Today’s Start Up Links – Feeling the HEAT: No Process, No Profits

E L Emerson

I was sitting (drinking) with a few of HNW’s former HEAT Group members this past weekend – HEAT was the moniker for a relatively large group of UK-based entrepreneurial leaders that we used to bring together in order to informally discuss key issues impacting their businesses, and maybe find solutions along the way by sharing.

We roundly (and loudly) agreed to revive that forum in this newest of New Years, however I’m entirely unsure how binding that agreement might be as it was definitely decided after the fourth round was delivered to our table.

More on that later.

But what also returned to our discussion about as frequently as the waitress was the issue of creating good processes in a business, and how the failure to do so was likely one of the more profound and possibly underrated issues driving the continuously steady and unacceptably high failure rate amongst start ups, at least in the UK.

And while I suspect that might also be true stateside and in Ireland and Europe, extending that line into those geographies would be far more like guesswork on my part than anything based on direct knowledge or first-person feedback.

In simplest terms, the failure to create, adjust-to-improve and then adhere to process-based activities in a business will eventually mean the failure of that business.

Now, I know that absolutes in most any setting are usually a useless conclusion.

As such, we attempted to rigorously test this principle (admittedly with sides of single malts) in every representative sector at our slightly inebriated gathering.

Our motley crew included representation from the MDs/CEOs/Founders of companies in the real estate, food service, accountancy, digital services, IT security, recruitment, fashion design / retail, angel business funding, and of course, media (HNW).

What we found was that in each area of our respective undertakings where firm processes did not exist was a host of real and potential holes, exposed by the group in both firm language and some glib retorts.

By example, and I’ll put myself up on the cross for this, where HNW has little if any recorded and adhered to processes are in the sales and recruitment functions.

Atrocious behaviour, I know. And mock me round that HEAT table gathering they did.

But with our business (no excuses) we; pick up on affiliate channels as and when they present themselves and use them based on their appropriateness to what we’re doing in order to create revenue streams, and generally speaking we will stalk future recruits for several months prior to approaching them and then see how they might feel about writing, selling or otherwise working for / with our team.

Naturally I was then suitably grilled about my success or failure with recruitment candidates and generating revenue, by the aforementioned “motleys.”

And while I won’t share the specifics I will say how admirably they chewed me up and spat me out, exposing all of my company’s flaws in grim and guffawing detail.

What followed as we went round the table could be described as veering between bouts of shock-value comedy, at least two defensively-driven and quite emotional outbursts (that I can recall), and one quite surprisingly impassioned admission of some very tough days ahead. 

Now, this little diatribe will likely not stand the more in-depth scrutiny of a Y Combinator, whose testing ground and gatherings are far more robust and probably far less inebriated than what occurred over the past weekend.

But what I can suggest to you, whether you’re a business owner, director or head of some department or other is that the failure in your processes, or even their complete absence, could ultimately lead to the failure of your endeavour.

And I would hazard a guess to say that some if not many of the current issues you’re likely facing will, in part or wholesale, be driven by how you’ve not yet put these systems and mechanisms in place.

No finger pointing here. Just the same reality we all faced that sodden night.

Simply put, when you’re a leader, everything is your fault.

So why not look at what you’re doing from a soup-to-nuts process driven perspective, as if you were running a factory, and the bottlenecks, headaches and head-scratching scenarios that keep you up at night may at very least begin looking like something closer to manageable.

If real estate is about location, location, location, then start ups are about process, process, process.

At least the ones that survive.

E L Emerson, Editor, HNW


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