business plan

The most wonderful time of year (to work)

Wonderful time of year imageThe past couple of weeks have been busy with Christmas, and New Years Eve holidays. It’s the time of year that lots of people take time away from work, and email inboxes quiet down. Many of the days around the holidays have fewer people in the office, and there are very few scheduled meetings. It all can amount to a unproductive environment at work.

And yet, for me the holiday weeks have always been some of the most productive times of the year. I relish the days where I don’t have any scheduled meetings, there are fewer emails to respond to, and I can focus on the big picture. For this small company CEO, these past couple of weeks are critical to success in the new year.

I’ve spent the time working through our strategic and financial plan for year ahead. I’ve pored over financials, dug deep into the strategic possibilities, and had long conversations with advisors and mentors that I trust the most. I’ve read business related materials that have helped round out my thinking, and I’ve had quiet time to contemplate the year ahead. Indeed, for me it’s the most wonderful time of the year to work.

This first week of the new year, I’ll meet with the whole Punchbowl team to unveil the fruits of my labor: a well-thought out strategic roadmap for the year. It includes not only a clear description of how I made decisions, but also a product and marketing roadmap for the year. While I can’t predict whether or not the plan will be well received, I can be assured that I’m well prepared and that the plans have not been made rashly.

Even though I’ve worked most days over the holiday period, don’t be mistaken. I also had lots of time with my family, and plenty of time to see friends. But I was in the office on all of the work days, and spent evenings and some of the weekend at home thinking about work. I never shut off work like I do on vacations.

I’m not a fan of cold weather, and I would gladly trade one day in the summer for two days working in the winter. I’d rather work hard during December, January and February than during beach weather. I look forward to this coming summer when I’ll take a couple weeks off and enjoy the weather. That will be my reward for working hard through a time of year that lots of people shut it down.

SWAMI SAYS: Did you take a lot of days off this holiday season? Next year, consider working as much as you can during the holidays, and taking more time off during the warm summer months. You’ll start the year feeling ready to go and fired up.

Should I write a business plan?

Over the past year, I’ve spent some of my time mentoring new startups. It’s one way for me to stay connected to the entrepreneur community in Boston, and the new ideas I hear from other entrepreneurs helps me with my own thinking.

In these advice sessions, I’ve often been asked by new entrepreneurs, “Do I need to write a business plan?” Every time I hear this question, I think of old school business men who once read a book about how to start a business back in the 1950s. Ask your father about how to start a business and he might say “First you need to write a 50 page document that covers every possible pitfall of the business. Then you need to find investors who will provide you feedback on that business plan. Then you’ll be ready to start a business.”

I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a business plan. I wish someone had told me that back when I started Punchbowl. I remember very clearly wrestling with this fundamental question. If I’m starting a business, surely a need a business plan… right? Isn’t that what makes it legitimate? (more…)

Top 10 of things to consider in a business development deal

Later today, I’m speaking at the Momentum Summit conference, which is being held at MIT.

My topic is “Forging Business Development Deals & Partnerships that make sense.” As I thought about this topic, I started to make a top 10 list of things to consider in a business development deal. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a good start as you consider forging partnerships for your start-up.

One important note: from my experience, there are a lot of large companies that want to do deals with start-ups, but they don’t recognize that they are large and you are small. Use this list as a litmus test for any company that contacts you. Is it really worth your time to pursue a partnership? Why? Although it can be hard to do, often the best decision is to say “no thank you” and walk away early in the discussions. (more…)

What’s the budget?

When you work at a large company, every year the middle managers go through an arduous budgeting process. It’s a very important component of managing at a big company — you need to justify your future quarterly expenditures and try to predict all of the things that you want to do in the coming year. My boss at Adobe was brilliant at the budgeting process. His creative brain and analytical thinking always enabled us to have big budgets to do lots of different projects. He was great at getting the money, and we always found a way to spend whatever was allocated to us for the year. Often, we would have to spend a lot of money at the end of the year. That way, we could justify asking for the same amount (or more) for the coming fiscal year. (more…)

I’m speaking at the Momentum Summit

When I started the Startup Swami blog, one of my goals was to be more visible in the start-up scene in Boston. It’s easy to go weeks (months) heads down working on Punchbowl without spending any time attending or speaking at any industry events.

A few weeks ago my colleague Scott Kirsner (who writes the Innovation Economy blog at Boston.com) asked me if I would be willing to lead a session at the upcoming Momentum Summit at MIT on June 23rd. After a few email exchanges, we developed a topic: “Start-up Deals that build Momentum.” (more…)