A founder I know says his adviser helped his team see the bigger picture when they got bogged down. His company offers a service that briefs users on people and companies they’re meeting with. Minutes before a user has a calendar appointment, the system would send an email that contained a link to information about the person the user was meeting. The team wanted to improve the link click rate, and for a while, it did. However, the rate eventually plateaued. The founder turned to his mentor, asking what else he could do to improve the click rate. The adviser helped him see that the team was focused on the wrong solution. The click rate had nothing to do with the goal of getting information to a client. The answer? Simply put the information in the body of an email. No link, no click-rate measurement necessary, and almost everyone was opening the emails.
A colleague of mine helps to advise early-stage companies. A team she was working with was preparing a pitch deck for a high-stakes pitch about their product for a big-box store. The team was building the most compelling case it could and had all the right numbers: sales, margins and online research. They sent the deck to an adviser and asked: What are we missing?
The answer came back: “You forgot to bring the voice of the consumer.” Why would a consumer want to buy this product? What’s compelling about it? The team spent the weekend interviewing customers of the big-box store. Armed with insights from these interviews, they were able to bring the consumer front and center in their presentation, highlighting all the reasons the product would be attractive to customers. Their pitch was successful.
The “what’s missing?” question can also give you a glimpse into things you should be anticipating in the future.
For example, when you’re knee deep in product development, conversations with advisers about the big picture could get you thinking about your distribution strategy–and the accompanying staff needs–that will be essential to getting your product to market. Because advisers are not bogged down in the day-to-day details of building or running the company, they can shed light on the bigger context to help the entrepreneur see the horizon, not just the hills and curves immediately in sight.
So, next time you seek the advice of a trusted mentor, make sure The One, Crucial Question Entrepreneurs Need to Ask Their Mentorsyou ask “What am I missing?” to help you see the whole picture.