Since 1933, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office, the term "First 100 Days" has been used to grade the accomplishments and successes of an administration. Many historians feel these initial days in office set the tone of a President's term and predict its future success or failure.
Similarly, I've found that the concept of a first 100 days can shed light on an entrepreneur, early employee of a startup, or corporate intrapreneur on how to best position themselves to succeed when starting a new venture.
The following are a few tips that any entrepreneur can use to set the foundation for success in the first three to four months of their endeavor:
1. Develop an informed vision before you start.
Once sworn in as the President of the United States, the President-elect will have (hopefully) spent years thinking thoroughly about what they want to accomplish while in office.
As an entrepreneur, you should take the same approach when deciding to take on a new venture. Have you thought about what problem you are trying to solve and how you are uniquely equipped to solve it?
As a venture capitalist, I'm always looking for a founder's unfair advantage and how this preparation period is key in building the right foundation of an early stage venture. This period also helps articulate to early customers, angel investors, or internal stakeholders (if you are a corporate intrapreneur) your vision for the venture--and can enable you to gain the early buy-in that's vital to the viability of a venture.
2. Build a strong team and get customer feedback.
Modern-day presidents have faced much more partisan politics than President Roosevelt faced during the 1930s. One can infer that this has led to much less productivity during modern first 100 days because of an unwillingness to work across the aisle.
Once you start your initiative, you should begin to assemble a strong team that addresses the needs of the business/product and fills any gaps of expertise you have. This diversity of abilities gives the startup or new business unit the collective skill set to build a product that can quickly cater to the needs of their customers.
It's important to note that the founding team should not strive to simply build the best product in a vacuum, but look to engage with all stakeholders to ensure they are solving the actual problems their potential customers face. Employ the "guess and check" strategy you learned in early math classes by constantly gaining customer insights through interviews, market studies, and pilot programs.
Don't be afraid to get feedback from your stakeholders because it will help you along your path. As LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman once stated, "If you aren't embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."
3. Keep your ideals and flexibility balanced.
Within a President's first couple of months of starting the job, they quickly find their platform of the ideal policies and initiatives facing the harsh reality of opposition politics, changes in the constituency preferences, and unexpected issues that come up domestically and abroad.
Those who are successful usually understand that they must strike a balance between the ideals they messaged to their supporters on the campaign trail and the flexibility to adjust, given that the problems faced in the present many times differ from what was originally anticipated.
Successful entrepreneurs must have a good understanding of what aspects of their vision are non-negotiable and what can be changed for the betterment of their product, company, and customer needs.
Establishing this combination of flexibility and idealism can sustain a company during difficult times. It also can be established in the early stage of a venture and continue to be a norm as the company hits its growth stages.
These three tips exhibit the core values of vision, vulnerability, and vigor that all early stage investors look for in a founding team. I can't guarantee it will make you as productive as President Roosevelt in creating a super powerful nation, but considering these steps will enable your startup, new business unit, or initiative to build a strong foundation in which success can bloom.