I’ve always looked at business and entrepreneurship like a battle, or a war rather. Men and women attempt to build kingdoms; some flourish, some collapse, some get conquered, and some simply don’t make it due to a host of different reasons. Some kingdoms are able to start out with vast armies and massive stone walls (due to abundant resources given to them by kingdom builders, or VCs), while others start with a small patch of land in the woods (a garage, a buddy, and an idea). You may think it quite obvious which is the better way to start out, but it’s really not. It entirely depends on the type of kingdom you wish to build.
The theory of starting out small is my own personal favorite. The key reason being control. When you decide to accept abundant resources to quickly build up your walls and mobilize your army, you lose control over many things. You’re now bound to a larger cause, and in doing so, you lose some control over your own cause. Although, don’t get me wrong, the amount of benefits from this type of kingdom building is massive, but you need to be ready to handle variables that are quite unnatural to you as an entrepreneur.
So for this article, we’ll focus on the key fundamentals to starting small. Just as anyone will tell you, finding the right co-founder(s) is critical. This is the first phase which will make or break your initial idea. The key is to establish a team which can cover four different areas; product design and development, product management, marketing, and sales/business development. So let’s break this down in the format of building a kingdom in medieval times.
Product development and design- these are the people developing the weapons you’re going to take out into the field (your product/service). Without the right weapons, you’re already dead on the battle-field.
Product management- These people are dictating how many weapons you’re going to get and at what time you’re going to get them. They also play a large role in the defense of your kingdom (ensuring your product dev/design guys are safe behind a solid wall so that they can focus on nothing but creating the product).
Marketing- Here are your strategists. They’re the ones in a room hovering over maps, figuring out which points of the market to hit, which to stay away from, which areas they want to sabotage, etc. They’re the ones putting together your ground-campaign.
Sales/Business Development- My personal favorite. These guys are the ones doing the actual fighting. You’ve got your archers (inside sales) who are responsible for weakening the lines before your infantry and calvary get there. Then you’ve got your outside sales (infantry) taking on the main brunt of the battle, and your more senior account managers (cavalry) who are focusing on specific, high-value sections of the other kingdom.
The key to waging the most effective, efficient ground campaign is to create very tight relationships between these four categories. Product design can’t be effective unless they’re working hand in hand with sales, because sales knows full well what type of weapons are most effective in battle. Sales can’t win battles if they don’t know their enemies weakness, so they rely on marketing to figure out where to attack. Infantry will have an extremely difficult time penetrating the other army if their archers don’t send effective volleys of arrows to weaken them. And marketing can’t strategize unless they’re working hand in hand with product management to ensure the army is getting the right amount of weapons at the right time.
When you look at your start-up in a primal, medieval way, it will help you grow not only stronger, but tougher. For that’s what entrepreneurship is: a battle between millions of different kingdoms, both large and small.