4 tips for successful collaboration
Earlier this year at the Momentum Members Evening we hosted a panel focused on discussing ways both corporates and startups can work better together on commercial opportunities.
The panel featured two representatives from the corporate side and two from the startups perspective. The panellists were:
Steve Homan — Digital Transformation Director at Collinson Group
Steve is also the former CIO of Daily Mail Group & Fitness First.
Mike Rees — Former Deputy CEO Standard Chartered Bank
Prior to that he was Vice President at J.P. Morgan for 10 years.
Neil Ryland — Chief Revenue Officer at Peakon
Neil previously made his way through the ranks of one of the fastest growing startups in Europe, Huddle.
Ricky Thomas — Founder & CEO at AVORA
Previously Ricky started and sold Petmeds, an online pharmacy, to MedicAnimal where he served as CTO for close to 2 years.
You can watch the whole panel discussion in the video at the bottom of this article but below we have pulled out 4 key takeaways for those of you short on time.
1 — Getting to Senior People in Corporates
Mike, as an experienced leader at the very top of two of the biggest global organisations over the past couple of decades, suggest that startups need to find the people (whether that is an adviser / investor/ programmes) that can give you the strategic insights into a company and knows (and is trusted by) senior people in those companies you want to get into.
They can open the doors and get you time with the most senior decision makers, even if you’re day to day contact is lower down the organisation. It’s easier than trying to get pushed up the organisation. Neil also mentions that getting referred down is good for getting something implemented but also feels it’s important to continue that relationship with the senior person (this could be just an update on progress every so often).
“In many organisations, water only flows downhill” - Mike Rees
Ricky from AVORA recommends that startups should spend more time strategically building a network that can offer mutual benefits and be used to leverage their strong connections.
Mike mentions that working with organisations one staged removed, that already have the relationships (such as Momentum) can be a quick and efficient way of engaging with the right senior contacts. After that it’s up to you to ensure you hit the right proposition, which leads to point 2.
2 — Solving Corporate Problems
Once you get into meetings with senior decision makers, your next step is hitting a value proposition that solves a real problem for the company.
Neil Ryland speaks about Right to Left selling. Right being research and left being your product. This also helps when building your network and finding the right people to make intros but also when it comes to going in with the messaging that will strike a chord with the corporate you’re engaging with.
“You’ve got to solve other people’s problems; not sell your idea” - Mike Rees
Neil recommends reading company reports and looking at recent press, see who is being mentioned, what they are doing to affect shareholder price.
Steve also reiterates on this point, saying that startups can get so much fine detail from company reports and stock analyst reports. Use these reports to get more insight into a company’s goals and what phrases they use. All of which can help you build a narrative that shows you understand their problems. This is the biggest aspect a corporate will want to see when working with a startup; that they understand the corporate problem.
3 — Charging for Trials
It was unanimous across the panel that startups should charge for trials. If it hits the value proposition, then this is irrelevant says Steve. Your solving a problem that they can likely eventually do themselves, but corporates are buying into acceleration.
“Everybody should have skin in the game.” - Steve Homan
Ricky makes the good point that if you say to your contact that you always charge for trials and they don’t blink, you know you’re on the right track but if they start to get a bit uncomfortable then maybe you start thinking do they actually have the remit they think they have.
4 — Managing Expectations
As you’re no doubt aware, many startups try and act larger than they are in the hope a potential client won’t be put off by the fact they may be a small team. This can lead to problems further down the line.
Steve Homan says he wants to see candid honesty from the startups he works with. Remember their reputation is on the line as well. If they sell you internally they don’t want to be screwed over and look bad if your team can’t deliver what was promised.
The adage, under promise and over deliver rings true here.
From a corporate perspective, Steve says he wants to support and help the startup get into the business, but he needs honesty from the startup to be able to do that.
Neil Ryland reiterated that, saying corporates need to manage risk and so being upfront and honest and saying this is where we’re at, and this is where we want to be, and this is how we can help your business going forward will lead to a better partnership for all.