Alan Knott-Craig Answers Your Burning Start-up Questions On Ideas And Partnerships

Alan Knott-Craig Answers Your Burning Start-up Questions On Ideas And Partnerships

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Q. I’ve been in discussions around three different start-up ideas with three different partners.

I’m hungry to start a business but is it strange that I’m interested in so many different industries? Should I be relying so much on a partner? All I want is consistency and someone who can commit to an agreement and vision, despite the life distractions. Since I’m the common denominator walking away from ideas, perhaps there’s a problem with me? — Anonymous

Finding the right partner is not easy, but no one said being an entrepreneur would be easy.

Energy and integrity will go a long way. But you don’t need a partner to get your dreams off the ground.

If you have enough cash to take the risk, fire the laser.

In reply to your other questions:

  1. You are not strange. But you can’t win until you choose one industry. Preferably choose an industry where there’s lots of money washing around. Better to be a mosquito on a fat artery than on a thin one.
  2. You need not rely on a partner to get off the ground. Cashflow is more important than partners. Having a partner makes life easier. But it’s easier to find the right partner once you’ve started something. The longer you operate by yourself, the less equity your partner will get.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with you. Believe in yourself. Be yourself.
  4. Keep searching. Don’t settle for second best.

Related: One-Year Milestone: Smart Thinking That Will Ensure Your Start-Up Makes It Past The First Year

Q. Our reps are only on commission; however, I feel that they have ‘ceilinged out’ and are complacent. They lack the drive to push themselves to the next level of earning as I feel it’s too easy for them now. Please advise — Robert

I had to ask a friend, Richard Henn, for his advice. This is what he had to say:

This is an interesting dilemma — complacency is traditionally rectified by paying sales people on commission only. If you don’t graft you don’t sell and if you don’t sell you don’t earn.

If your reps are on commission-only there is a problem with how you calculate that commission. This could be due to several things:

  1. The commission per sale is too high and they are earning enough money doing a lower than desired number of sales per month. They are no longer incentivised to drive more sales, which is what your business wants. They easily meet their personal take-home requirement and don’t desire anymore. They have plateaued. This can be fixed through setting a minimum revenue target per salesman, per month (failing which you are managed out) or reducing the commission per sale (this is a sticky one). Alternatively, you need to change your recruitment policy and recruit talent that has higher earning aspirations.
  2. Perhaps you have a guaranteed minimum take-home per month that is sufficient for the salesmen to live on, regardless of their sales achievement. There is a floor to the minimum take-home pay. Cancel this and make it truly 100% commission based.
  3. Dramatically reduce the commission paid up to the break-even revenue (minimum desired sales level, per employee, per month), after this point make the commission higher than what it was.

Related: 3 Tips For Starting A Company In An Unfamiliar Industry

The tougher fact you may have to face up to is that you have a sales management problem or culture problem.

Remembering that “the culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate.”


Read ‘Be A Hero’ today

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Alan Knott-Craig
Alan Knott-Craig is a successful entrepreneur and best selling author. Founder of over 20 companies in the tech space, he was named as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009.