like cat trees and money that we actually earn, we actually do a lot of, um, donations and such to cat, you know, uh, rescues.

    So ours is really about, you know, providing, provide, you know, helping to provide a better life for cats, a better and healthier life. But you also are very design forward. You have these modern homes and or home, sorry, but you know, you’re really big on the design and decor of the products. And I love your, um, cat trees.

    They, to me, they’re a piece of art. Yes. Yeah. To us, that is making the cats life better and healthier because they get to move around and it’s just cats need to be able to have vertical space. Right, so that, that all is part of the mission, um, for us, and we, you know, do so in a humane way. We try to stay away from anything that’s unhealthy.

    At least we would never do that to our knowledge. But we have moved in the direction where anything that promotes cats well being is critical. Yeah, and so we’ve got our idea. On the top of the sticky note, what is it? We’ve got our purpose. No, I thought you were doing right. We got our purpose. Oh, we’re not doing pensara.

    Oh, no. You can do Silla. Yeah. So Silla, so we, we know the idea. It’s to be an AI marketing staff for your e-commerce business. Okay. The, the purpose, the why, the mission that came about because, uh, the gentleman who’s the CEO of that company, a very young fellow, he actually, um, was running e-commerce companies that we’ve invested in.

    As well. So we’re part, we’re investors in those e commerce companies. Uh, and he recognized that, look, I could automate a lot of these tasks, tasks with AI and charge 99 a month. So purpose was to help the sort of the solo e commerce entrepreneur succeed at business because they simply can’t afford to have a hundred thousand dollar a year marketing staff.

    Would you, would you agree with that one on Pencilla, Michele? Yeah, I would.

    Alright, so space you want to own. Let’s talk about that. So I want you to think about if you’re a customer of your services, and I go to Google and I type in the search box something, what am I looking for? Okay? What am I looking for? So for instance, let’s go with um,

    If you’re interested in going to a Montessori school in Fort Lauderdale, uh, and you want to go to the best Montessori school, you might go to the Google search bar and type in best Montessori school, Fort Lauderdale. I’m doing that right now. And, you know, there’s quite a, quite a number of Montessori schools in Fort Lauderdale, uh, and we are On the front page, we’re not at number one, so we got more work to do.

    I mean, that’s a different story. Uh, an AI story there. I told her I could write 10 articles in 10 minutes and actually showed it to her and she was like blown away because of AI. I tell you, it’s amazing. And that could help you with your search rankings, you know, by adding content. But we are on the front page under those terms.

    We are the best Montessori school. We actually have that greatschools. org rating, so we’re not lying about that. But think about your business and what is it that you would type in on Google? And then we’re going to want to write that out. And by the way, we can use these five or six words. As title tags on our website, so we can actually repurpose this plan, not only just for the plan, but also to use it for our title tags.

    So, you know, we don’t want to own, I mean, of course, we’d love to own, you know, United States Montessori school or whatever, you know, get on the front page, but let’s be realistic. We’re not going to own that, but what we can own is Fort Lauderdale. Best Montessori school or Fort Lauderdale Montessori school.

    We can own that. We can get on the front page of Google because when you’re on the second page You’re talking probably less than 1%. I don’t have the exact numbers But I know it’s within this very low single digits that people will ever go to a second page on Google We want to be on the front page of Google.

    What is the space you want to own? You want to think long tail. By the way The more of a laser beam you are, the more successful you can be. Because you’re not, you actually want to provide the best service in the world. Going back to Pencilla, we want to be the best company in the world for e commerce companies.

    Yes, Canva might have the entire market, you know, for any type of small business. But we want to own e commerce companies. We want specific APIs into Shopify and that work with Klaviyo and that… Work for e commerce companies. So we’re gonna want to be a laser beam. We’re gonna want to be, uh, a company that’s focused on one niche and win in that niche.

    We can expand later. But we don’t want to try to compete with billion dollar companies and their technology and their, their resources. We just want to compete with that billion dollar company, but we’re going to do a little bit better job by being focused on one particular niche. So that’s the second thing.

    So what do you think about that, Michele? On the business plan under story, uh, the space we want to own. So the space. So what would the words be? The words would be, uh, e commerce, AI e commerce, uh, marketing platform. Yeah. And I, I feel like we probably could be a little more specific and say it’s for SMBs, right?

    Because, you know, you said specifically, you know, kind of like the, um, problem is like these people, these companies don’t have a big team. So I feel like it’s also for, you know, small e commerce businesses. There’s a beauty in focus, right? Yeah, I agree with that. And so what would be the words be that if you’re on Google and you own any, you own Meowingtons, uh, you’re looking for a platform, what would you type in?

    Okay, I, you know, what would I type in? This is this good question. This is a really good question. I, This is highly powered by AI and it’s a lot about writing copy. So I, I would write e commerce AI writer or something like that. E commerce a, um, copy. Writing, those are the things that I’m thinking about right now.

    Um, I know the platform is going to do a lot more than that. And there’s a lot more keywords, right? It could be copywriting. It could be email. It could be ads. Uh, it actually helps you design ads. It actually does the design of a whole ad. So I think that in itself, you know, social media posts. There’s, there’s quite a few in there, but they’re all around marketing.

    Yeah, so I think you’re, I think you’re dead on. I think we’re, we’re pretty, we’re pretty close. You added the copyright, advertisements, that kind of stuff in there. So I think, I think that’s, that’s a good idea as well. Alright, so the next one we’re gonna talk about, and by the way, I have the book open here.

    I’m not doing this one by memory, everything, but um, who is the customer? Oh, yeah, let’s create a customer persona. For so I would think that a customer persona and let’s just go with this. It’s a, uh, a lady who runs an e commerce business. Uh, we know based on the books, traffic and clicks for start, scale, exit, repeat that, um, the highest segment are those between the ages of 18 and 34.

    So let’s go with a lady who’s running an e commerce company on her own who’s 25 years old who, uh, is selling, you know, 100, 000 a year in products or 10, 000 a year in products. What do you think, Michele? How, which persona would you want to run with? And by the way, it doesn’t, just because this is the persona, Doesn’t mean that people over the age of 34, you wouldn’t sell to.

    Okay, but we do want to use some, try to get some sense from market research as to who would be the buyer. Yeah, I would even, you know, for me, I might even say, um, you know, cause the whole thing is to give the person that persona, like a life, right? So I would say her name is Nicole. She is 38 years old. Oh my gosh, that’s my sister.

    And my sister though is probably about 47 by now. She’s five years younger than me, 48. Oh my gosh, Nicole. I would say she, um, she works a corporate job. She’s, um, really tired of the corporate. And she wants to start her own business. Therefore, she’s been moonlighting and she has an e commerce store on Shopify where she sells handmade, um, dog costumes.

    Like I, I would go to that level, Colin. Alright, so, so we’ll just put Nicole on the post it note and we will put, uh, handmade, uh, Products or handmade costumes for dogs. Okay, but we already know it’s that because above the above this Uh, they we talked about what the idea was and she also has shopify. Yeah, go ahead.

    Yeah Yeah, that’s a good point. Actually. Yeah, because the product has actually been developed for shopify. Yeah, right You need to get specific like that. Hopefully based on reality, right, you know primary research Because then that is telling designers and developers Oh, this person used Shopify.

    Therefore they can think of how they advertise. And for example, if there’s an export, um, or some kind of feed, like Colin said, it would feed into those kinds of tools. It would be part of their, you know, let’s just say their, their work marketing team ecosystem. That’s really important. Yeah. Um, the next one is.

    X factor. What is your X factor? And this was a bit of a controversial one because we have an entire chapter on scale in the scale section of the book Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat where we talk about what is your X factor? What is something unique and different that you have that no one else has? Think of Joe Foster and Reebok and how they went into Aerobics Shoes, no one else was there.

    They went into what he calls the white space. You know, think about paw. com, that’s a company that we have here in the incubator where we’ve developed Memory foam bed rugs. We own. We, we started that category. We created it and we dominate it. Patent. We do what we do need, do do what we need to do to, to pro, create a moat.

    Uh, but we also keep launching new products. We launched a memory, uh, uh, a memory foam car seat. bed, uh, for dogs. We launched a waterproof blanket protector. This is spaces that, you know, had not been invented yet. And we launched those and the company’s been on Inc. 5000 list now three years in a row. So we want to try to go into that white space.

    We’re going to try to do something that no one else has done. We want to solve that bottleneck. We want, you know, think Domino’s Pizza. 30 minutes are free. Back in the day, Michele, we used to own a pizza restaurant, our family. And we’re up in Toronto and there’s a company called Pizza Pizza who, who, who copied Domino’s and went 30 minutes are free.

    And we said, oh, there’s no way they can do that. They’re going to go bankrupt. Well, guess what? They didn’t. And now Pizza Pizza is the largest company in Toronto and Domino’s is the largest in the United States. They re engineered their systems so they could deliver on that. And then they put in a nearly unbearable brand promise, which was 30 minutes or free.

    Think national car rental. You just show up, get in the car, and go. And by the way, that company’s number one in that space. Think about, there’s a company called cookiedelivery. com in, in, in Texas. And they had the problem, like every other bakery, when they deliver the cookies, the cookies… Just, you know, they were, they weren’t as fresh.

    So they came up with the idea of having a truck and regen redesigning a truck so that the truck would cook the cookies on the way to the location. We had a company back in 2007. Uh, lemme tell you this story, Michele. It’s a little bit funny. It’s in the book. Uh, we were a company that did hosting and email for telecoms.

    And we were, we received a phone call that we had lost the contract for Earthlink. It was 80, 000 websites and about a million email addresses or something like that. So, my CTO and I, we get on a plane, we fly to Atlanta. We drive over to the office. Uh, and the gentleman who is in charge of this project, he’s a mid level executive, who’s just, doesn’t want to get fired.

    That’s his number one motivation. And by the way, when we talk about persona, should I mention that? Uh, your customer is not a company. Your customer is not telecoms. Okay? Your customer’s not, uh, Walmart. Your customer’s a buying person in Walmart. Or a buying person, in our case, this person was an individual who was a mid level executive who was in charge of certain aspects of, of, um, technology.

    In this case, it was web hosting and email. And he had to make a decision what company he was going to go run with. See, his number one fear was getting fired. So anyway, he says, let’s go to lunch and unfortunately, uh, we had taken a taxi. At the time, to the office, and we did not have a vehicle. He said, I’ll drive.

    He’s got a two seater Wego electric car. And so, my CTO, he sits in the front, and I climb in the trunk. And we drive over to the restaurant. And that’s actually, we had a saying, do whatever it takes to get a deal. Well, we were doing whatever it took. Right. So I sat in the trunk. We drove, drove to the restaurant and, uh, uh, we offered him a nearly unbearable brand promise.

    We said a 100 percent migration guarantee. Look, at the time it was worth about 350 a website. So we said, if you lose one website, we’ll pay you 350. You lose 1000 websites, we’ll pay you 350, 000. You lose 10, 000 websites, we’ll pay you 3. 5 million dollars. Okay, so this is nearly unbearable. This is like stressing the hell out of everybody in the organization.

    That day we won that contract, okay? But here’s the most amazing thing. Well, first of all, it wasn’t easy. We had to re engineer our entire systems. We had over 200 people in Ukraine. We had, um, developed software and heuristics so that we could be the best in the world at migrations. And then we made that promise to everyone and we started winning contract over contract.

    We won Vodafone, British Telecom, at and t, Verizon. We cleared the fields. Our competitors folded at least pulled outta that out of providing these services and we dominated. Dominoes dominate the space. Uh, National Car Rental dominates the space. Warby Parker dominates their space. The fact is, when you do find your X factor, it could be probably one of the most impactful things.

    Now, it was a bit controversial. I talked to my writing coach about this. I said, I said, you know, you know, I, I, I don’t, I, I’m in between on this one because this is something that can help you scale. You don’t necessarily need it for a start. The earlier you figure it out, the bigger bang you can have. So, you want to start thinking about what could be my X Factor.

    But if you don’t have it from day one, that’s okay. It took us seven years at Hostopia to figure out our X Factor. And when we did, it was game over. That’s how impactful it was. Alright, so, Pencilla. I’m not even going to try, Michele. What could be its x factor? I don’t, I don’t know. Like, what do you think?

    Pencilla? Uh, it’s uh, an AI platform. So what could be, what could, what could it do that no other company can do? You know, and um, It’s about, alright, it’s, it’s doing many things, right? I, I, I want to say one stop shop, but I, I know a lot of people overuse that. But it is your A. I. Marketing team. I’m just, you know, from ads to email.

    That’s what I think it is. And I think what is unique about it is, is, um, you can literally, um, do a whole campaign. Let’s just say with a couple of pushes, uh, you know, clicks of a button.

    Yeah, I mean, but I can, I can get other platforms to do it for me. Yeah, but you know what? ChatGTP can’t do that by itself, Colin. You have to do No, I understand. Right now, I’m, I’m playing devil’s advocate here, right? So to help, help us work through this. It really is like With a few clicks, you can do a whole campaign from social to pay to email across the board with just a couple of clicks.

    In fact, in this one, you know, just thinking about the value propositions, you can also do, you know, a campaign you can fill. You could do it for a whole month. So I think it’s much more than, you know, let’s just say using chat. GTP yourself. It is. It is specifically designed. Um, to make your team, you know what, it makes you CEO, right?

    There’s a couple of things here that are, I think, very unique. It’s a CMO in a box, CMO,

    like, alright, I’m just thinking out loud. No, I know, I know, but this is, this is what I’m talking about. We don’t have it figured out yet. You know, and we don’t have to have it figured out. You can see this, we’re just ideating live here. There was a time when, um, uh, we had a strategic planning session for Escape Club.

    And, you know, we went through the session and I wasn’t too happy with the results and a couple of days later I called everybody back and I said, Let’s brainstorm what could be our X Factor. See, we own these properties on North Captiva. It’s a very interesting community. There’s no cars, just golf carts.

    And we have five houses and seven development lots. Okay? And we’re like, well, what could we do that’s different that no one else has? And we started brainstorming. We said, well, what if we took the dock and the pontoon boat that we have in the company and we made that available exclusively only to those who are on the island or who rent from us?

    And then I said, and then someone else said, well, what if we put together a miniature golf course on one of our empty lots that’s only exclusive? to those who rent from our facilities. See, this is what I’m talking about. It’s about how can you be unique and different. If we do that miniature golf course, we would be the only properties on the island that could get access to that miniature golf course.

    Every time you’re zooming around your golf cart, it shows all the logos, you know, restricted access, access for the following properties only. And it would have a code and you’d have to type in a code that they would know from from renting the place. And that’s… is the next factor. That gives something unique and different for that particular business.

    Try to, you know, think out of the box. Try to solve a bottleneck. Solve a problem in the industry. Be different. And so that’s it. So we’re not going to solve pencillas today, obviously. It’s a tough one. Uh, but we do have to keep moving on because, you know, we’re, we’re not gonna, you know, we’re gonna run out of time if we, if we don’t keep moving on.

    So next concept I want to talk about in the last For this one sticky note, it’s called a stage gate. Now, do you remember that video game where you’d, you’d, you’d be driving and you’d have to get to a certain point in time where you go through a gate and you, you know, and it gives you extended time? It was quite, uh, meaningful for me when I grew up.

    Kyle, you don’t remember this. But we used to put quarters. into machines and you’d have to play a video game. You’d have to, you know, you’d play, you’d be driving, do the driving game. If you didn’t hit your certain mark, you’d have to put another quarter in. And so, yeah, it was a real motivator to try to, to try to, to try to play the, uh, the driving game and perform or else, you know, you’re going to get kicked out.

    So think of it like that. If I can hit a certain point in time, then I can get extended time and I often say, make those goals SMART. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. We’re going to want to make those goals very, very SMART. Uh, so what’s our, and also very specific. So for instance, a good example would be, I’ll have an MVP ready.

    Within 90 days or on this date at this time, I’ll have an MVP ready, or I’ll have my first 100 customers, or I’ll have my first 10 distributors. So I think for Pencilla, Michele, and we should share this one with the CEO, we could go with, um, I’ll have 100 paid customers. within six months of launch. And I think we launched this week or last week, so let’s just say by March 31st, we’ll have one, or April, uh, let’s go with May 31st, we’ll have 100 paying customers.

    Now, if we don’t hit our goal, We either pivot or kill it. Okay, but if we do hit our goal, then we try to set another stage gate or a 10x of that current situation and we set up a new stage gate. But right now we want to hit that goal. Michele, what do you think for, um, the first stage gate for Pencilla?

    What do you think it should be? Yeah, I think it should be um, based on subscribers, right? It’s a subscription based service. So what you’re saying I think is right. I think a hundred and how many months you said three or whatever six months. So I said they have to have a hundred paying subscribers, 99 a month.

    I feel like that’s kind of low, but when you’re at the beginning, it’s a flywheel effect. Remember Jim Collins? I know. I know. Very hard at the very beginning. And subscribers are hard, right? But, um. And I’m saying a stage gate. You want to exceed the numbers, sure. But, just tapping that into the thing. That’s 10, 000 of recurring revenue in 6 months.

    Months at a valuation of, they tend to sell about 7 times revenue. In today’s market. Uh, so. You have a valuation of $70,000? Well, we’ve obviously invested a half million. You’re not there yet, but you’re still in the early stages. Right? But if we’ve done that, then we’ve got enough now to go from 10,000 a month to a a hundred, a hundred thousand a month.

    I’m sorry, what did I say? So, so it was $99 times a hundred, right? It’s 9,900 a month times 12. 118,800. Now you have a valuation of $700,000. With a net investment of 500, 000. Now let’s 10x that. Let’s go from 100 to 1, 000 customers at 99 a month. And now you have a valuation of about 10 million. That’s what we’re talking about here.

    Uh, so I think 100 paying customers, Uh, that’s pretty much break even territory for a company. Uh, that is SaaS based. Uh, and recurring revenue. And growing, of course, and, and following the rule of 40, which is either 40% of growth or ebitda. You know, we cover a lot of this in the book as well, so I’m sorry if we’re, it’s, it’s a little bit complicated.

    You really can digest it a lot better if you actually pick up the book. And by the way, it’s on sale for a dollar 99 right now on ebook. You could literally go to the Amazon Kindle and buy it and follow along and look at the, the illustrations. We have really nice illustrations, including the four sticky note business plan.

    But that completes the first note, the first sticky note. I know that was a lot, right? Yeah, it’s um, it’s a great exercise. It really forces you to think and analyze, um, and see where you have holes, right? Before you even, before you start committing. Yeah, so the second sticky note, On the top, we’re going to call people.

    And this one is simply this. Who are the people we need to get to our first stage gate? If you’re in ideation mode, you haven’t even launched yet, you want to put who are the people we need to launch, then who are the people we need to get to our first stage gate? And, I don’t just mean your employees. I also mean people around you.

    You might have a board of advisors, which I love, by the way. It’s a great idea. Get free labor, as much free labor as you can. And everybody wants to help you with your startup. It takes a village to launch a startup. Don’t, don’t think you’re all alone. So we’re gonna want to identify Maybe virtual assistants, hold on, we’re going to want to identify virtual assistants in different areas.

    Maybe, uh, consultants, uh, who are going to be, do we need programmers? Do we, you know, we want to think about, you know, who the lawyer would be, who the accountant’s going to be. How is it all going to come together? So who are the people we need to get to our first stage gate? And we’re going to put that on the second sticky note.

    So for Pensyla, Michele, Michele. I know he’s got a group of about eight programmers, um, and he has, uh, himself, pretty much. But if he’s going to hit that sticky note of 100, oh, this is a great conversation. What else, who else does he need? Well, interesting enough, I think he needs, um, somebody who does lead gen, because I believe he’s going to mostly sell this online.

    So I’m, I’m voting for a lead gen person, you know, a marketing sales type person with an emphasis toward, um, online marketing. Yeah, I’m actually gonna go with also a salesperson, a BD, someone who can do business development, who can go to trade shows, e commerce trade shows, you know, actually sell, connect, uh, build a rapport, do demos, that kind of stuff.

    So I think he’s, he’s definitely gonna need some help there. We should have a meeting, actually, now that I think about it, with him next week to see if we, we’ve got to make certain he’s got the right tools in place that he actually understands that he needs to complete this four sticky note business plan.

    By the way, you can do it in 30 minutes. It’s unbelievable. A little bit of, instead of just fire, you know, aim, you know, we, we want to, we want to really, I can’t remember the expression, but we want to like point, aim, fire. It’s not, it’s not pray and spray, right? We’re going to, we’re going to be. deliberate about this.

    Yeah, exactly. All right. So that is the people. The next sticky note is how much money do we need to get started and how much money do we need to get to our first stage gate? So how much is it going to cost us, Michele, to get from here where we are now? So I would say that we’ve probably invested about, I don’t know, 300, 000 so far?

    Yeah. The company, something like that. Uh, I know he’s, he’s starting to run low on money. Alright, so he’s going to want to get to 100 customers. I’m going to assume for a minute that it costs 1, 000 per customer acquisition. It’s going to cost a lot at the very beginning when you have a startup. So, in that particular case, I think that he’s going to need about 100, 000 for marketing.

    He’s going to need to retain his eight programmers. So he’s, they’re, they’re offshore, thankfully. So you’re paying less for that. But he’s going to probably need a couple hundred thousand for that. Could need about another 300, 000, 400, 000 to get to his first stage gate. That would be my guess. What, what are your, what’s your thoughts on, on this?

    Is that realistic? Well, um. I don’t think I heard you say a marketing budget. Did you? Yeah, I said 1, 000 acquisition per customer. 1, 000 and we won a hundred. All right. So you already did the math on that. A hundred thousand. Yeah. A hundred thousand dollars. And then you said developers, I don’t want HR. I don’t think we need accounting.

    We don’t need a legal team. And I think we need to know we got chat gpt. I’ve already written two contracts with chat gpt Yeah, I I think we need to pay him too as as the founder. No, no, he’s not getting paid until He’s got to hit another stage gate. Let’s let’s get the stage gate of breaking even and then we start paying We know people need okay.

    Yeah about a salesperson. I feel like he needs a support person. Yeah, probably I don’t and maybe an operator too Yeah, I think he probably. So maybe you’re probably right. So to hit the first stage gate, he may need about 400, 000 more. Yeah, I think he needs a support person and somebody to do operations.

    We don’t want him running around here on fire. We need him focusing and selling and building up this application. We’re going to have to get him to listen to the replay because, uh, the podcast takes about two to three weeks to come out. And, uh, if you’re listening to this, uh, live, you might not know we have, this is an actual syndicated podcast, and you can go to any podcast channel and search for Serial Entrepreneur Secrets Revealed, which happens to be part of the title of the book, Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat, it’s all connected, uh, and you can actually listen to about a 30 episodes and such phenomenal episodes.

    Anyway, let’s move to the last sticky note, which is, uh, oh, before we do that, 82 percent of businesses fail because they don’t have the funding. Okay, so When you, I know it’s, you just want to get it out there. You want to get started. You’ll figure it out later. I understand. But if you can figure it out when you launch the business that you’d have enough money to get started, that’s critical.

    All right, now we just got our, we just got our notice for Entree. Entree is a new app for entrepreneurs and we do a monthly show every Friday, not every Friday, every first Friday of the month, it’s an open mic start, scale, exit, repeat show. So if you’re interested in asking a topic about the book or just having an open conversation about the book, we do that every Friday at 3 o’clock p.

    m. on Entree and that notice just came up. That’s why you had that ding sound. Alright, so the last sticky note is all about systems. Okay, when you’re early on. I admit, you can do a lot of stuff on your own. It’s very reliant on the entrepreneur, okay? We know that. But, if you could do one thing for me, and that’s figure out your KPIs.

    What are your KPIs? Leading indicators. Don’t just focus on lagging indicators when you come up with this. And by the way, This is important for your investors. If investors understand your KPIs, if you are able to deliver a hundred customers with a cost of acquisition of X, with a lifetime value of X, and you were to say to an investor, well, all I need is 1, 000, 000 and I could deliver 10, 000 more customers.

    They’re into that. That’s called an accelerant. Investors hate investing in companies that are risky. And we don’t, and the entrepreneurs don’t know how to accelerate them. They love it when the model’s been proven. So we’re going to want to figure out KPIs. And I actually am a big believer of, uh, leading indicators as well.

    So, for instance, okay, I need to deliver, uh, 30 calls a day to get 7 proposals a week to close 3 deals. So I’m going to start tracking the KPI of how many phone calls we do. You know, at our e commerce businesses, we track our daily spend on advertising, our ROAS, return on ad spend, and we’re expecting a return on ad spend, Michele, of three to one, right?

    Uh, if it’s basically 33%, yeah, 33 percent is pretty much the max. You start coming in at 34, 35, 36%. Then we’ll say, pull back the ads, pull back the ads. Uh, And this was a hard lesson because there was a company that we were involved with the e commerce company who the lady, uh, wasn’t tracking this during a holiday season, ended up spending 300, 000, 80 percent ROAS.

    And we realized after that incident. You need to track this on a daily basis. And the fact that we’re invested in this company, we need to see that on a daily basis. So, um, with e commerce companies, even 33 percent is pretty high. I think you’re probably 20 to 25%, so sort of a 4 to 1 under ROAS is probably better.

    So, Michele, so what do you think for Pencilla? What are the KPIs? Alright, so it’s, it’s um, new ads, so it’s new subscribers because we said that’s the stage gate. So obviously we think that’s important.

    Now, I, I believe that we’re getting a lot of these new subscribers by giving out trials. Okay, so I’m making an assumption here. I want to track trials because I’m trying to get probably trials that I convert to subscriptions. That’s good. Yeah. I’m trying to think of, in my mind, what I’m thinking. I love this kind of conversation.

    I’m thinking, what are the lovers? So for me, I think two of the big ones are lovers and subscribers. Depending on the subscription plan and then if I believe that what do I think is driving these, these trials? Do I think it’s, um, social media ads or paid ads, whatever it is, then, then I would probably have, um, a couple of KPIs around that.

    I think that’s it. I think, you know, what I’m hearing, you know, what we’re discussing is, It’s almost like you could have one. We have a stage gate once we’re talking about right now and levers. But in this company, I feel like the people are going to be absolutely critical getting the right people in the right seats.

    So I probably would have a KPI around that personally, because I think that could be a bit of a challenge. That’s what I’m going with. And, you know, there’s always ones like revenue per user. So probably yeah, average revenue per user. Would be one as well because we’re probably doing a lot of discounted plans.

    That’s that’s what I’m thinking at at the highest level Yeah, um, all right, so you got the arpu and we’re going to also want to track cost of acquisition Did you get that one Michele? I can’t remember cost of acquisition, yeah, right because That’s critical right and Eventually, you’re going to want your cost of acquisition to be lower than your lifetime value of a customer.

    Lifetime value, you can actually just Google it and figure out how to calculate that. But, uh, but essentially, if we sign up a subscriber, they may stay on the platform on average for 7 years, or 6 years, or whatever it is. And they’ll generate X amount of revenue to the company, which if we were to sell that subscriber, it would be worth X.

    So, like for instance, that club, which is an alternative com, net, org that Michele and I ran. We had a, um, uh, a lifetime value of a customer. And we based this one actually on sales in the marketplace. So someone would go out and sell. Uh, a company and it would be based about 110 per subscriber, which is interesting because we were only charging 9 a registration.

    So at the time it had a pretty high LTV and, uh, and it was based on, we had about a million domains, but about 400, 000 renewals. So, you know, renewals is what we really, really targeted. I’m not going to get into numbers here. It’s under, uh, NDA. But I, but I will say that, um, that’s something that we track the lifetime by a customer.

    And then we actually do the math on, on a marketing cost. So we’d pay GoDaddy. We started paying GoDaddy about 700, 000 a year when we first launched that product. And we reduced it over time, but we wanted to make certain that the, the, uh, cost of acquisition was obviously lower eventually. The very, very beginning, your cost of acquisition is going to be high.

    So I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a thousand dollars per customer. And then you generate PR or referrals and that kind of stuff. And over time, your cost of acquisition, acquisition drops. But every, every company is going to want, who’s got a subscription business, you’re going to want your ARPU, your cost of acquisition, your LTV.

    And eventually you have to see that cost of acquisition come down. down dramatically. And one of the ways you can do that is through distribution. We talk a lot about that in the book. All right, so that’s it. I think we sort of figured out the story, people, money, systems. I know this was a master class in building a four sticky note business plan.

    Uh, and, but you know what? It’s, it’s something everyone can do. It’s so simple to do. A little bit of planning. Uh, I know we have to leave in three minutes. If you did want to just raise your hand, ask a quick question, we’re here right now. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll do that. Uh, two minutes now we have because we actually have to do another live show on Entree in two minutes.

    And by the way, I’m following everybody here. Who’s on the state, who’s in the audience following us and everybody who’s, who’s down there because this app, uh, let’s get Richard in here and, um, Richard, you’re going to give us a quick, but I’m following everybody here because this app’s complicated. And by the way, you can click on the three dots and click on, uh, Uh, uh, the three dots with my, click on my face, click on the three dots and actually follow me always and that will help you because when we speak, we, we come on and we have no way of communicating.

    It’s been very difficult. All right, Richard, real quick, how do you spell, uh, how do you spell Andre so I could get on there? E-E-N-T-R-E. It’s entree, it’s an app. So it’s, um, if you go to the app store, type in entree, E-E-N-T-R-E, and uh, we’re just too open mic there, just chatting and, you know, it’s, it’s like we love the sessions.

    It’s like 12 people like. So it’s, it’s, it’s nice and fun and we do it only once a month. So we do that and we do LinkedIn audio once a month as well. All right. If you haven’t already done so, uh, grab the book, Forbes, put it on up for, up for on, uh, Amazon at a dollar 99. Uh, and look, this is 458 pages. This is 58 chapters.

    This was designed for the ADHD entrepreneur. It really was. Uh, it is something that. I’ve spent 10 years working on the teamwork, spent the last two years, uh, working on with six of us, 200 interviews, 200, uh, sorry, 200 call outs, dozens of illustrations, graphics, over 50 actual… Uh, interviews made the book and they were from experts, authors, and, uh, serial entrepreneurs.

    Uh, it’s been quite a, an adventure. We hit number one in every single category yesterday on Amazon that we had submitted to. Uh, so it is a number one best selling book. And it just came out October 3rd. It’s three o’clock now. We’re jumping over to Entree. Thank you very much. Michele, if you want to shut down the room, I’ll jump over to Entree.

    Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, everyone. And, um, if you want to get more information or look at any past podcasts or transcripts, just go to www. startup. club. And you can also join the email list if you want to be advised of any kind of, um, New sessions coming on. So thanks again and everyone have an amazing weekend and hopefully we’ll see you over on entree.

    Thank you.

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