Bootcamp got real with SK200 startups - mostly about the importance of sales, business planning and the difficulty of entering foreign markets!

Day 26. November 2016 posted Stanislava Vabšek

For the past two weeks, startups that received the spring SK200 investment from the Slovene Enterprise fund also got an intense "reality check" of their plans for company and product development for the next 12 months. At the same time they also received a series of seven full-day lectures and individual consultation, collected new knowledge and tips for key business functions, such as management, sales cycles, law and tax business, finance, accounting, human resources, protection of intellectual property, business metrics, online and direct sales, digital marketing as well as building an international sales network. Startups of this year's spring SK 200 generation are now faced with a challenge of coming to international markets and professionalizing their business. This is why Initiative Start:up Slovenia in a close partnership with the Business angels of Slovenia, consulting firm Deloitte Slovenia, Hekovnik, CEED Slovenia and some of the most influential entrepreneurs / mentors, like Aleš Špetič, Andraž Štalec and Matija Jamnik, organized an intense boot camp programme, that set entrepreneurs on solid ground about the meaning of sales, business planning and the difficulty of business globalization. However, we didn't just scare startups, but also excite them with practical tips from experts that they can immediately implement in their business. 


Andraž Štalec from Red Orbit introduced startups to the laws of digital marketing


From a garage team to a professionally organized company

Startup teams Carlock, Borza terjatev and Oxilver, all recipients of this year's spring SK200 investment from the Slovene Enterprise fund, are all faced with a difficult task. With their products - solution for monitoring and controlling a vehicle through a smartphone, online system for invoice exchange, and innovative cosmetics from active oxygen compounds, they have to prove the durability of the business model and the potential for fast growth in foreign markets, and at the same time transform from a "garage" startup to a professionally organized company


Director of the invoice exchange Marko Rant (left), Matt Mayfield (in the middle) and Matjaž Slak

On key business functions with 12 lecturers and consultants

In accordance with the goals of teams, that have already found their "product market fit", Start:up Initiative Slovenia in partnership with the most active stakeholders of the Slovenian startup ecosystem developed an intensive boot-camp just for them. It was concentrated to seven days - along with personal mentoring and working with teams - and included lectures by experienced experts, that covered all the key business functions in the early stages of startups: 
  • Aleš Špetič – managing the company and business metrics
  • Alenka Gorenčič in Sanja Savič – legal and tax aspects of expansion abroad and business abroad
  • Aleksandra Bohorč – entrepreneurial finances
  • Alenka Brozovič – accounting for startups
  • Tadej Černivec – key questions of intellectual property
  • Nika Sebič Koračin – building and managing a startup team 
  • Kristjan Pečanac – business metrics
  • Matija Jamnik – frequent legal questions
  • Andrej Guštin – establishing key processes
  • Andraž Štalec – online sales and marketing
  • Matt Mayfield – building an international sales network and sales process
  • Matjaž Slak – direct sales

#1: if the team occasionally gets into disagreements, there's nothing wrong!

As Aleš Špetič, a known Slovenian startup mentor, as well as co-founder of Zemanta and CubeSensors, emphasized in his lecture, we can summarize tips for managing a startup and business metrics in these key thoughts of wisdom. Firstly, entrepreneurs have to know what they are selling, what need are they satisfying and who the target demographic is. Furthermore, entrepreneurs often say that sales aren't going well. This isn't because they aren't working enough, but instead because the product doesn't sell. You should create and have products that people want and then just develop them further to capitalize on that need. In addition, when hiring, you should watch out that you never work together with people who think the exact same way as you do. It is also healthy if you get along well with your coworkers, but also that you have a few arguments during the day because of different opinions, as this helps propel the company forward, the most. 

#2: entering foreign markets is a marathon

The key questions that startups have to set themselves when expanding business abroad, are in the opinions of tax consultant Alenka Gorenčič and legal consultant Sanja Slavič from Deloitte Slovenia:

1) What is the optimal structure of employment in the country you are entering?
2) What are the local levels of taxation and different charges, i.e. ecological?
3) What are the benefits for companies in terms of tax, subsidy and possible refunds?
Alenka Gorenčič (left) and Sanja Savič warned that a good analysis of law and tax aspects of a new business environment are equally as important as the speed of entering a market, and that conquering new markets is a complex decision, that has to be a result of well thought out moves and acknowledgment, that it's a marathon run, from which one can't expect high profit in the first year of business.

#3: an entrepreneur's vision has to be reflected in the company's finances

Aleksandra Bohorč, expert for entrepreneurial finances from the company Abundia, emphasized among other things an interesting statement that it is very important for an entrepreneur, for his vision to be reflected in key financial indicators or indicators of success, that are not necessarily connected to money. She also mentioned that money in a company has to be managed every single day. In the beginning of a company's life cash flow is the most important thing to deal with.

#4: monitor expenses and cash flow 

”Control your expenses! When a company is small, you usually have it all under control, however, when fast growth happens and you abandon their exact monitoring and planning, it can be fatal. Since you are in a race against time, I advise you to just keep an eye on the big, sudden or atypical expenses from different contracts, major deals,... For liquidation and payment of those smaller, always the same and repeating expenses or bills, you can hire somebody to help you. Last but not least important - monitor and actively manage your cash flow. Cash flow is as important in a company as blood flow is in a human body, and unfortunately many startups fail not because they make a loss, but because they have a negative cash flow, which means that they have too little money on their bank account to regularly pay their obligations," said Alenka Brozovič from the accounting firm ZEUS, to the startups.  

Alenka Brozovič advises entrepreneurs to cooperate with their accountants promptly, instead of just when deadlines for submission of reports or business statements are holding them by the neck. This means the accountant will have a lot of time, to properly support the entrepreneur and advises him in this process. 

#5: an IP application does not guarantee protection

As was said by intellectual property expert Tadej Černivec, from the company IPRC, the management of rights of industrial property is a wholesome process, that has to be expertly planned and managed from beginning to end. We have to think about global protection, but at the same time realize that the application itself, does not guarantee protection and that professionally protected industrial property is a very important asset when negotiating with investors or potential corporate partners. 

#6: good luck at building a team

Many times experienced startup mentors answer the question how to build a good team with a short - good luck! However, HR expert Nika Sebič Koračin, presented five key tips for successful HR in dynamic startup companies: 
  1. The management has to identify the talent needs thoroughly, in such a way that they think about what kind of coworkers, with what kind of skills, knowledge, competencies, experiences and personal characteristics they need in their team.
  2. When searching, you have to keep in mind that people are different and that the best teams are the ones where team members complement each other's skills. Having  people who all have the same mindset is not good for the development and progress of your company. 
  3. Managing people takes a lot of time. Building relationships are primarily dependent on good communications, as well as how well people feel in a team of co-workers. 
  4. Trusting people and their work are of immense importance - it is not real to expect, that all people will immediately be independent at their work. Through time and in accordance with the progress made, you have to give them more jurisdiction and trust them to do their job well. 
  5. A clear division of jurisdiction and responsibility is important from the point of view of the organization as well as workflow. Keep in mind that a dispersed decision making creates confusion. You have to decide who is responsible for what.
Organizational culture + profile of a candidate = successful selection of a startup team member says Nika Sebič from the company HRM

#7: contracts as the usual record of agreement for partnerships

Matija Jamnik from the company JK Group emphasized four important legal areas that most startups don't put enough attention:
  1. putting together collective contracts,
  2. using contracts as a record of agreement of business partnership,
  3. traps of employing and hiring coworkers through a contract of civil law and
  4. a regime for management and protection of personal information

#8: choose seven key business processes and their metrics

Establishing business processes is what  Andrej Guštin from the company CREA pro, lectured about and consulted to SK200 startups. He emphasized that startups, in the beginning, should define seven key business processes, among them, choose the ones with the highest priority and set a person responsible for each of them:
  • learning about your customers and managing customers relationships (know your customer)
  • product / service development (idea to product/service)
  • sales funnel (lead to contract)   
  • execution (order to cash)                
  • purchase (purchase to pay)
  • support (claim to a solution)
  • creating value for shareholders (need to value)
For all key processes, the entrepreneurs should set KPIs (key performance index) so that for every key process they set two key KPIs and set measures if there is a discrepancy from the wanted value. 

Andrej Guštin also advised, that after every big project, the managerial team should make an analysis of what went well and what didn't and communicate the results transparently. Success or failure has to be shared with all so that each individual feels their pulse and added value to the process,as well as the pulse and result of the whole company.

#9: a digital strategy is more than just posting a facebook ad

Well known Slovenian expert in the field of digital marketing Andraž Štalec, founder, and director of the company Red Orbit emphasized in his lecture, that a digital marketing strategy is much more than just posting an ad on Facebook. It is a wholesome process of user analysis, planning the use of digital channels, strategy implementation, measuring results and implementation of learnings. Digital marketing should become the core part of a company's strategy, not just an operative task on a "to-do" list. The most important thins to do is to put ourselves in the shoes of the customer and try to understand his needs. Only by doing so, can we create content that he wants. 

?#10: startups, focus, and agility are your key advantages

The lecture that was done by the expert for sales and entering foreign markets, Matt Mayfield from the network CEED Slovenia for SK200 startups excited and motivated the whole boot camp group. "Be aware that as a startup you have two key advantages - focus and agility. That is why you should subdue all processes to making these two advantages stronger and more intense, instead of weakening or even abandoning them. Time, money and energy, that don't strengthen focus and agility, further set you apart from your goal and increase the chances of failure," said so picturesque Mayfield. More about this advice can be found in the video below.


#11: don't lie to yourself

Direct sales, that are avoided by most startups that would rather stay in product development, was the topic of the lecture of Matjaž Slak from the company Sales Setup. He said: "Sales are a process and it is important to set attention to every step of this process. Usually, startups put too much attention to the final result, the amount of income, and too little to the improvement and optimization of all the in-between steps, that importantly influence on the final result." Slak also warned on the usual occurrence of lying to oneself in regards to the actual level of product interest from the side of potential customers.

#12: without entrepreneurial stubbornness, you won't go far

When we, after seven days of gathering new knowledge, advice, and ideas for improving business, asked Marko Rant, director and co-founder of the invoice exchange, about his impressions of this years SK200 boot camp, he said that in the times of fast growth which they are facing now, the lectures of Matt Mayfield and Matjaž Slak were very welcome, and that he is positively surprised by the execution and added value of the boot camp. 

If he were to give a piece of advice to his colleague startups, it would be that entrepreneurial success is a combination of a wish to create something new and stubbornness that keeps the entrepreneur from quitting and giving up. Stubbornness is by Rant's opinion an undervalued asset, that can take you far. 

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