In mid-2000, I was part of a consulting company (Bauhaus Technologies) in Chicago that was bought by BEA Systems. BEA was the main competitor to IBM during the Java heyday. The people at Bauhaus were considered experts with their app server stack (ha…EJBs), so they decided to make Bauhaus their midwest professional services wing.
Early on during the on boarding process, we had a call with the whole company, where the CEO at the time (Bill Coleman, or the ‘B’ in BEA) took questions from employees. The only one that stuck with me after all these years was this one:
Random BEA Employee: Bill, when are we going to go after IBM in public? I mean, their ads are everywhere. Hell, even my grandmother knows who IBM is, but doesn’t know BEA.
Bill Coleman: When your grandmother can write a $1.5+ million check for Java middleware, we’ll worry about advertising to her. Next question?
Slightly pompous delivery aside, Bill had a great point about business and who you should spend your time selling to. If you’re not talking to people who can write the check, you’re not talking to anyone.
I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who are having good talks with this person or that person. Always claiming to be one-hop away from “the money”. I’m not sure these founders realize those people are there PRECISELY to keep them away from “the money”. “The money” is busy. They have stuff to do. If they talked to every single person claiming to solve all of their problems with their product, they’d cease to be “the money”.
Of all the things at the start of your entrepreneurial journey, learn one phrase: budgetary approval. Those who have it are your true customers. Find them, woo them, sell them. Everyone else you meet are, buffers meant to keep you spinning your wheels.