I just read a funny article: 6 Giant Blind Spots In Every Movie Alien’s Invasion Strategy
While reading the article, it occurred to me that the article’s advice to would be alien invaders also contained some interesting ideas that would be helpful to first time startup entrepreneurs. With all apologies to the article’s author, S. Peter Davis, here are my 6 lessons startup entrepreneurs can learn from alien invasions.
6 Lessons Startup Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Alien Invasions
#6. Wear something – i.e. the basic basics will save your bacon.
Davis makes the point that a lot of alien invaders make the mistake of failing to wear clothes – thus making them susceptible to our local germs, or even things like water (recall the aliens in Signs). When you think about it, wearing clothes is one of the most basic things we do. It’s pretty straightforward – not complex at all – and failing to do it costs the aliens their whole invasion.
Lesson #6: Focus on the basic basics.
There are desperately simple things that are so basic they’re basic. The basic basics if you will. I’ve seen lots of first time entrepreneurs fail to do these basic basics. Simple things like:
- spell checking documents (seriously fucking spell check your fucking documents)
- having contact information in your signature block
- having an effective to-do list
- planning out your day (or at least portions thereof)
The list goes on and on. The common denominator: simple, basic stuff. Failing to focus on the basic basics can cost you big time. Ask yourself, am I spending time focusing on executing the basics – like putting on clothes.
#5. Do your research – on everyone.
In alien invasion movies, the alien’s lack of basic research on the place they’re invading leads to catastrophic failure (like checking out if the planet they’re invading is covered 75% by something which will destroy you – like water).
Lesson #5: Research your attack
It’s damn hard to be successful in sales without doing your client research. Client research comes down to more basic basics: planning what you’re going to say BEFORE you call a client taking notes during client phone calls defining objectives and outcomes before you meet with clients (are you trying to understand their needs or close the deal – you better have done one before the other).
Simple fundamental research can prevent massive failure.
#4. Don’t Attack America First
The aliens can’t seem to resist taking on Uncle Sam first – on the theory that planets are like prisons and the best way to survive prison is to find the biggest guy and kick his ass. Trust me, this doesn’t work in prison. The biggest guy will kick your ass – twice just to prove his point.
Lesson #4: Take on the little guys before the big guys.
If there are a few major potential clients who’d absolutely make your company crazy successful – you might want to practice on a few smaller less important clients first. Work the kinks out where the stakes are low. That being said – you can’t duck the big dog forever and when it’s time to face the champ – go for it. Just be prepared.
#3. Don’t Wait for a Counterattack
Every alien invasion movie features a big old pause where the aliens – having almost completely beaten us into submission – take a break and wait for our next move. This never works out. Given enough time, the humans come up with something crafty – like glasses of water.
Lesson 3: Define the next move and take it.
I’ve seen first time entrepreneurs end a sales call, whether that’s a meeting or a phone call, and they think things have gone great. Then we talk:
Izzo: So how’d the call go?
Entrepreneur : Great, they love us.
Izzo: So what happens next?
Entrepreneur: They’re going to think about it and get back to us.
Izzo: So what exactly are they thinking about?
Entrepreneur: I don’t know.
Izzo: So when are they going to get back to us.
Entrepreneur: I don’t know.
Izzo: I bet you’re still waiting for that girl from high school to give you a call back on that prom date aren’t you.
Know exactly what the next move is, when it’s going to happen, and take the lead in making it happen. That client who’s “thinking about it” isn’t going to call back – neither is that girl in high school.
#2. Call for Backup
Having had their initial attack force defeated, the aliens tuck their tail between their legs and call it a day. When really, having thoroughly softened us up – and having been exposed to our big winning move – they should come back next week and REALLY invade.
Lesson #2: Don’t go it alone.
Even if you’ve planned the phone call, practiced with other clients, and are prepared to set the next move – have you practiced? Have you talked to anyone about your plan? Somebody who doesn’t work for you and therefore feel obligated to blow sunshine where it doesn’t belong?
You have resources all around you – mentors, former teachers, former bosses, even the Starbucks barista – who’d be willing to look at your pitch, practice the sales call, or just give you feedback on your clothing choice. Great entrepreneurs, indeed great people, are NOT brilliant loners – they are resource optimizers. They take whatever resources are around and use them for maximum effect. Gates had Ballmer. Jobs had Woz. Bandit had Snowman. Call for backup.
#1. Exhaust your Alternatives.
The aliens always seem to want our stuff (water, gold, unobtainium- something). Except most all of those things are available on other planets which are not populated with angry little hominids who have thousands of nuclear weapons.
Lesson #1: You have options.
Entrepreneurship is all about overcoming obstacles – finding the why not where others see the can’t. As a first time entrepreneur you can’t stop at your first defeat – or your fiftieth. Figure it out make adjustments. Make radical changes. Can’t sell your product? Have you tried giving it away? Can’t do that? Have you tried giving it away? Can’t do that? Have you found somebody else who wants it (i.e. changed your target market)?
Remember – only you can prevent alien invasions – and poor execution on your business. I’m off to have a glass of water.