Business Challenges? Tackle Them Like a Startup Founder

By ​Rob Falcone

March 27, 2014

Picture this: three people with minimal cash and a bowl of ramen noodles trying to win a share of business in the emerging social media landscape. That was me four years ago, prior to joining Monetate, a startup founder in every sense of the word.Little Giants

What I’m learning now, as I talk with marketers from some of the web’s largest brands, is that the challenges they face—lofty goals, tight budgets and heightened competitive landscapes—aren’t all that different from start-ups. What is different, though, is the way startups respond to those challenges.

Woven into the DNA of startup founders is the ability to do more with less while still succeeding in trying conditions. Here are three ways to act like a startup founder within any organization:

1. Make your bet

First Round Capital founder Josh Kopelman asks entrepreneurs to distill their business down to one “bet,” which will lead to success if it hits, or result in a pivot if it doesn't.

For many of the marketers I speak with, the bet is that putting customers first is the way to win business in digital, and that all strategy should be crafted through this lens. Within your organization, what’s your bet?

2. Form your team

No, I’m not talking about asking for budget to go and hire. I’m talking about Little Giants recruiting. In a startup, you don’t have a ton of cash, or an established product, or a 401K, but only a vision with which to attract talent. This may also be the case in your organization or for your project.

Walk down the hall and find a few smart, hungry people from departments outside your own, buy them a beer, and pitch them your problem/initiative and your vision to solve it. (The beer helps quite a bit here.) Let them know how they can be critical in your success, and how it will benefit their own careers.

3. Think long term, act short term

Building a company is, by definition, a long-term endeavor. But there is ample work to be done in the short term.

In my case, our startup incubator gave us ten weeks to build a social media platform and go-to-market strategy worthy of pitching to 200 investors. The situation within major brands is no different—18 month re-platforming projects are a necessary component of long-term growth. At the same time, you can begin to test assumptions, and enact strategies that effectively win business—and make you a hero—in the short term.

Start-up founders are looking for ways to solve a problem in the market. They are looking for ways to do so with minimal resources. And they are looking for ways to do so as fast as possible. Sound familiar?  You may be one at heart.

Rob Falcone is the former Director of Solutions Engineering at Monetate, where he helped brands such as Brooks Brothers, Famous Footwear and others accelerate digital revenue growth through personalization. Prior to joining Monetate, Rob co-founded an award winning social media startup that was selected for funding by DreamIt Ventures, one of the world's top 15 startup accelerators. A Philadelphian born and raised, Rob is a diehard Phillies baseball and Drexel basketball fan.

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