Expansion-Stage Executives: Are You Standing Too Close to Your Canvas?

Last week, my colleagues and I met with some executives from a prospect company to introduce OpenView Labs, and describe what all of our respective teams within the Labs focus on with our portfolio companies. The CEO of this company was intrigued, particularly as Tien Anh explained the types of projects that his Research and Analytics team typically executes with our portfolio. In short, the Research and Analytics team works with OpenView’s companies to help them better understand the markets that they should be targeting, the buyer personas within those markets, and what messaging will resonate best. They conduct primary and secondary research to attain such data, and some of their most valuable insights come from survey calls with customers, lost customers, and prospects. Upon hearing about these research projects, here’s how the CEO of the company responded:

“Wow… what you are describing sounds pretty incredible. It would be so amazing to have someone be able to execute this research as one of our partners and give us the raw data to help us better understand out market. We don’t do research like this often enough because we are so busy with our day to day.  So often executives of companies are so close to their canvas, that they aren’t able to take a step back and see what the whole painting really looks like.”

This really caught my attention. His statement was so spot on. It’s easy to get wrapped up with something that you care so much about (and are so “close” to), and loose sight of the big picture in the process.

6 Ways to Step Back and Regain Perspective on Your Business

If you are in OpenView’s portfolio, you can take advantage of the Labs services and leverage our Venture Partners’ operational experience to help you see the big picture. But even with that leg-up you should still make it a point to pause and reflect on your own organization from time to time. Try it now — take five good steps back from your canvas and see how the masterpiece is really coming together. Here are six things you can do:

  1. Jump on a call with some of your customers: What do they like about your product, what do they not like about your product?
  2. Reach out to one of your lost customers: Why did they go with your competitor? Was there something that your organization could have done differently?
  3. Walk the hallways: Sit down with some of the more junior people in your office who you may not engage with on a daily basis — what do they like about your company, what changes would they like to see made?
  4. Get outside the building: Ask someone outside your company (but in your industry) to give you an honest opinion of what they think of your website, your content, and your message — does it resonate?
  5. Analyze your email: Try using a tool like Xobni to understand the trends — who are you responding to most? Who you are NOT responding to most? What other interesting facts about your engagement with people from inside and outside your organization can you gather?
  6. Sit in on a product demo: How is your company/product being positioned? What are your prospects are saying about your technology? How are they responding?

Believe me, I get it — executives at expansion-stage companies are busy as hell — so, I’m not suggesting you do all of these things all of the time. What I am urging you to do is to consciously step back from your canvas from time to time to get a fresh perspective on your company and its development. And if you don’t like what you see, then now is the time to make some changes before the painting is too far along!

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