Managing Partner of a company that builds companies, after spending over a decade, well, building companies.
First and foremost, you are not alone. The fact that you took the time to write this means two things:
1) You're in tune with the situation
2) You care enough to resolve it (and hopefully be open minded enough to do so)
Having passion is great, and sharing that passion with your team is a powerful thing. However, oftentimes when an extremely passionate entrepreneur 'hires wrong' he or she will find that a few things happen:
A) If an employee isnt actively adding to the mix (to the expectations or perspective of the culture) then they begin to be perceived as 'in the way'
B) When something is in the way of passion, the outcome is 'construction' - but rather - 'destruction'
To resolve this issue, as the founder and CEO you are going to have to do a few tough things:
1) Fire the problem employees: If they don't 'get it now' then that means they dont understand your culture (or your "how" process - aka from your example: problem solve on your own and then pitch some solutions)... You have a window of opportunity to onboard a new employee into your culture successfully, and if you miss it, the most successful and responsible thing for the both of you is to admit that failure and move on.
2) Take the time to develop clear and concise actionable strategies, supplemented by a written guideline emphasizing your 'culture' or 'how process'.
It may seem like you "dont have the time" -- but lets not fool ourselves... what's more important than having a functioning company?
Taking the time to do it one time successfully yourself, empowers you to write the manual for others, which then you should walk through and train appropriately using the manual as a tool.
Stop giving your team a fish & begin teaching them from the start to fish for you.
Every employee 'wants' to come through for you when you first hire them... however, they are not sure what you expect or how you expect it & thus afraid, which prevents them from flourishing. Take the time to empower them with the answers and onboard them successfully from the beginning!
Simply put, these employees may be at fault now... but the core of the issue lies with the person who got them there.
Gut your mistakes, and start over successfully. Taking the responsibility it is highly recommended to strategize a successful 'strategic exit' for each of them -- if youd like to talk that through Id be more than happy to.
We call this being in the "genius zone" at my firm. The idea that you are so in tune with what you're currently doing, the natural intuition of your involvement steers you in the right direction.
This is a phenomenal trait for an early stage founder to have, however, it can be also extremely problematic as you continue to grow and scale your business.
Typically, operating in this zone leaves you cognitively unaware of 'why & how' you made your correct decisions -- which, when without providing a clear known structure, makes it very difficult for you to get other stakeholders onboard.
Try stepping back and analyzing what factors lead you to intuitively decide the way in which you did - dissect it and understand the core underlining "value props" that drove you.
Simply mapping out how you came to a solution is often times enough accredited validation for others to trust and follow your lead. It also provides a blueprint for others to follow when they are empowered to make similar decisions on behalf of your business.
Simply put, analyze your thought process and then walk people through it :)
In order to answer this successfully, more scope is needed on your business, industry, and services you're seeking to be rendered.
When you look at if from the VC side of things, we're giving you (the founder) cash as a way to "buy" the factors of production that you would need in order to successful pursue your business goals...(along with other valuable advice and guidance)
As a founder, you should be looking at a number of different value perspectives when you attack this situation:
Is the equity your giving up for the services cheaper, or more expansive than the equity you'd give up for the cash to "buy" the services...?
Who would make a better long-term strategic partner? Who compliments your business better when looking at your strategic roadmap for the next five years? Who is more incentivized to take action in helping you along your journey?
Are you going to be opening yourself up to any systemic risks?
At my firm, we actually invest in the business that other startups tend to trade "equity for services" with, as a strategy we employ to help amplify our net capital impact, when syndicating value across our portfolio :)
Before you spend any money on inventory, survey your target market and build up demand. Be creative in designing an engaging campaign that allows you to "presell" purchase orders (simply taking a poll on who actually would be a paying customer). Give these individuals a discount, which in terms of your cost basis is simply the price of the risk reduction when you go and make your first inventory purchase.
Once you've acquired enough demand, negotiate your purchase price with the suppliers and arbitrate the sales with those who expressed interest.
You'll be cutting into your margin, but you will be reducing your capital risk, and "bootstrapping" your market demand + cashflow for future runs.
Obviously every individual is well,... and individual... so there are no real blanketed statements that can apply to everyone.
However, having been a entrepreneur since 9 yrs old, I can speak for myself in analyzing my greatest strength and weakness.
Weakness: Understanding the difference between being "capable" and being "experienced".
A ton of things in life come down to your experience level, and have nothing to do with natural born capabilities.
Growing up, we tend to participate more in things like organized sports, which at first exposure, is more dependent upon your natural propensity to be athletic or "capable" rather than your experience playing the game (that develops at later stages).
Many aspects of being an entrepreneur has nothing to do with IQ or natural born ability, but instead, your ability to be in tune with results and adjust based off experience. Typically, the more times youve gotten to witness something, the better your odds in doing it correctly :)
Being young however, it is difficult to rationalize or distinguish the difference... and thus when you fail (not if)... its harder to accept and understand why, because naturally you're thinking its "because you're not good enough".
Reality is, it's because "you're not experienced enough."
Strength: Ability to be open minded
My ability to be open minded, was also my ability to overcome that natural "hangup" of a young entrepreneur.
By really accepting the rationality - or cause effect - of results, a young entrepreneur can take themselves (and thus any reason to be emotional) out of the equation.
Being open minded empowers a young entrepreneur to be in tune with what matters - the results - and change accordingly.
At our firm, we like to incentivize our portfolio founders to put together a ton of research papers on all aspects of the business -- literally ask them to just go off the wall and write as much as they can about: product, vision, culture, market strategy, competitors, etc. etc. (think free hand writing in a journal on all aspects of your business)
Then, from there, we ask the founders to distribute the "papers" to the key members of their founding team. At that point, we ask the founding team to put together a traditional business plan, scouring through all of the unstructured content they were provided, and to structualize it... and then we ask them to send it directly to our firm.
We then ask the founders to run through the same exercise prior to seeing what their team has put together. As a firm, we then take the two and make comparisons, identify similarities, and most importantly, differences, and utilize both as the key focal points of our collaboration with the venture.
As time continues to move forward, and more and more interest is being placed into the new open-spaces potentially created by the Jobs Act --- there are an amble stream of new tools to generate investor interest, amongst them: Clarity, AngelList, Gust, and the various equity crowdfunding platforms which specialize in niche sectors.
Right now, these are great places to start making your presence known, and truly are indicators of a growing commitment to the overall entrepreneurial community.
Simply put, keep doing what you're doing in this post itself ;)
Try running a "blind survey" (no brand) white paper, which simply identifies your target market, addresses the problem, and describes your solution. Then allow the recipients to tell you what they would pay... run A/B testing with a price per month & a lump sum yearly.
Take the numbers and arbitrate out what will generate the most profit for your firm + tweak your pricing according to the data.
Then simply take the information and make it actionable by converting new paying customers as well.
If you're in a position where immediate cash is needed to grow the business, then simply offer up a discounted yearly price to all customers -- as long as the discount is cheaper than what it would cost you to get money from other avenues, and make sure you manage costs appropriately throughout the year.
Id look at this question not as "when should I launch", but instead "by when do I want x amount of traction."
Q4 is of course the "money months" when it comes to digital publishing, as ad spend increases for the holiday season.
You're going to be unfortunately missing this, but you can absolutely launch successfully in Jan. as you plan, and build your strategic road map to hit the key goals that would put you where you need to be for this time next year.
Launch, keep metrics, tweak your campaigns, and stay consistent with results year round!
A great place to start is by looking in the mirror. When you do, what do you see? (answer should be your first customer)
Build something that you feel passionate about! But where does that stem from..?
Well, ask yourself, what do you find yourself spending the majority of your day thinking about? Once you've answered that... now ask yourself how you could make it better or where do you find it currently lacking...
For us, we spend that vast majority of our day working with companies that we have a stake in. Naturally, each time we decided to develop a new product ourselves, we began to then focus our time developing tools that would make us more successful when working with our portfolio.
If you invest your time building something you find value in, then you will immediately receive a return on investment. From there, all you'd need to do is share you vision (or MVP) with extreme clarity to others... collect their feedback... and then tweak from there.
By crafting a well designed survey experience, youll not only collect actionable product information, but also develop a phenomenal qualified lead list of your initial paying customers!
Message me if you'd like to explore the process in more detail, Id be more than happy to walk through an exploration of answers.