Rough Year? Don’t Hide

We’re in the final stretches of the year, and hopefully, you already met the plan for the year back in November.  Things are good.  Everyone is thinking about the Stretch plan, or even, the Super Stretch plan.

I hope so.

But the reality is, a lot of you will have had a rough year.  Even a Year of Hell (more on that here).  We all have at least one.  I sure did.

And for most of us, there’s one natural reaction: Hide.  Put your head down, and grind it out.  Try and get that one more customer in the door.  Push harder.  Analyze that data more.  Cut the burn.  Lay low and just “focus” until you can get growth back on track.  Stare at that monitor, until you figure it out.

It’s natural, but please, don’t do that.

As a startup, there are few things more important than Being Present:

  • Your customers need to believe.  They didn’t just buy your product once.  They repurchase it every month, every year.  And more importantly, they are invested in you.  They run their business on your platform.  They need to see you out there.  In the media.  In the news.  On a jet.  In their office.  At the customer event.
  • You need second-order revenue engine needs to still work.  OK, you missed the plan.  But ultimately it’s your customers that beget you more customers.  Don’t cut here.  In fact, do the opposite.  The worse the miss this year, the more you need to go visit your customers.  Get on a jet.  Batten down the hatches.  Make sure that the $2m or $5m or $20m you ended the year with at least renews and grows as a cohort.  Make sure net negative churn is at least covered and invested in.  Even if the rest of the revenue funnel and process broke a bit this year.  You at least know how to make your customers happier.  Everyone at least knows how to do this.
  • The team knows it’s not all Daisies and Unicorns.  They know.  And it’s OK.  Startups are a journey.  Yes, we read about Slack the rocketship and all that.  But even Slack the company had a few years challenging years before it became Slack the product we know today.  Everyone knows there will be ups and down.  They are looking to the founders and CEOs to stay bullish and guide them through the rough patches.  You probably should hide some of the very worst news.  But be direct on how you want to level up everything next quarter and year.  And engage everyone with their best ideas.
  • Lead from the front.  If you aren’t the first one out there … no one will believe.  It’s hard when times are tough.  Find a way.
  • It’s your job to make your company remain as “hot” of a startup as you can.  It does matter if you are hot.  It makes everything easier.  If you’ve never run a hot startup, or worked at a hot startup, you may not get this.  But everything really is easier if you are “hot”.  Hiring, marketing, retention, fundraising, everything.  So do whatever you can to keep momentum going, even if revenue has cooled off.  Show up to that event, that Holiday Party, the SaaStr Annual, whatever.  Keep doing PR.  Do all the podcasts you can.  Get on stage.  Keep the positives of your brand up, even if there are a few more negatives than there were 12 months ago.

We’ve all been there.  I hid a few times.

But I tried at least to always still Get Out There.  Win that Award (even if it was kind of a stupid award).  Get on that TV show (even if no one would really see it but my team).  And close that Important Logo that the team loved (e.g., Google, Facebook, Twitter) … even if the revenue itself wasn’t that material.

Be Present.  Bridge the gap between one great year and the next year at least in part by getting out there.

Published on December 8, 2017

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