Three previous startups have taught me the value of applying portfolio theory to just about everything I do in startup #4.  In other words,

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Us entrepreneurs can get pretty excited about that landing that one major customer… getting attention from the big investor who will fund our plans… and so on.  But focusing too much on any one lead can be very destructive, and it can keep you from making progress across a variety of areas of your business.  Worse yet, you're putting a lot of faith in that one group to come through for you.  If they don't, you've lost a lot of time.

A lot of different things can happen with that one major customer/investor/partner:

  • People move on to different roles within the company,
  • The company has layoffs,
  • It's their 5th or 6th highest priority behind other programs, competing projects, internal politics, strategic planning, budget planning, etc.
  • They've agreed to talk to you as a favor to someone else in the company, when they aren't truly interested,
  • A competitor reaches out to them & has a better value proposition,
  • Your primary point of contact goes on vacation or extended medical leave,
  • They're stringing you along because they are looking for a bigger, better deal.

Often times, it's just something that is truly as innocent as the fact that big companies and investors take their time when making decisions.  A lot of things are involved in the decision making process:  listening to the first pitch, deciding it is the right thing to do, negotiating business terms, making sure all the legal issues are resolved, pitching to executives, and getting agreement throughout the management chain… all of that takes time.

One of the best ways to combat frustration is to always stay busy… create a large, yet manageable funnel.  Don't rely on one call, but stay active and work until you have a portfolio of leads.  No matter what you're doing, you'll find that this approach will keep you sharp and in tune with the needs of the marketplace.  Don't wait by the phone — grow your portfolio to improve your odds of success.