6 Lessons from the Startup CFO – Mark MacLeod

Mark MacLeod is known across Canada as the “startup CFO” so much so that his twitter handle is @startupcfo and his website is www.startupcfo.ca.  Presently Mark works with Feshbooks, Tungle, Akoha and others.

At Toronto’s SproutUp, Mark made a presentation to the predominantly tech startup crowd about some of the common mistakes people working at startups usually make. 

The following are some lessons he shared:

1) Have a clear picture of how you’re going to make money.  One of the first steps is to let potential clients a clear understanding of what it is that you offer as a business. 

2) Never stop prospecting.  When the business starts coming in, the next step is to look for more business.  The mistake most people and businesses make is to focus too much on finishing a project or contract while pouring almost no resources in hunting for that next paycheck.  Unless your business model has a recurring high revenue stream all startups should be looking for business always.

3) Ask for the order.  Don’t be afraid to ask for payment.  Remember, as a startup you can’t afford to give clients credit.  Let your clients know when you expect payment and don’t be afraid to remind them.

4) Keep it simple.  Give your potential audience the easiest sign-up process possible.  And remember to focus on niche early adopters.  Allow this community to be your biggest fans and boosters.  Going from small and niche is easier than trying to be everything to everyone.

5) Understand your finances.  The questions you need to answer are what will your salary structure look like; will you hire interns and freelancers or full time employees; what are the tax ramifications of how you structure your business and the finances? When it comes to financing your startup will the founders chip in money?  what about parents and friends? The key is to ask people because there is usually someone out there looking to finance the type of company you’re creating.

6) Founding partners.  Unlike our family we get to choose who we go into business with.  This is the most important relationship for most, if not all, startups.  Make sure you all get along and that you agree on what your startup’s culture, business model and values are.

Mark shared many more lessons, mistakes and thoughts at the SproutUp.  I could share them here but then there would be no incentive for you to attend the next SproutUp.  And that would be a mistake.