How to win with corporates

I have always held a strong belief in the outsize value of strategic partnerships. And I must confess it has been a frustrating pain to be part of and watch a lot of good intentions end in absolutely nothing.

I am by no means alone with that experience. In fact I think it’s fair to say that it’s more the rule than the exception that these partnerships between corporates and startups don’t work. The excitement at signing is almost inversely related to the feeling of frustration and banging your head against the wall, once the partnership has to be implemented to start delivering on all the promises.

But it can be done. One startup, I have worked with over the last few months, has managed to get to a winning formula, and I thought I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my learnings from it in the hope that you might use them to improve your own prospects with getting a great return on your strategic partnerships.

The first thing to consider is whether or not what you’re doing solves a real pain that the corporate has. Yes, we all know that big corporations can struggle with innovation, but that’s not where the real potential lies. Due to the law of big numbers, it makes much more of a dent in the corporate structure, if you can help them sell more or what they are already selling.

In essence that means that if you have something that makes the corporates product better in itself or provides leads for more sales of their existing product by giving their sales people cloud cover to reengage with their customers with something new and exciting, you could have something that is very valuable to a strategic partnership. But you need to have it mapped out beforehand in order to put yourself in the strongest possible position for identifying the right partner and do the hard negotiations.

If you succeed in coming up with a partnership, the hard work truly starts. A lot of startups mistakenly think that it’s all about teaching the corporate to adapt to their more lean and efficient way of doing things, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case. What I see working is in fact more the opposite; that the more you can factor in how they work in your own process and be open, transparent and accountable about it, the easier it will be for the corporate to integrate you and your product in their offering – which is essentially the only recipe for commercial success with a corporate.

Finally, you need to ensure that incentives are aligned. No matter what the corporate might tell you, its a matter of fact that they are ruled by objectives. That also means that key stakeholders bonus plans are tied to objectives, and they will do whatever they can to succeed with those in order to get bonuses and promotions. Nothing else will really be touched. So be damn sure you understand their objectives, their KPIs and bonus targets, and do whatever you can to slot into that in the simplest possible way. Make it super easy for them to engage – the less they have to think about it the better – and you’ll be in a good position to achieve success.

Does all of the above mean that you always need to dance to the corporates tune? Well, if you want to succeed with a strategic partnership centered around marketing and sales with a big corporate, I think the answer is yes. The balance of power isn’t in your favor, and the only thing you get from insisting you’re equals is…nothing. Then it’s much better to just eat humble pie, focus on the end goal of making things work and making a solid profit. And then stick to the formula.

That should enable you to consider frustrations over failed strategic partnerships a thing of the past.

(Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash)

3 tips for setting OKRs

Today marks the beginning of the last quarter of the calendar year 2021. For many that’s an opportunity to assess previous objectives and set up new ones for the new quarter using the OKR method made famous by Google.

That’s all great. But what many find is that OKRs can actually be quite tricky to set up in a truly meaningful way. So let me offer 3 tips for how you can get more our of OKRs.

First of all, think of OKRs as essentially a Christmas tree that cascades down through your organization. You start by identifying one big hairy goal (=objective) for the entire company and 3-4 key results that supports the goal in the sense that you will know that when you achieve these results, you will most likely have achieved or at the very least moved a lot closer to achieving your objective.

Second, take those key results and turn them into new objectives further down the organization. And let them create their own key results that supports reaching those objectives. And so on and so on until finally everybody through the org will have objectives and key results against them that cascades back to the very top. That will ensure that everybody is working towards the same hairy goal.

Finally, when defining your objectives start with a problem. No matter where you sit in the organization, you will have a clear idea about which problems you need to tackle in order to achieve your overall objective. Take those problems and turn them into objectives.

Doing that will simply help to ensure that you’re working on something that not only drives the company in the right direction but also works to overcome some of the problems you need to solve.

And remember: Objectives are qualitative and by definition not measurable. Key results are quantitative and ALWAYS measurable.

(Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash)

Triangulating opportunity

Some people get great ideas out of nowhere. They just pop up at the most unusual times and places. Other people can spend weeks looking over the ocean hoping to catch onto something and eventually leave the beach empty handed.

And some people just have a basic fear of the blank sheet of paper – of getting started at all. They need help in order to get the mind juices working.

On that note here is a small idea that might get you started:

One of the things I have often found helpful is to look into different kinds of trends and then try to combine those to see what pops into my mind looking at it.

I call that the ‘triangulating opportunity’. And here is how it works:

You draw three overlapping circles on a blank sheet of paper – Lean Startup style but with a sizable overlapping area for notes.

Then in each circle you write down a trend, you have observed and/or read about – something you know to be true and not just the figment of your imagination. Do so with a headline and small comment on what makes you think the trend is interesting and worth diving into.

Once you have done that for all three circles, you start looking at the overlaps and intersection of all, and then you start thinking about what opportunities could arise from combining the different ones.

Now, it needs to be said that there are no firm rules for which trends go with which trends. It’s all up to you and you need to try and do the combination. In fact, you could argue that the more unusual pairings, you make, the bigger the opportunity to come up with some truly novel idea nobody has thought of before.

What could an example of three trends be?

Fx what would happen if you tried to find opportunities in the intersection between ‘Second hand’, ‘Local’, ‘Instant Delivery’? Could something come out of that? Something that draws on the best elements of all three? I don’t know, but the example is simple and should give you an idea of how this works?

No matter what you get out of it, you get one instant win: You get yourself away from thinking and brooding about something with nothing to show for it. You get an assisted start towards something – potentially – and that’s always better than – well – nothing at all.

(Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash)

How to short circuit recruitment

I am currently recruiting for a Head of Product of our new MedTech X. During that process I have already learned some valuable lessons that I wanted to share with you in case you are also looking to recruit.

Here goes:

  1. Ditch the standard application process. If you are recruiting for anyone outside of a very well defined, niche and/or junior position, forget about asking for applications. Most likely, the candidate you are looking for is (a) not actively looking and (b) doesn’t see herself writing applications all day long.
  2. Trawl LinkedIn for good candidates. The business social network actually has some very good tools for searching for people with specific experience, seniority etc, and their InMail system is rather efficient for reaching out. Just make sure that you’re crystal clear in your headline and that you have a job profile you can attach.
  3. Book introduction calls. Use one of the online calendar services to make it possible for candidates to find a timeslot and book an informal first chat about the job. It is super convenient, it breaks the social ice and reduce any awkwardness, and you get a chance to get a first impression. If that turns out great, just follow up while on the call with an invite for an in-person meeting, and you’re off.

If the role is super important to you and your company make sure that you do all the above yourself. There are a ton of people willing to help you – but at a cost. And there is nothing in there which you can’t do with nothing more than an investment of your time (which is precious, I know).

But the other reason for doing it yourself is the most important one: If it is truly a KEY position – as this one is – you need to send a signal to the candidate that you’re deeply invested yourself in finding the right fit. When you find the right one it will help send you on to great things together.