Episode 8 – The Skills Founders Need to Succeed with Tai Hutchinson

In this episode, we talk about what it takes to succeed as a founder in the tech startup space. Tai offers practical advice for avoiding common pitfalls and shares her thoughts on why operations should be a priority for all founders. We also get to hear about her unconventional career path into venture capital.

pimp it out:

“I think in order to be successful, it’s about making sure your team has a diverse skill set, making sure that you have a roadmap for where you want to go, and being prepared to pivot if you have to.” -Tia Hutchinson, Techstars New York City Accelerator

Episode Summary:

Welcome back everyone to The Business Whip. Today, I’m joined by the amazing Tai Hutchinson. She is a born and raised New Yorker and in her role, the Program Manager of Techstars NYC, Tai manages operations and logistics while advocating for a founders-centered approach to programming. Before Techstars, Tai was a Partnership Manager at Girls Who Code, focusing on closing the gender gap in technology.

In this episode, we talk about what it takes to succeed as a founder in the tech startup space. Tai offers practical advice for avoiding common pitfalls and shares her thoughts on why operations should be a priority for all founders. We also get to hear about her unconventional career path into venture capital. 

Before we dive into this episode, I’m going to give a shout-out to my friends at Boxx Bar for sponsoring this episode. Boxx Bar is a place where you can find toys, clothes, and jewelry for all women with a hint of kink. So do yourself and your pleasure a huge favor and go to boxxbar.com and go make yourself happy.

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • [02:26] How a background in urban planning led to a career in venture capital
  • [06:38] The pivot to virtual learning for entrepreneurship programs
  • [09:13] The key pieces of information that all founders need to know
  • [11:16] Working with a team and the importance of clear communication
  • [13:58] Making time to reflect and review your data in retrospect
  • [14:46] Tips for creating set KPIs for your business 
  • [16:42] Common pitfalls in entrepreneurship to avoid
  • [17:47] The value a good pitch deck bring to your business
  • [19:23] Why founders sometimes forget to prioritize operations
  • [21:53] Setting a foundation for sustainable growth from the beginning 
  • [23:15] Core elements to consider when validating your business idea
  • [29:11] How much does luck play into the success of a business
  • [30:59] Understanding financial models

Connect with Us: 

Connect with Tai:

Resources Mentioned:

“Do you have a good deck that shows your value proposition, why your team is strong, and why your team is the one to do it? And you don’t want a 60-page deck because no one’s going to read that.” -Tia Hutchinson, Techstars New York City Accelerator

Guest Bio: Tai is currently the Program Manager of Techstars NYC. She manages operations and logistics while advocating for a founders-centered approach to programming. Before Techstars, Tai was a Partnership Manager at Girls Who Code, focusing on closing the gender gap in technology. She likes to geek out on urban planning policy, travel, and yoga in her spare time.

[00:00:00]Veronica: Hey, I’m Veronica Yanhs and I’m obsessed with backends. Specifically, your business backend your operations, and I’m the CEO and founder of Business Laid Bare. We’re a digital operations agency that builds well lubricated and Orgasmic Operations ™   so that your business is pleasurable, productive, and ultimately profitable because when you feel good, everything else feels good too.

Like your team, your customers, and your bank account. I mean, who doesn’t want to consent to that?  This podcast gives you the tips, interviews, and mindset shifts on how to run your business and its operations so that it’s immensely pleasurable, productive, and profitable.

So ready to whip your business into shape with me? Let’s get it on.  

[00:00:47]Hey, before I dive into this episode, I’m going to give a shout-out to my friends at Boxx Bar for sponsoring this episode. Boxx Bar is a place where you can find toys, clothes, and jewelry for all women with a hint of kink. So do yourself and your pleasure, a huge favor and go to wwwboxxbar.com and go make yourself happy.

Veronica:  Hey everyone, thank you so much again, for tuning into the latest episode of The Business Whip and today I’m going to be interviewing the amazing Tai who was a Program Manager at Techstars in New York City.

And instead of introducing her, I’m just going to let you Tai introduce yourself because you know yourself so much better than I do. So tell me about who you are, what you do, and what Techstars is all about. 

[00:01:36]Tai: Yeah, thank you. Such a pleasure to be on your show today, Veronica. Thank you for having me. So yeah, I am the Program Manager for Techstars, New York City. I’m a born and raised New Yorker. I lived in Brooklyn. I’ve lived in Queens.  I’ve lived in Manhattan. So, very much in New Yorker through and through.

And yeah, and then what I do at Techstars, I get to do some really cool work. I work with entrepreneurs, like early-stage entrepreneurs. I get to meet, let’s say in an application cycle, we get over a thousand applications. So you get to meet so many different founders and all of these different backgrounds Techstars, New York City, we are industry agnostic so sky is the limit. 

So we take Femtech, we take, you know, Deep Tech AI companies. We take e-commerce companies, a variety of different companies. So it was really cool stuff that we get to do there.  Um, and I get to see the magic happen every day. 

[00:02:26] Veronica: That’s really exciting. Like,  How did you land this job? Like, it sounds super dreamy, but I’m assuming you didn’t always start out here. Right? There’s always a story. 

[00:02:37] Tai: Definitely a story. Um, so yeah, I would say that I’m not the typical person that would be in VC or maybe I am, I don’t know, things are changing. 

[00:02:47] Veronica:  Why do you think you’re not like the typical person who would be in this situation? In this role?

[00:02:52] Tai: Um, yeah, people I meet, you know, have their MBA, you know. They started a business already. Like,  you know they’ve done some really cool stuff and I’ve worked in Education. I got my degree in Urban Planning at NYU. It’s a school for public service, right.  I was like, wow, this is kind of different. Will it work out? 

But I always tend to like, think big and bet on myself in every situation that I’m in and I started out my career in Education. I did some really cool stuff there and I was doing some very quote-unquote innovative things.

I started a career services program at the high school that I worked at years ago. So I did that for five years.  And then I said, cool, I want to go to graduate school and study Urban Planning and take on a ton of student debt, right? That’s a topic for another podcast.  and what I was finding in all of these experiences was I was enjoying all of the work that I was doing,  but where I would get stuck is that you couldn’t quite. It was like, how do you make sure that we use innovation to help underserved communities? And that’s what drew me to Urban Planning. I was super excited about that, but I kept getting stuck. I said, you know, something is missing. I need to be in something that’s a little bit more active than, you know, government and things like that. Um, so Urban Planning is my first love. So maybe I’ll return to that space one day, but fast-forwarding, I worked at  Girls Who Code for a bit and I manage partnerships for the Southeast region of the United States.  And during that job, I learned that there is innovation in every part of the globe, right.

Like we were forgetting about, I think that when people think of innovation, I think of Silicone Valley, Silicone Valley, but they forget that innovation lives in rural Alabama or Mississippi or Florida or Georgia and all of these great places. So I was just getting, I guess the appetite for learning about entrepreneurship and learning about how innovation happens, was starting to be built. And it was really exciting. 

And I, okay, I need to do something even closer to this. I need to like, almost touch the sun almost. And I didn’t know what company I would start. I have no idea and I love meeting entrepreneurs. And then I saw one of my friends said to me, “Hey, let’s do a Techstars Startup Weekend.”

Never heard of Techstars before in my life, right. I was like, what is this? And I wouldn’t have heard of that in my life because there wasn’t anyone in my, you know, I don’t know anyone who wants to MBA program until my friend did, she went to Columbia Business School and she was like, come on, let’s go. Let’s do it. You would love it. 

And I fell in love with what they were doing. I thought start-up weekend was amazing. We worked and I had to figure out market sizing for this company that we were working on, like over three days, like 54 hours putting all these things together.  Really exciting, very intense. I was exhausted. I was nervous. Doing all kinds of things, stepping outside of my comfort zone. And I was like, yes, that is where I want to be. How do I get there?  

[00:05:40] Veronica: Oh, so many memories. I’ve also participated in Startup Weekend myself when I was in Silicon Valley. We were doing it for Y Combinator. So another accelerator.  I remember the stress, but also the high. It’s almost like when you were talking about Urban Planning, it was almost like things weren’t moving at the speed in which you would like it to move. Is that fair of me to say?

[00:06:04]Tai: Yes. 

[00:06:05] Veronica: Like, it’s like turning a barge instead of those like speed jetski things that I recently saw on like Baywatch with The Rock, Johnson. And like, that was a great movie. 

[00:06:15] Tai: I love it. You hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what it was. It wasn’t moving at the speed that I wanted, you know.  And I think we’ve talked about this before. Like very obviously, like how do I do something? How do I make it happen? You get so excited. 

So when I saw the role posted, I was like, oh my goodness. It’s like all the things that I love.  A partnership management, relationship management, and operations, right. So I assume the role of Program Manager and I started the day that New York went into lockdown. March, 16th, last year. 

[00:06:42] Veronica: So how would you say that the lockdown has affected Techstar and its companies, if it has, or is has everyone transitioned to the virtual realm much better than you anticipated?  

[00:06:56] Tai: Yeah. Good question. So luckily for us, we actually have like virtual program called Techstars Anywhere, and so that already ran virtually, right. So we had kind of this playbook to go to when it happened.  So it was really amazing that that happened. And then as you know, in the space, you do have to pivot very quickly is even if we didn’t have the playbook, I think it would have been fine. And of course,  founders are bummed they don’t get to see you in person and you know, the magic that happens.  So now I had to work with my MD to figure out, how do we get very innovative and make people feel like it’s still high energy, still an impactful experience, and things like that.

So definitely lots of brainstorming. Lots of trial and error, just trying different things and then part of my job is helping to curate the program calendar.  So, yes, we have this program calendar with all these great sessions, but it’s like,  are they really going to want to do another two-hour Zoom or another one-hour Zoom?

So, the team and I, we came up with the idea to do this Burst of Brilliance session, right. So instead of like a two-hour Zoom session on a topic, we distilled, like we have guest speakers distill information to 20 to 25 minutes. So bite-sized pieces of info.  

[00:08:14] Veronica: Not for people who are loquacious and I’m pointing at myself. 

[00:08:16]Tai: Well, you’d be surprised.  Some of our speakers, you know, can go on and on, but they’re like, okay, all right, I’m up for the challenge. I figured it out.  And it was amazing. 

But while it was amazing, it’s like the hard part is the ops part that comes in. How do you schedule all these people? How do you find the right guest speakers for this? How do you manage the calendar? Do I use a booking link? Do I just give them, like, three days for them to pick from, and by the time they pick it’s too late? So had to be very, very strategic about how I booked these sessions for founders and what sessions we were booking for founders.

And I looked to my MD and my team, to figure out like, okay, what do founders need help with? What are you seeing? And then I have to kind of schedule out maybe about two weeks in advance. So it just feels like you’re always on figuring that out. But you don’t mind doing that work because you see the value that the founders are seeing from it. And they really loved it. And they were getting what they needed in the moment that they needed it. And I think I would do it again and again, and again, it is a lot of work, it’s a lot of behind the scenes, but I think that is definitely worth it.

[00:09:17] Veronica: So, what do founders need help with? Regardless of your like in a startup, because I feel like even though startups who I would like to think are like high growth, scalable,  really quick accelerated businesses.  I don’t think that what they need operationally is as different as someone who’s like bootstrapping or starting an agency, right? The core foundations are the same. So what does a founder, or what do founders need? 

[00:09:45]Tai: Yeah, they, they need a lot of stuff. Right. You know, a lot of stuff you need to pack it in such a short amount of time. I think one of the main things they need is, you know, what is your product roadmap look like? Have you figured out what will happen if it breaks, right? How do you go from start to finish, to make,  your dreams come true?

So once they have that in place. Okay, great. How do you make sure that you’re communicating with your team, right? There are so many things that happen on a daily basis. I think like within a day, just on a regular job, there are so many decisions to make, right.  So when you’re an entrepreneur,  that’s 10X, right.

You have to make decisions non-stop. Who are the decision-makers? Do you have like a decision-making tree? And a lot of times, and the reason I say, do you have a decision-making tree? A lot of times with decisions need to happen quickly. Like you don’t have time to consult with others.

So who’s on your team? What are their weaknesses? What are their strengths and how can you play to those things? I think that that is something that founders need very, very much so. Like, they definitely need a team.  You can do it as a solo founder, but it is, you know, you’ll be talking to yourself a lot and not sleeping, you know.

But, um, but yeah, so knowing one another.  Understanding your product in and out. Do you have someone to help you build like the, I guess the tech stack or whatever?  Um, you know, is that person internal? Is it, are they contracted?  What is your contract look like with that person in case something, do you have a fail-safe in case it falls through?

Right, like there are all these things I think people don’t realize like, oh yeah, I have a contract with contractors. Right. What happens if that contractor messes up and loses all your data?   Or what happens if they just went a completely different direction with the vision?  

[00:11:27] Veronica: Oh, that would drive me nuts. And I’ve heard that happens so much. It’s like you say A, but somebody interprets B and out gets like output  C. And that happens all the time. So how do you prevent something like that from happening? Because regardless of their building, your tech stack,  writing your copy, doing whatever it is they need to do to support you and your business. Like how do you make sure that communication is not like two ships passing in the night kind of thing? 

[00:11:54] Tai: Yeah. I think the best way is to establish like a cadence to check-in. Right.  Is that daily? It might have to be daily, especially in the beginning when you’re getting things off the ground.  I think that daily check-ins are the best.  I think that they’re important. I think if you’re doing things weekly, you’re already behind like a weekly check-in because there are so many little things, so many questions that Slack is not enough to get point across, right. Or  Voxer is not enough to kind of get your point across. You have to have those daily check-ins with your team and you have to roadmap everything. Whether you’re doing a marketing plan, you have to like, kind of put that together first before the person goes out and then you have to check it. This might sound crazy, right. but you’ve got to check it every day. Like, you know what I mean?

Like it just seems like, and then I know that that can be a lot cause you, and it can seem micromanagy. But I think that, as those founders, it’s their responsibility. It’s their baby to have to breathe life into it. And eventually, you know, you’ll find others who can take care of your baby, the way that they need to take care of it. But you have to kind of set the foundation with those check-ins. Have those product roadmaps, have those design sprints, have those plans, you know, and then gut checks. Like, hey, maybe we need to pull in someone else.  Maybe I need another third party’s eyes on this. Maybe I’m missing something.

[00:13:11] Veronica: And when you say product roadmap, it doesn’t have to be a physical product, right? It could just be whatever your offer is.  If you’re a service-based business? That’s okay, too. Right. 

[00:13:20]Tai: Exactly. That’s okay. So yeah, it doesn’t have to be like a physical, oh, I created this remote and now I’ve got to figure out how I’m getting the buttons on it. No. It could be like a subscription service that you’re doing, or it could be like SaaS product that you’re offering or something.

[00:13:33]Veronica: And I think that product roadmaps or roadmaps, in general, are very operations-based because, and we’re going to talk about operations. You and I are going to have a chat about operations, we’re building up to it.  But I feel like it’s very operations-based because it’s about the doing right operations is about the way that your business is run. If you don’t have a roadmap for where you want to go, based on where you’re going, it’s almost like you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall.  Okay. We’re constantly throwing spaghetti at the wall to test, but it’s like, if you’re constantly spinning in circles and don’t have a roadmap, it’s almost like you’re doing all this work and going nowhere because you don’t know where you want to go. 

[00:14:05] Tai: Yeah. 

[00:14:06] Veronica: It’s like strategic spaghetti throwing. 

[00:14:08]Tai: Yeah. Basically. Yeah. I think that’s a really good point.   I think it’s also great to figure out, for founders to figure out when to do a retro. Right. So a lot of people always talk about the product map, looking ahead. Sometimes you need to do a step back and have a retro and like what happened last month? How can we improve upon that? How can we make that better?  So I think that that’s something too that a lot of people, should like, think about,  in the startup space. I think the retros are super important.  They’re annoying. Yes. But definitely a must.

Oh, and then the main thing you need are like, what are your KPIs? What are you measuring? What are the metrics? What is the goal that you’re trying to hit? Right. And what are those little steps that will take you there along the way? So I think having the roadmap, the retro and the KPIs, like a good, you know, combo.

[00:14:56] Veronica: So what are the KPIs that would be applicable to any business who are just starting to think about business this way? Because yes, revenue is important, but I always don’t think that only tracking revenue is the most important thing. What are some metrics that every business, regardless if they’re service-based, product-based, software-based, that they need to think about because we have different listeners who have different businesses. So, I’m making you generalize it a little bit more. 

[00:15:26] Tai: It’s kind of hard to have like an over-generalized, like KPIs for everyone, but I think who are your customers? So figuring out, I think in any industry, like who are your customers and what is it that lets you know, the customer’s happy?

Is it clicks right on your thing? Is it downloads? Is it setting up demos? if it’s like a business that you’re working like a B2B,   who is your customer? How are you making them happy? And how do you measure that? And that’s how you can figure out, like, what are the things to measure? So you can improve upon that every week. 

[00:15:57]Veronica: It looks like you did just a perfect job, summarizing it with every single offering that there could be or service type of business that there could be. 

[00:16:06] Tai: I was like, yeah, what could that be? Yeah. And I think right. It’s not just the revenue, right. The revenue is important with that. I think partnerships, do you need partnerships? And partnerships could mean a variety of things. 

Partnerships could mean someone like, oh, I’m going to partner with Door Dash and we’re going to do some type of integration. Or a partner could just mean someone who’s just going to send an email blast out for you. Like, I don’t know what that looks like for everyone, but figuring out who those people are, who are going to be in the trenches with you, and who will kind of like share that information.  Yeah, and then how is your product progressing?

So whatever that looks like, have you put your product, is it in the market, right?  What are the things that you need to tweak? What are the things that you need to scale back on,  or scale-up, or whatever. So, yeah, key things I can think of.

[00:16:52] Veronica: I love it.  Okay. So let’s talk about some pitfalls in entrepreneurship and I’m sure this just got real to see this because I can imagine you see so many companies even though you just started not too long ago, you’re saying you get thousands of applications and you meet with so many different people.

[00:17:11] Tai: Oh, man. Lots of think about. I mean, sometimes I think  founders get so excited about the thing that they’re building  and then sometimes maybe they’re not paying attention to like, okay, we have this product it’s in the market now. Or we have this thing it’s in the market now, do we build out a good enough customer service team so that we now know how to scale and to grow and like make this thing happen.  So I think that’s one thing that I’ve seen. Can’t have a product without customers. Right. So saying,  I think the other thing is making sure you have your finances in order.

So yeah. You can have some revenue. That’s fantastic. Did you build out a good financial model?  Do you make sure that you tested the right assumptions? Did you have someone else look at it other than you to make sure that it’s actually like you have the runway that you think you have? Right. So that someone can ask you these questions, right.  And I think  that’s something that could be a pitfall for founders.   

Oh, and the most basic ones, do you have a good deck? Like a PowerPoint presentation for those who that don’t know what a deck is. Do you have a good presentation, a good deck that shows your value prop and why your team is strong and why your team is the one to do it?

Sometimes I feel that people forget to think about that cause this is now going to be passed around, like to all these other people you have to have that. You have to have something to pass around and it’s gotta be good. You don’t want a 60-page deck because no one’s going to read that, you know?

I think those are some of the things that I think of for sure.

[00:18:31]Veronica: And for those of you listening, and you’re not in this like startup realm. Everything that Tai is saying totally applies. Like building out a financial model, which you can totally expand on because I’m not a financial person. You more so are than I am. But like, when we’re talking about this pitch day for startup,  it’s like, well, what about your brochure that you hand around to either partners like you were saying, or even to potential customers or clients.

So, all of this can be morphed into your business, regardless if you are in startup mode or not. So I love that. And it’s something that I’m actually thinking about for my business as well. Like what is a deck that Business Laid Bare can put together as a value prop for when we do go into those strategic partnerships or even for potential customers. Who are like, why should we hire you?

Well, instead of me being long-winded. Here’s a 10 slide deck or 13 slide deck, something short and sweet, hopefully, because knowing me to make it happen, because I can’t be everywhere at once. And if you’re asking me for a deck and somebody is asking me for a deck, it’s so much easier for me to just send that one thing out. So the message is consistent.  

[00:19:33] Tai: Exactly. 

[00:19:34]Veronica: So they think about ideas too much sometimes you were saying, but not enough ways to support that idea. That was like the biggest takeaway that I had.  And, this leads perfectly into operations, right? Because what you were just all talking about is in the big ballpark of operations. How your business is run and why is it that people don’t think about operations enough?

[00:19:53]Tai:   And you know why it’s not sexy.  It’s not sexy at all.  They get so like,  well, at least it’s not sexy to other people. I think it’s sexy. And you think it’s sexy, but I feel like some people just get so like, Ugh gosh, it just seems like such a drag. Or I have to sit here and think about like here the perfect example if you’re going back into the office during COVID-19 times, right? Like, great. You’re coming back into the office. There is a huge checklist that you have to follow.  There’s other legal ease that you have to follow. All of these things I go into place and that in itself is a full-time job on top of the full-time job that you have. That people just, they just get so like, Ugh, just like, I don’t want to do it, you know? So I think that people just more people need to think that ops is sexy. 

[00:20:37] Veronica: Ops is sexy. And if there’s anything that I can do, this is my purpose in the world is to make operations sexy. 

[00:20:44]Tai: I love it. I love it.

[00:20:46] Veronica: But it’s also because it’s who I am. Like, I can’t change my branding and I would never have anybody. Like, I’m sure you would be like this too. Like branding is so important. So it’s like, do you and like stick to it. Cause imagine me doing operations, which I can, and I’m not the only digital operations agency out here. So it’s like, everybody’s doing their thing, but I have to show up this way. if I can’t talk about like orgasms and like I mean, your operations is your business backend, right? So like why wouldn’t I want to talk about like, given that a nice little whipping into shape or a nice spanking to keep it tight. 

[00:21:18]Tai: yeah, no, it’s true. 

[00:21:19] Veronica: It’s interesting that you agree that operations are boring or the consensus is that operations are boring and it’s not as fun as like marketing. What do people prioritize over operations at Techstars? 

[00:21:31] Tai: Well, I don’t think they necessarily, like, prioritize other things over ops. I think like, for us, that’s definitely core to what we do. Like if we don’t have a good playbook, we were really,  focused on like, how do we do things to like maximize the experience for founders and things like that.

All the other PMs that I talked to are like, PM’s meaning Program Managers, are very ops focused and it’s nice that Central’s also that way too. So you feel like you have some support there, but I think founders sometimes forget that you need to, you need to think about these things, friends.

[00:22:03] Veronica:  Based on everybody that i’ve chatted with or clients, when they’re like,  oh, what does your project or task management system look like. I’m like, it’s Asana. That’s only like one piece, one part.

So it’s about, I think, changing that education and that there should be more education around operations. So I’m just so thrilled to hear that that’s what Techstars does. That you focus on operations so much, because if you don’t make sure that your business can run, whether that is a combination of people and tech or, tools and apps that we use, or you’re outsourcing that to other divisions because you can’t do everything. It’s like, it’s so important. And I’m so glad that this is part of what makes companies successful inside of Techstars and out. Like you have to focus on how to make your business vision, come to life in a sustainable way because burnout is so real. 

[00:22:52] Tai: Yeah. it’s true. Burnout is a very real thing. And I think that a lot of accelerators now are, you know, they’re realizing that and they’re trying to figure out how do we help everyone now, not burn out?  And I’m like, well, you can’t really help people not burn out.  That’s not possible, but what you can do is lay the foundation for people to know, like, what are the steps they need to take to kind of like move their company or their business or their idea along. You know, I feel like that is like the, a good response to kind of that question for like, I’m burned out, you know?

[00:23:25] Veronica: Let’s talk about starting a fake business together. What were we talking about before we started this episode? 

[00:23:32]Tai: Burgers to the moon? 

[00:23:34] Veronica: Why not. So let’s just say, I came to you and I’m like, Hey, I am ready to start this business. It’s going to be amazing. Look at these revenue numbers that I’ve projected. I can’t fail. Great. So what would I need to make sure that that business is actually successful in your eyes? 

[00:23:53]Tai:   All right. Burgers to the moon. This is happening. We’re doing it. You heard it here first folks. So I would say to you, that’s great.  How much is fuel? Where do you get fuel from? How much is the rocket thing? So like, fly to the moon, right? 

Resources? Yeah. Like What is your resources look like? Who’s on the team to help you navigate and make the rockets go up, right? Yeah. 

[00:24:17] Veronica: It can’t just be myself, obviously. So what would be a nice well-rounded team for a product-based business? And I’m going to ask you that for the service-based business, but let’s just keep on the burgers to the moon example right now.  So what’s a good well-rounded core team for a product-based business or is this a service-based business? Because if people are living on the moon in the future?

[00:24:44] Tai: This just got crazy. So let’s just start with, I’m sending product to the moon. So it’s a product-based business. 

 Who do you need on your team?  Who’s going to do the controls and drive the rocket? Uh, so I guess like people who can build a tech stack, people who can let’s see, what else do you need?

[00:24:56] Veronica: What do I need? I would need someone to manage the operations of this? I would need someone to be able to make the product delivery possible. So some sort of tech person engineer,

[00:25:10]Tai: You need a marketing person,

[00:25:12] Veronica: I need a marketing person. 

[00:25:13] Tai: So you’re going to send them to the moon. Who are you sending them to? If no one knows that they’re going to the moon I think you need like mentors, right. To help you figure out like how you can do this faster. 

[00:25:23] Veronica: Oh, that is such a great point.  Like we talk about a core team, but you don’t think about mentors being a part of that core team because they’ve maybe have done it before or something similar. 

[00:25:37] Tai: And yeah, and think about it.  Mentors have done this before, what will take you normally three years to do they may be able to, with their know-how and their experience, get you to do it in a year. Right. So definitely want mentors on your team. And that could be ad hoc mentorship. People who come and help you one-off, you know, help look at your financial models once or twice, and that’s it and you’re good.

And then you take it from there with another company, or, you know, they help you with the navigating process or whatever that looks like or helping you build out your roadmap for,  how you’re going to make this thing happen. So I think that is something that people forget about. And I think also people get confused and they’re like, oh, mentors, it’s this person that’s got to meet with me every week. No, it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that.  You know, you can determine like what that cadence looks like with the mentor that supports you.  

[00:26:22] Veronica: I love that. So regardless if it’s product-based or service-based, seems like you need a core team of people that can make sure that the product is being created well, or the service be created well, and you need to make that service well-known.  It’s almost like this is applicable to different offers. You need someone in the ops role, a customer service role, marketing, marketing, design, engineer tech in case things go wrong. And then of course you need that visionary, right? The person that’s constantly like looking forward and making sure that their vision coupled with the teams, like expertise, can like bring everything to life in a really nice way. 

[00:27:03]Tai: Yeah. No, absolutely.   You can be a visionary, but if you don’t have the know-how or someone who can help you with all the little details,  you know, I don’t know, like you, you might get, you might get lucky, right?  Some people get really lucky without that, but I think that it’s really important to have, at least one person in your corner that can help you with those backend ops and help you figure that out.

[00:27:23] Veronica: And how much does luck play into this from your experience with all these companies? 

[00:27:28]Tai:  I think the companies that are successful, I don’t think it’s luck-based. I think it’s because they’re prepared. I think it’s because they know, and to my earlier point, like, yes, I’m a visionary, but my weakness is ops.  I need someone who can do this. And like that company was successful because we were able to call out what they needed help with. Get that help, whether it was a mentor. a co-founder a staff, whatever it is. I think that, yeah.

[00:27:53] Veronica: I love this. This has been amazing.  So let’s kind of like summarize this because we were talking about a lot today because you know starting a business is not neat and tidy. We touched upon pitfalls, we touched upon starting a company off like off the cuff, and like what would we need to succeed?

So like, how can we put a nice little bow on this so that we can bring our listeners back to center so that if they’re listening, like, and they’re getting super excited to either pivot their business, make it even better, add a financial model, you know, what are some of the action steps that they can take after listening to this episode to make sure that their business succeeds and it’s not just based on luck and only throwing spaghetti at the wall. 

[00:28:34]Tai: Yeah. I mean, I think that in order to like, be successful, it’s like making sure you have a good team. Making sure that team consists of people that have a variety of skills on that team. Right. Cause you don’t just want, you know, everyone that’s just tech. Right. Cause then it’s like, well, who’s going to be your salesman. Or maybe the tech person can be your salesman. I dunno. But making sure your team has a diverse skill set. Making sure that you have a roadmap for where you want to go. Um, and being prepared to pivot if you have to. 

 I’m not necessarily sure if it’s right to say that you have to have an option B, but you have to be prepared to pivot, I would say. And you have to be prepared to understand that you have to pivot quickly. You gotta, I mean, you’re, if you started your business, you,  you’ve hopefully tested and know what the market wants. So, you know, keeping your ear close to that and making sure you’re clear about that.

[00:29:24] Veronica: Hey, COVID happened. 

[00:29:26] Tai: Yeah, yeah, 

[00:29:27]Veronica: Nobody could have predicted this and look at all the companies that have had to pivot in some did so very successfully and some not. So you just have to be prepared, preparedness. There you go. 

[00:29:38]Tai: Preparedness. Yes. Yes. Yeah. It’s very few people who just get lucky and the people who look like they got lucky, it’s because they have in my experience anyway,  they have done a lot of this kind of stuff already. They have the roadmaps, they have all of this stuff in place. They have the mentors and things like that.

Yes. Luck favors the prepared. That’s what Louis Pasteur, I think I’m saying that name completely wrong, but yes, but yeah. Making sure that you are prepared. 

[00:30:05] Veronica: And Benjamin Franklin says, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. 

[00:30:10]Tai: Oh, that is such a good one. And it’s to true. 

 [00:30:35] Veronica: thank you so much for coming on to the show today. Like I absolutely was so excited that you said yes, because business is not luck. Business takes a lot of intention. And as we’ve chatted about today, even though we didn’t say the operations word so much, it’s like components of customer service, having a plan, all of this is part of operations. And so I’m so glad that we were able to touch upon this, especially from like a startup perspective, because it’s like,  well, I’m not in the startup world as a business because I’m an agency. It’s like all of what you said I can take to heart because I need to have a plan. I need to have a roadmap.  I need to be able to make sure that my financial model is good. And maybe just for the people that don’t understand, when you’re talking about financial models, before we, you know, close the show, can you talk about what that means? 

[00:30:59] Tai: Yeah. So financial model, you’re basically, figuring out, like, what are your expenses are? Like what’s coming in, what’s going out? Are you prepared for, like a COVID-19.  How much money do you have left? Right. So they call that burn rate. So how much money do you have left?  Can you survive without an influx of cash for six months, nine months, one year? Like, What does that look like? Do you plan like six months out, one year out? So like definitely like creating different templates and different scenarios of what your finances could look like in different scenarios. So that could be COVID-19. Your business, like, doesn’t get any more cash. Can you stay afloat? O,r getting a lot of money and now you can hire out the team of your dreams. Or, you know, all of the above, right. So it’s really thinking very critically about, how much money comes in, how much goes out and how much you have in your reserves.

[00:31:48]Veronica: I love that. All right. Well, this has been amazing. I am so grateful that you were able to come on the show today. And for everybody that wants to like, know more about you, Techstars, where can they find you all? 

[00:32:02]Tai: Yeah, well, you can find me on Twitter.  Uh, I think it’s Tai_Hutchinson on Twitter. Uh, you can find Techstars on Twitter or go to techstars.com. I’m currently in program now, so our applications are not open, but there’s a ton of other applications open for other Techstars accelerators.There’s a lot of different industries, so, uh, New York City is industry agnostic. So we take everybody, just kidding.  And then there’s other accelerators that focus on other things, right. Like food to farm burgers to the moon, they would go to our food to fork accelerator. I’m like saying that completely wrong.  

[00:32:34] Veronica: Thanks so much, Tai, for coming on the show. I’m so excited that we got to do this.

[00:32:39]Tai: Yes. Thank you so much for having me, Veronica.  

[00:32:42]Veronica:  Thanks for listening to The Business Whip. Hosted by yours truly, Veronica Yanhs, CEO and founder of Business Laid Bare. If you enjoyed this episode, spank that subscribe button in whichever podcast app you’re listening in and share this with your friends.

And finally, thank you to our friends at Boxx Bar for sponsoring this episode.  Toys, clothes, and jewelry for all women with a hint of kink. Yes, please. Go to www.boxxbar.com

I’ll see you all in the next episode. Thank you.

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