Saying NO to a lead is hard but brings value. To the Lead.

Why, as a Product & Software Consultant working with startups, it’s important to get aligned with Founders’ vision to be able to deliver a great outcome.

At & 10kstartup, many times we challenge the founder’s assumptions that we’re told, and to be honest some people think we threaten a potential client to go away, but the truth is we found this experience quite positive for us and our clients, on a longer run perspective.

Warning: this applies to our case because we’re a product & software house, meaning we don’t sell men-hours, rather we partner with founders on product reasoning, market-fit and then execution. And it goes without saying, to build an MVP properly we must be aligned with the Founders’ vision and share a great level of passion for it.


Why challenging (or saying NO) to a lead is beneficial for Agencies

In the startup-agency paradigm, the risk for the agency is to close a project for the only purpose to increase the clients base in the short term, without caring much about the right fit that should drive the reasoning and execution of an exceptional product.

What if the founder does not know what he’s doing, always changing his mind in relation to product or business matters, making it impossible for the Consultant to plan ahead resources and a clear roadmap?

Challenging ideas and assumptions prevent the agencies to incur to such a client.
First impression could lead to think the agency’s just kissed goodbye to short-term money, but if we think more on a medium-long term run:

  1. Challenging a founder’s decision, on product, tech, but also business — the consultant will be recognised as a partner, not a mere executor, and this trust level can eventually be turned up into more work in the future
  2. Challenging, there’re more chances to get aligned with the founder. The consultant will be in a position of excitement and “passion” when crafting the product, increasing the odds of delivering an exceptional outcome and increasing customers’ satisfaction
  3. If the discussion demonstrate itself to be counterproductive? Probably it means it’s not the perfect agency-startup match. The time and energy saved with this client could be reinvested on finding startups that will have a more natural match, and so having a positive impact on your cash flow and your portfolio.
  4. The Consultant demonstrates himself an honest consultant, and there’ll be a positive sign for the agency’s goodwill. An intelligent founder appreciate that honesty, and will consider the agency again in the near future or eventually recommend it to his peers


Why challenging (or saying NO) to a startup is beneficial for the startup itself

In a startup environment, the risk is that most of the time the company does not have the resources to get back and recover the mistake of having partnered with the wrong agency.

What if founders encounter a salesy partner that, greedy to increase its clients base, will say “yes” to all the requirements they drop? He will immediately put its workforce at work with the purpose to start the billables as soon as possible and, if the end result is not good, well, not his business.

Being challenged does not mean the Agency will take over founders’ decisions, rather helps to make them more responsible on their assumptions:

  1. They’ve got a chance to reason on why those challenges: being product agencies, they probably know the best tips to make a great product; on the other side, launching a business in a precise space means that the cofounders know a lot about that industry and business. It might happen therefore the boomerang effect: after many discussions, the product and vision goes to their initial stage, but stronger.
    If the vision and idea are solid, the only effect that the many challenges have is to enrich the execution plans towards them.
    Most of time founders come with A, we say back B and in the end the final shape is C!
    Wendy E.F. Torrance, Director of Entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, once wrote on “Why Being Self-Critical Can Make You a Stronger Founder”.
  2. They become wiser where they’re going to invest their money, having a third-party point of view of the many pitfalls they might encounter during their journey.

It’s a matter of time and energy — both for the founders in a startup and the consultants in an agency — that will drive positive collaboration and value creation.

For the founders — partner with entities that put passion and professionalism in what they’re doing, that challenge your decision with their expertise and experience in order to help creating a product that is in line with the ambitions and expectation.

For the consultants — focus on leads that matter, that pursue their work with synergy and that have clear vision about their venture, and respect and value the time spent with them.