A Saturday Snowstorm

Jan 24

In: Fly fishing, Personal

About 6″ of snow fell today. I went fishing today during the storm. Conditions actually weren’t that bad, and I saw only one other angler.

I hooked and landed two trout. A video of a 17″ one is at the bottom (or, click here). I caught it on a size 32 hook, which is the smallest you can buy. They are a pain to tie given how miniscule they are (see photo above comparing one to a dime). But, small midges are a major food source for fish during winter. I find it ironic that the bigger fish today was caught on the smallest fly you can fish.

A good day.

A POV for Those Who Are Engaged to Marry

Jan 21

In: Family life, Personal, Philosophy

I met up with an entrepreneur this afternoon, and I really enjoyed the meeting. It was our first meeting, and we started to get to know each other.

Eventually, we moved to a topic: his upcoming wedding. I’m really happy for him, and I remember how excited and apprehensive I was when I was at “M minus a few months.” So, I started to think about what worked well during that period and what I would do differently. Here you go:

Surprise your significant other with a gift the day of the wedding. I secretly bought a necklace of pearls and furtively passed it to the maid of honor. I requested that she give the gift to my fiancé after she was in her wedding dress and just about ready to leave for the ceremony. I heard later that this went over well in a big way.

I was placed in charge of the honeymoon and decided it would be a secret. I did tell my fiancé’s sister about the destination (Hawaii) and asked her to pack the bags without my fiancé knowing the destination. So, Mrs. T learned the destination when we got to the airline gate.

Take out one of your future in-laws for a one-on-one discussion. I should have taken out my wife’s father for drinks and asked him this: “You know her better than I do–what can I do to be a great life partner to her?”

Here’s the rub. Everyone is in sell mode when you’re dating. Everyone is in sell mode when you’re engaged. And, everyone is in sell mode during the early years of a marriage, until, I’m guessing here, Year Four or so. Then, everyone lets down their guard and the masks fall away. I think a parent really knows his/her child’s strengths and weaknesses. So, ask. Plus, you will earn brownie points with the in-laws.

Most important: you fiancé should do this with one of your parents. You think you’ve covered up your weaknesses? Nope. You think you’re an easy person with whom to live? Think again.

There you go.

On the Shoulders of MLK, Jr.

Jan 17

In: Personal, Philosophy, Race, Social justice

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This is an amazing photo of MLK, Jr. I’ve been thinking about him, as Monday in Massachusetts is a holiday in honor of him.

Our family is skiing at Stowe this weekend. It is my first time on the mountain, and we are staying at a lodge adjacent to the slopes. Every mountain has its own vibe. Stowe feels very high-end. Nothing wrong with that.

But, it makes me think of the saying: we today stand on the shoulders of giants of the past. MLK, Jr., is one of those giants. He knew, and publicly mentioned, that he would be assassinated. But, he kept going, in spite of this fear.

All this is linked to Stowe for me. Because of civil rights, I’ve been able to work and live where I want. I’ve been free to marry anyone of any race. And, I’m free to go to Stowe, hang out with friends Jeff and Anne Mitchell, enjoy the skiing, and no one gives race a second thought.

That is why, to me, people like MLK, Jr. and Nelson Mandela are incredible heroes, who embodied courage and grit and for whom I am so grateful.

They’re giants.

So, yes, I am enjoying time with the family. We are skiing and having wonderful meals. And, it would not feel right if I didn’t pause, even for just a moment, to recall MLK, Jr.

Friday #FlyFishing Video & Drones

Jan 16

In: Cool, new stuff, Fly fishing

People are using drones to do some pretty cool videos. Some amazing ones involve fly fishing. Every Friday, the folks at Orvis push out on social media that week’s best fly fishing videos. They’re pretty cool.

Today, they circulated the video below (or, click here). There’s a tremendous shot at min. 3:17. Hope you enjoy it. Not sure about the background music, though. Seems a bit like an odd twist to New Order?

Have a good MLK weekend, all….

Why Your B2B Cost Strategy Must ‘Fit’

Jan 12

In: Business models, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Technology and VC

Your B2B cost strategy must match your B2B revenue model, or your business model won’t click. Let me explain.

I wrote in the past about B2B revenue models (here) and the differences between the perpetual licensing and subscription pricing models.

The summary is this. If you charge $1 for your software, a licensing model lets you get that $1 one-time and up front. The cash is great, but assuming no ongoing service revenues, you then have to find new customers at the start of every quarter. For that $1, you’ve given the customer “perpetual” use of the product.

A subscription, say, over three years, gives you $0.33 a year. You get less cash up front, but the ability to have more predictable cash in the future as you collect $0.33 each year and build sales backlog. You have the ability therefore to better predict future revenues. And, your VCs love predictability.

However, if customers churn at a high rate, you get less cash over the life of that engagement with the customer than you would have with the perpetual model. Your subscription model has then effectively subsidized the customer.

And, here’s the rub. Many start-ups have embraced the “new” subscription pricing model but have retained the “old” and expensive go-to-market cost structure. They still have tons of very expensive sales people who do “direct” sales. They do not have the slick web-download-freemium-lead-gen-inside-sales cost structure that better fits with the “less cash now” subscription model.

That happens not because they don’t want to but because they cannot. The market won’t let them. The market isn’t ready for their product and they must invest a great deal of resources to educate customers.

We do a great deal of B2B and B2B2C investing, and we see a lot of business plans in those areas. So, the questions we often ask entrepreneurs are these:

1. Are customers in pain?

2. Is there an identifiable decision-maker with a budget to solve that pain?

3. Do they know solutions exist?

I know these sound like plain-vanilla questions, but I find analyzing markets is very tricky. And, different phases in a market have enormous cost implications for start-ups.  Here are some examples:

Customers are in pain, but it is a low priority. As a result, they’ve not organizationally appointed someone to solve that pain, and your customer acquisition strategy becomes really expensive as you kiss a lot of frogs hoping to find someone with power and money. In other words, your sales reps’ productivity numbers will be abysmal, as it’s hard to get customer to buy when they’re not ready to do so.

The pain rises and someone at a customer prospect is asked to start to look at solutions. But, no budget exists yet. So, the decision-maker who loves you then has to jump a lot of internal hoops to get money from somewhere. Long sales cycle ensues. Budgets are heavily negotiated internally and asking for an exception can be problematic.

Or, pain/decision-maker/budget are there, but no one knows the problem can be solved. You then have to educate the market that a solution exists (and, that among all the vendors, you’re the best). A good example is when Chrysler launched the first mini-van. Families have always needed a larger vehicle that drove like a car (rather than a truck). But, they didn’t know a solution existed. What did Chrysler do? A huge advertising campaign. Fortunately, they were fresh from bankruptcy and loaded with cheap government money. With that pot of cash, they educated consumers on “this is a mini-van and here’s why you need it.”

So, if you’re an entrepreneur building a cool, new B2B product, it is super-important to try to figure out where the market is in its evolution. It is very hard and expensive to accelerate a market’s development. And, frankly, I find that many entrepreneurs under-invest on this front. They overly focus on product and under-focus on where the market really is in its adoption cycle.

I’ll close with a relevant suggestion: check Google keyword volumes and price points as you write your business plan. If customers are in pain and have anointed decision-makers with budget, they’ll be searching online for a solution.

You’d love to find spaces where Google keyword search volumes are rising but where price points are low. That suggests that customers are seeking solutions (there is demand for your product) and there aren’t tons of providers bidding up keyword prices (few competitors for you). That demand-supply imbalance is gold.

And, if customers are seeking solutions, then you can employ search engine marketing and optimization techniques to get prospects to you cheaply. In other words, they come to you. You thereby have radically cut your go-to-market costs.

Of course, an expensive missionary marketing and sales process can work, but that best fits a traditional perpetual licensing model where you maximize cash up front. Which is the point of this blog post: your pricing hypothesis and your go-to-market plans must fit.

What do you do if you already are all-in on a subscription pricing model, but find that a market’s immaturity is forcing you to hire expensive sales reps to do a missionary sale process?

There are some ways around that, but I’ll save that for another blog post. Ohio State and Oregon are about to play for the national championship. Bucs vs. Ducks.