Do you have the SLAM DUNK MOVE?

by

By Kelly Choo, Co-founder, VP of Business Development and Strategy, Brandtology

I was very lucky to have pulled through multiple bumps on the road in what I wanted to achieve to now being part of a fast growing company in a fast growing space in the tech industry. Brandtology was taken home by a Media Analysis giant in 2011 and now part of a family of companies ready to take on the world.

Along my journey, I have been secretly extracting nuggets of wisdom from experts and experienced entrepreneurs and guarded them with my life… till now. Forced into a corner to share with eager eyed younger entrepreneurs that won’t stop Facebook poking me until I shared something, I decided to begin talking about my personal growth pains and some tips which I felt was useful.

This has given me some points to build this start-up success framework. It’s by no means complete, but I believe it would be useful in some way for some people.

It’s called the “SLAM DUNK MOVE”. No, it wasn’t inspired by any Japanese Anime or by some outstanding Asian American basketball player. It was probably due to my acronym loving country Singapore, which likes shortening every conceivable name or concept for easy memory storage.

Some/most of this stuff you would probably already sort of know (hopefully), if not please read on carefully about the SLAM DUNK MOVE:

(S)peed
One wise young-at-heart entrepreneur shared this: “It’s the fast that eats the slow, not the big that eats the small”. Speed, I believe is very important to dominate both the clients’ minds as well as out maneuvering the competition. I have seen some start-ups run too slowly and got nowhere. You don’t want to be just running on a treadmill!

(L)earning
People learn for life. If you don’t, then either you’re not recognizing what you’re learning or you’re not doing something worthwhile. Invest in your own learning by reading books and articles in different areas and topics. You never know how one industry’s ideas can inspire you for your own. Leverage book summaries or subscribe to helpful people feeds in order to get a quick scoop of the take-away points. I love to ask job interviewees what was their learning lesson in various stages and areas in their life and see some of them cringe at that question because they never thought about it before.

(A)daptability
Very few (in fact nano few) business plans will be the same at conception till they gain traction and become successful. How adaptable are the team to the idea(s) will determine if they find the right successful angle. Don’t be too stubborn for too long… nobody wants to see a dying fish in a desert. They want to see the fish grow legs to run towards the successful sea.

(M)oney
This not only refers to fund raising but also earning money for the company in terms of revenue. Yes, you do have to eventually earn revenue… you do know that right? I would say only a very few lucky companies would be able to survive what is called the “burning phoenix business model”, where the start-up burns money and doesn’t earn any revenues until hopefully one day, a hero (angel, VC or acquirer) comes along to rescue it and the phoenix raises from the ashes escaping its near death experience to become a star. Statistically very low chance of happening (I’m referring to both the occurrence of the phoenix and appearance of the hero appearing at the right time) so take that risk only if you can stomach your lunch while riding a roller coaster ride.

(D)ecisions
Someone has to decide which direction to go towards, and usually the compass doesn’t work. In fact, the map is non-existent and the compass is just spinning around crazily. Luckily, with experience and borrowed/bought experience from advisors and mentors, they can help to point you to a general direction; some even give you a nice GPS for you to follow. Eventually, someone has to make a hard decision to move forward or else the boat is stuck and will sink.

(U)nconventional
Be unconventional… but don’t do it till your team and investors run away from you in horror when you pitch them about your brilliant  idea on “painless embedded MP3 player for your pet fish”. What I’m referring to is to think of a different market positioning compared to the company next door (and many doors thereafter). E.g. instead of being a “social photo sharing site”, could be it a “social photo sharing site for new singles?” Put a twist to it and make it unconventional, not become another me-too. That will help you occupy the “top of mind” slot in your prospects, clients and investors’ minds. You don’t want to be second or worse.

(N)ew Territory
Moving into new territory can be overcoming a personal challenge, where e.g. you were uncomfortable doing operations because you are not detailed minded, or whatever excuse. Or because you think you are not geeky enough to understand this or that technology that could help you change the way you do your business. I have seen fearless entrepreneurs who dive head on and somehow managed to land in the deep end of the pool, while avoiding getting a concussion entering the shallow end. That calls for being self-aware and being able to evaluate yourself. Perhaps taking in all challenges could be good for your own personal growth.

It can also be for entering a new market that your business needs to expand to. Consider working with partners and even clients to help give you a head start instead of just going  alone and blindly.

(K)nowledge
Having knowledge of the market and your competitors are very basic things that I think you already know about. However, sometimes it can be blinding as we actually believe that just because we spend 31,415 hours surfing the web to gather the intelligence, we believe that it has to be correct and complete. Doing actual competitive testing and talking to their users and partners is a good way to supplement your understanding and knowledge of the industry and the competitors. Understand, iterate your plans, execute then test again. Repeat.

(M)entors
Find and retain mentors in different areas of your life such as business, general management, people skills, finance, {insert your hobbies or interests here}, etc. A mentor need not be a person with a long white beard or wise lady of the forest to teach you something. In fact, anyone you bump into could potentially be a “mentor” that teaches you something although small. Learn from others’ mistakes so you don’t repeat them, again and again and again. Find trusted “coaches” who are willing to speak to you about your work and personal life, that can ask you objective questions so that you can find the answers yourself eventually. These could be your friends from a different company or your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse. Basically, find someone who cares.

(O)pposition
Find and keep people or organizations that are opposed to you and/or your ideas. They could be the very ones whom would save you from any entrepreneurial fairy tale and bring you crashing down back to earth, and then taping your feet tightly on the ground. These could be people in your company and external people whom you need to check with on a regular basis. No point having a room full of “yes-men” and “yes-women” that their only vocabulary to you is “yes” or one of its variants. It could be very devastating to you and the company.

(V)ision
Not everyone can have the same vision of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and should have that kind of visions. Everyone has their own part to play in the eco-system, whether big or small. The key here is to be happy with your vision and to enjoy the process of getting there. Sometimes visions change, but that is ok as long as you know why you’re modifying it. Hopefully not because you find it too difficult to achieve, but because you have the gut feeling and the feedback that you need to adapt.

(E)xecutive Team
The core founding team and the middle management make or break the company. Easier said than done, but try your best to find a good mix of people for your team. I subscribe to the phase “strength in diversity” because it helps give different perspectives. If you are new “fresh out of college” start-up, then you should consider finding more experienced team members and look for incubators that could really value add to your executive team’s thinking and direction. It is said “given the right team and wrong business model, the team will make it right” and that I believe is a major key to success.

I hope I have done justice to these points and to the people whom have taught me these. I am grateful to be a lifelong student of entrepreneurship. Maybe one day these ideas and more would expand into a book.

Use them wisely and for your own situation. Adapt it to meet your own unique demands in whichever market or industry that you’re in. Some of these could also apply to your everyday life.

Have you found your own SLAM DUNK MOVE yet?

ABOUT AUTHOR:

Intrigued by the widespread influence of Social Media on society and organisations, Kelly took up a teaching assistant role in the 1st Asian Facebook development course. Before that, he was involved in computing security in the Singapore Armed Forces. Whilst studying in UPenn/ Wharton, he also worked as an IT consultant and was involved in launching two start-ups in the US, as well as advising a few more. Kelly holds an Honors Degree in Computing (e-Commerce) with a minor in Technopreneurship from the National University of Singapore.

If you would like to contact me for comments, feedback or just want to add to my growing number of online contacts that I do not know personally (yet), you could try emailing me at slamdunkmove@gmail.com or adding me as a friend on Facebook and Linkedin. Everything written here is of my own personal views and do not reflect the views of Brandtology and anyone else.