Letter to All the New Green Company CEOs

Startups need to sell their product before early cash runs out--they need to stop ignoring small sales.

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In my spare time, I mentor or coach entrepreneurs who are involved in early stage or startups. It’s fun for me, helpful for them, I hope. There is nothing like the thrill of helping someone build a new business.

There are green companies being formed now by passionate people who believe in their new product and/or service. Some are going to make it and some won’t.

I have a couple of tips for them as they embark on their startup adventure. Here's a classic new green entrepreneur situation: The company's product is great and will revolutionize their niche market. It’s been patented, they can demonstrate that it saves money, and it provides real ecological benefits. The challenge is making sales before the cash runs out.

It's tempting for entrepreneurs to spend their time chasing dream accounts. Dream accounts are the Gorilla Accounts--landing just one would be the pathway to startup heaven, or so it's often believed.

Here's a possible case: A big company tells the entrepreneur everything they want to hear. “What a fantastic product you have.” And “We are very interested, let’s go through a test program (evaluation), and after that, our orders will be in this $$$ range.”

Trouble is, cash is dwindling and the bigger company now has a new team in charge of the project. New specs are needed, company visits are required and yet, there are still no orders. Our fictional green company is still excited about their “pipeline,” if only they can get this one deal to fall.

Far better to figure out a more basic sales program that focuses on real end-users who will be able to make faster decisions. It is still a race, as a startup, to figure out exactly how to make sales before the early cash runs out. At least by starting locally and smaller, you will be able to see what works or what doesn’t, and to make corrections as needed.

These entrepreneurs could learn from my list of 100 Lessons. I am not sure why every founder feels the need to learn these lessons for themselves--it’s painful to see the same mistakes made again and again.

Green companies are on the way, at least according to reports I have read. It is an exciting time for sure. Save the world, but don’t forget to sell it to real customers.

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com.

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