Case Study - Morten Blaabjerg, Kaplak

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These three points sum up our own experience from the last year.

1. Start today. Don’t wait until “you’re better prepared”. Engage your market, your present and future advisers. Ask for help, advice and seek it out anywhere you can. Comment where you can, because you never know who might help you. If we’ve known what we know today, we’d have started our blog a year ago. We could have started our dialogue with the people we wanted to help and started to build online traffic at a much earlier stage, which would have been very fruitful for our product development. There’s so much to learn when you’re already “out there”, risking something, and a lot of valuable feedback to get. And you are capable of making swift adjustments, when something turns out differently than you expected.

2. Choose the right partners. It’s easy to create a group of “yes men” around the company, i.e. people who are as enthusiastic about your business as yourself. Don’t. Find someone who can help crack the core problem your business will solve, and who supplements your own capabilities. And be clear about company roles. At Kaplak, we had many problems and conflicts this past year because I made the mistake to make my partners my visionary equals. It is nice to have someone who likes the project and praises it at every occasion, but it soon creates tension, if there’s no real value added. It is like pissing in one’s pants in the winter : warm at first, but really cold later. This was a huge mistake in Kaplak’s young life as a company, as it muddled all communications and made it unclear who was really the entrepreneur and leader of the company, and who really contributed value to the company.

If you’re the leader, there should be no confusion about this. If you’re a visionary, you may need a practical “do it” man. If you’re lousy with numbers, you need someone who has a good time cracking numbers. If you’re not capable of web design, you need to ally with a design individual. If you can’t lead people, you need a good leader too, with that role. You also need someone, who dares to speak up at the right time, even when (or especially when) they don’t understand what you say. And you need someone, who will be tough enough to hang in there, even when the going gets tough, because it probably will. Be clear on all agreements, and make them in writing, so that you can put your finger on what people need to do to fulfill any agreements satisfactorily.

3. Remember to distinguish between yourself, your company and your product. There are needs for you, there are needs for your business and needs for your product. They are not always the same. You may need to take a day off with your family, even though it means you leave your company’s needs unattended. It will survive this. You are the most important person, and you do well for your company too, when you cater to your own needs.

You may ditch the product completely, if you find there’s no market. This doesn’t always mean you have to ditch the company too, if you can come up with other products. Markets and products can change. Don’t be afraid to shift strategies in the middle of everything. If you sense you’re on the wrong track, you’re probably right. There’s no such time as a “too late” to adapt.

4. A great company is built from taking many small steps. Stick with it, even when things look bad or you don’t feel like it. Your company will only gain knowhow and grow stronger with change. With each step of the way, you’ll learn something new. Even if your company fails, you will have gained something valuable : experience and knowhow.

Next: Something Small

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