Here are some reflections on 2020, our most challenging year since we started in 2003, and our current plans for 2021.
Reflections on 2020, Plans for 2021
2020 has definitely left the building, my only fear is that it will prove to be an average year: worse than 2019 but better than 2021. Time will tell.
Some Reflections on 2021
- 40 Tips for B2B Customer Development Interviews: this post on B2B customer development interviews builds on one of my most popular posts from 2011 that I have been revising periodically sense. I decided to refactor it in January of 2020: it’s a long post and is also available for download as an e-book.
- Clayton Christensen on “How Will You Measure Your Life?”: Clayton Christensen’s death in January inspired me to revisit his 2010 address to the graduating class of Harvard Business School, where he suggested a several strategies for a successful career and a happy family. The three ideas I found most useful were: explain your models and let people reach their own conclusions; live your purpose as your identity not as something you can compromise; entrepreneurs–acting as managers and leaders–can have a profound impact on their employees’ lives.
- Austin Kleon on Making Lists: To-Do, Ideas, and Do’s & Don’ts In March I featured five kinds of lists that Austin Kleon suggest in “Keep Going.” To-do’s and idea lists are not uncommon but his suggestions for writing down your operating guidelines (your do’s and don’ts), where you need help, and what you are grateful for are more important.
- Essentials of Selling Your Expertise In a Webinar In March when the lockdowns first hit in California it was crystal clear that this would be a year for webinars and virtual meetings. The best webinar has more than one speaker in a lively discussion that includes interaction with the audience. Here are some practical tips for preparation, attracting the right audience, lively interaction, and follow up. Entrepreneurs can leverage the webinar format to share past results of your work with clients, demonstrate your ability to diagnose and solve problems, or showcase your thought leadership on an emerging challenge your prospects are likely to face.
- Making Business Decisions in Uncertain Times I wrote this in April as it became clear that entrepreneurs were faced with business challenges and a level of uncertainty that was unprecedented in recent memory. Established approaches and well-tried options would no longer work, forcing us to make business decisions in uncertain times. This article collects some useful tips for making better business decisions that I have learned over the last 40 years.
- Joe Rogan: Be the Hero of Your Own Movie In October I discovered a short inspirational talk from 2014 by Joe Rogan and realized it was even more applicable in 2020. Rogan begins: “Be the hero of your own movie. If your life was a movie and it started now. Forget about whatever financial disasters you’ve had, personal failures, relationship failures. What would the hero of your life’s movie do right now? Do that. Do those things.”
Our Plans for 2021
Our current plan is to continue to refine and improve what has been successful in the past.
Bootstrapper Breakfast® meetings moved online in March of 2020 (Bootstrapper Breakfast and Lean Culture Move Online in March 2020). We offer them as a service to the community, for entrepreneurs who want take part in serious conversations about building a business and make a difference in their approach. In June of 2020 I wrote New Startups Form in Private Conversations to offer some suggestions for how entrepreneurs could it easy for potential cofounders to find them based on the problem they are working on or customer need they plan to address.
Our Mastermind Groups continue to help entrepreneurs see their blind spots before competitors do. The Bootstrapper Breakfasts are a great way to get perspectives on challenges you face, the Mastermind group allows you to meet with the same group of entrepreneurs twice a month for two hours so that over time everyone gets to know everyone else’s business quite well. Learn how a group of trusted peers can give you an extra competitive advantage in your business.
In How Can I Manage the Stress of a Startup? I observed that bootstrapping a startup is buying a ticket for an emotional roller coaster. This is one of the reasons I founded the Bootstrapper Breakfasts in 2006. It’s a low key roundtable discussion among serious entrepreneurs. You can see a schedule at https://www.meetup.com/Bootstrappers-Breakfast-SV/ Entrepreneurship is a a very demanding calling. I try to compare notes regularly with a number of other entrepreneurs. I ask for help and criticism so that I can improve, even when it stings a lot, and I try to be helpful to others where I can.
In November we launched our Working Capital Book series with our first volume: “It Takes More than Cash.” Here are two blog posts that are chapters in the book and a complimentary review by Bob Biglin:
- A Practical Introduction to Social Capital for Bootstrappers
- Building, Borrowing, and Keeping Trust
- Bob Biglin’s Review of Working Capital: It Takes More Than Money
And a bonus blog post related to social capital, from Christmas Eve 2015: No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends
We are planning for four issues of the SKMurphy Newsletter in 2021, here is our most recent issue: Newsletter December 2020: Withdrawal and Return
Advisory Services: the bulk of our efforts continue to be to help our clients generate leads and close deals. Probably the easiest way to explore if we can assist you is to schedule an office hours working session. Here are two blog posts to give you a flavor of our approach:
We started SKMurphy, Inc in August of 2003 as Silicon Valley was trying to figure out how to recover from the dotcom crash and economic fallout from 9-11. We started blogging in October of 2006 with “Welcome Entrepreneurs!”
Our focus is helping startups find early customers for emerging technologies. This is very different from the traditional sales and marketing at established firms. Correctly identifying early customers who can be references to others is key to introducing emerging technologies.
Although emerging technologies change the rules and often enable far reaching growth most early adopters are focused on near term risks and benefits, and it is to those concerns entrepreneurial teams need to speak to get a foothold.
Sean Murphy in “Welcome Entrepreneurs!“
2020 forced us to take a step back to take two steps forward, but it’s a familiar experience.