Prioritizing Opportunities

At an early stage company there are many unknowns when it comes to deciding on doing business deals intended to drive adoption or revenue. Is the product ready for distribution? Will this deal live up to expectations? What if the partner does something that delays a launch? How much money should we charge? Should we charge? Is the right thing to do right now?

I have found over the years that “the deals you do not do are as important as the deals you do.” A bad deal can consume and distract important resources, waste valuable time, cost money and in some cases take a company completely off the rails.

This probably sounds obvious, the real question is how to best identify what deals to do and what deals to avoid? It is not easy, especially when smart, passionate people have very strong, often reasonably informed opinions. Complicating it even more, since it is a startup, there is no track record or data. So, you need to have a way to easily assess and rationally discuss opportunities and make decisions quickly.

This is a simple matrix I have used many times to plot opportunities and lead a discussion that produces clear next steps. Measuring growth is pretty straightforward: users, revenue, page views etc. Strategic can be a bit fuzzy but, in most cases teams can agree on the high level attributes: potential investor, establishing market credibility, first step in a bigger deal etc.

The important thing is to have a basic framework for focusing the limited resources and aligning your team.balance_graphic_2

One thing I have noticed is the quadrants are a guide, the exact position in the quadrant can become a rat hole and distract a group from the main objective of focusing time and resources. This is a way to help make conversations more focused and productive.

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