Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No, Cisco Didn't Flip Out; A good, Fast Lesson for Start Ups

When I first read about Cisco's decision to shut down its Flip division, I was stunned. This technology/product seemed like a no brainer. Even though the capability is quickly being built into multi-purpose, networked devices, surely Flip cameras would be needed or could be repurposed.

I don't know if there is a case to be made for that argument, but Cisco has just taught start ups a really important lesson:

if you have piece of your business that doesn't focus on your core capabilities, don't let it sink slowly. Kill it quickly.

It's hard for any company to do that, but it's really hard for a big business to do it. Because they often have the resources to support the ship in hopes of finding a solution. But with start ups, where every penny matters, that option is not available. Make these decisions quickly.

Of course, this depends on understanding clearly what your core essence is. Because you don't want to kill businesses that are key to that essence. That's what makes the fast decision so hard.

But Cisco's lesson is really important; they know their essence and saw that the Flip wasn't part of it.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Set Some Priorities; What is the Goal and How do we Get There? Well, maybe it's not that easy

We work with start ups, primarily. And I can't help being aghast at the current government shutdown debate (which may be resolved by the time you read this). When you work with young companies that are trying to make a difference, every day involves setting priorities.

Based on having worked with with nearly 100 new and growing companies, there is actually one question that underpins the determination of priorities:

*What is our company's goal and how do we optimize getting there?

Though this may be a simple question, it's pretty hard to answer. We suggest a recipe:

1. Understand -- at your core -- what is your essence as a company -- what is it you are really trying to do?
2. How will you realize this essence and truly optimize next steps as a company?
3. How do these next steps fit into your company architecture? That is, based on your goal, how do you set priorities so that you don't compromise critical path items in favor of short term issues.
4. Keep reassessing.

These questions impact communications strategy directly. So we are often right in the middle of this discussion. Sometime there's instinct involved in finding the right answer. But, at the same time, the key is having a clear vision and continuously moving in that direction.

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