Thursday, December 15, 2005

Execution is Everything

Execution is everything seems like a cliche I heard from many VC many times during the funding rounds. I learnt what it meant as soon as I got the Series A money.

Earlier in my 15 years of corporate life, we had management offsites to brainstorm strategy. Strategy was cool and execution seemed tactical. I didn't understand then as I loved the operational side of getting results.

Once you have a startup, execution means getting the job done. Delivering on what you promise your investors, employees, partners, the promise of what your vision is all about. Vision sounds again beautiful when you paint a dream. Execution seems like hard word.

I went to the bank to open a bank account with checks for $1million. Then I had the urgency to find office space and get our team into productive mode. We already had a core team in place, we used to meet at Tufts university in the cafeteria and designed the basic Coola system. Thanks for ASP servers, we even had basic tech infrastructure in place to start work.

I found that those people who rolled up their sleeves and were ready to do all the dirty work were the real startup people. They were the ones who learnt and grew. They were ready to adapt to change, but were execution people.

As founder/CEO (I use this term interchangablly as it all means the main work horse in the early days), I found I had to do more dirty work that I could not find the people to do or wasn't able to delegate.

So, thats what the VCs meant by execution is everything. They were using years of experience to spot the team capable of surviving the startup ephuohoria to hire, build a good team who could break the job to what needs to be done and do it happily because they really believed in the vision they were pitching.

I digress for a minute as I have to share with you my set of jokers who showed up to help with all sorts of consulting jobs that seems trivial, boring or just not-fun to do.

One was offering to get the office space and all logistics and get up up and running.
We all have moved in America. We know its not fun to call the phone company, electric company, Internet Access provider (even if its one the same companies), research options and get the best one and not to mention the office furniture, computers etc. He wanted a chunk of the company. No joke!

This was 1999 end, with all office space taken. Internet access took 3 months to get. I have intervied people for jobs with looming deadlines at work, but not for one like this. Well, I found he was not making any promise of delivery on time.

I got a sub-leased space from a company who had sold to a mid-west company and got the lease transferred to us and made that company leave behind the deposit to pickup later after we moved out so all was well within days.

I think if you plan ahead its good thing, but planning for hiring your team and technology and your first customer will be more important before you raise money.
So, if you work on this logistics remembering its your first exercise in managing your cash flow and remember how hard you worked to raise the money, it will get you into proper execution mode. And remember execution is everything.