Stanislav Shalunov – one of the people I track in Tweetdeck when I’m in online network mode – tweeted an alert a moment ago to this post, “Startups – The Essential To Do List”.
Now I’m hoping like hell that its author, Dr. J. Basil Peters, was just in a fiendishly funny mood today and did this post as a send up. Dr. Peters runs an Canadian angel investment fund, has been named Entrepreneur of the Year, does speaking engagements and looks to know his stuff.
But you are better sticking a pencil two inches into your ear than following his Essential To Do List of 51 items.
“This question comes up frequently, so I started this list to help other entrepreneurs ensure they don’t miss one of the essential structural components,” Dr. Peters’ says. Let’s have a look:
- Build a startup team (if it’s still just you, repeat step 1).
- Agree on an idea (the idea is much less important than the team).
Okay, two items in and we’re in trouble.
Just as the greatest chefs in the world are not going to be able to turn mud into anything but mud, I don’t care how great your team is: a lousy idea is a lousy idea. And having a great idea – that is, finding something that people need and want – is step 1, not 2, if you think you should be in charge of either a startup, a microISV or a lemonade stand for that matter.
Onward: Steps 3 through 11 sort of make sense: figure out where you and the other founders want to be in three years, decide on a fair, equitable pan for founder compensation, equity, vesting and who gets to play with the credit cards. Not bad boxes for a checklist, but wait.
#12 is “Ensure the startup team is still in alignment.” Shareholder alignment, (unlike say tire alignment), “is all about human behavior and group psychology”, Dr. Peters says. If your team is not in alignment, Bad Things will happen. “(Get someone outside the team to do a Phase 1 alignment check. If the alignment is not perfect, consider having the first offsite strategic planning retreat with a really great facilitator.)”
Assuming you all are now facing in the same direction, pick somewhere to setup the company, your officers and corporate directors, recheck your alignment and by the way, find one very experienced advisor, mentor and/or coach who can review and confirm these steps.
Excuse me, but wouldn’t it make more sense to do that before setting up? No matter, onward:
After another strategic planning retreat with an excellent facilitator, celebrate your continued alignment. “(It looks like you really do have the ingredients of a promising company.)” (no, I did not make this up.)
Twenty steps down, 31 to go. Steps 21 through 32 cover the legal waltz known as incorporation – everything from deciding the amount of equity to give future (unaligned?) employees to hiring yourself and oh yes, doing a 12 month budget and a 3 year revenue projection before you realign in step 33 again.
Now write a business plan. Not to raise money, or even to say, plan the business, but to check founder alignment. And make sure someone can sign checks for your company. Dr. Peters thinks writing a business plan might be a bit of work: time check your alignment again (step 36) and if it’s not absolutely perfect, off you go to another punishing offsite strategic planning retreat (step 37). Don’t forget to celebrate (step 38).
No rest for the weary, so get that bank account open (39), collect checks from the founders (that’s you) and set up an accounting system (42) and learn what taxes your company will have to pay (43). Now, if it were my money, I think I’d like that accounting system in place before I hand over the cold, hard cash, but that’s a quibble. And quibbles don’t keep you in alignment. Hang in there, you’re almost done! Learn about those tax credits (apparently they’re pretty sweet in Canada), get some insurance, an alarm system (sic) and start planning how you’re going to get money from friends and family and what, if anything, your friends and family will get in return.
Got all that? “Celebrate completing all of the absolutely necessary steps in building a successful startup.” (50) Finally, “As soon as the hangover clears, start working on the product, marketing, sales, recruiting, strategic relationships and exit strategy – the fun part.”