Why you need a mentor

by Daniel Batten on October 12, 2009

Most companies I see are in a conundrum. They wait until they get more sales before doing things that accelerate them – but adopting this approach they are driving with the brakes on at best – trying to light a fire without first gathering the wood at worst.

Several years ago we took a company global with very little money. lot of things using little or no money that make a huge impact on our growth. I broke a whole lot of rules and it worked. By “worked” I mean it got results.

These results
– selling a stake of our company to investors at a higher-than average valuation before we had a market-ready product
– selling our product to a major institute without having any other clients
– asking the former EU-president of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to join our board and getting a yes
– creating outrageous and virtually free promotional-material for our product that helped it to get to top of Apple.com worldwide
– getting a loyal userbase prior to our product launch that did a lot of our sales and marketing for us for free
– writing myself an “anti-role-profile” (all the things I was bad at and didn’t like) and making this into 2 role-profiles for2 experts who we manifest to take these tasks on within one month
– We became one of the government’s “pathfinder” companies.

We also did outrageous things that helped us win. …

These outrageous things:
– We gave away 10% of our revenue to a research charity voted by our end-users.
– I held successful channel-partnership meetings in an Ashram in India.
– We made our product 1/2 price for anyone in a country with GDP below $2000 per capita.
– We brought our entire international advisory board to NZ, onto a yacht, and over to Waiheke for a planning session – without it costing more than a couple-of-hundred dollars.
– We made DVD’s for under $200, featuring members of our company enacting scenes that resembled The Matrix and Psycho, filmed by an award-winning advertising director and put them on our website for download.
– We stopped the whole company working and brought in a film crew to film our team doing a scientific experiment using our software in real time.
– I turned our capital-raising pitch into a story – and we got results in unheard-of time.

We also did a whole lot of really sensible things like develop delivery processes in tandem to sales processes, protect IP, formulate a well-thought out take-to-market plan, do market research before we launched our product, enter strategic JVs, and invest the right proportion of money into sales and marketing.

In short – we did crazy stuff while running our backend processes and financials tighter than a treasury bureaucrat. And it got us a multi-million dollar company that topped the world in the popularity of its product within a couple of years. Investors paid  top-dollar to invest, customers were hungry to buy an unproven product, world-beating programmers hussled us to get the chance for a paycut to work at our company, and top board members and advisers happy to work for us for no cash.

Most companies either go 100% big-vision, or 100% myopia. We found a way to do both without going cross-eyed. Its called “chaotic compliance”. Its a responsible approach to rulebreaking in business. Because I am a teacher, not a general manager – as soon as things were ticking along nicely – I stepped down and now I dedicate my time to help other companies break out of stress and into financial success at the same time.

I was able to do this because I had a top mentor. He stopped me from giving up when I was ready to give up. He showed me how to get investment that I never otherwise would have got, he found a way to get parts of the business moving that were standing still, and he helped me out when I was getting overwhelmed by the stress of leading a company. Any one of these issues if left unaddressed would have stopped us in our tracks, and these were things that neither the board, nor I could have addressed alone. I needed my mentor. Without these 4 things and more, we never would have achieved anything.

If you want explosive growth, fun, each day filled with only doing what you love – don’t even think of taking the next step without a competent mentor.

Once you learn when to apply the brakes and when to hit the accelerator – driving a formula1 company is a real rush – but most companies are in stress and panic, spinning nowhere with both feet on both pedals. Life is too short for that. Get mentored: from the outset.

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