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5 dos and don'ts natural product entrepreneurs can learn from the big guys

On the surface, startup companies and large organizations are very different. But small entrepreneurial ventures can learn from the best practices perfected by seasoned companies. Here are five dos and don'ts gleaned from the big guys:

An average idea well executed always beats a world-class idea still on the white board. The challenge for startups is they often put all of their time into developing the idea and how to finance their business, but lack the time and resources to think about execution and taking the product to market. It's important for early stage companies to be deliberate about planning what the journey from source to shelf and from sale to satisfaction looks like and what steps are needed to get there. Larger organizations have efficient planning methods and processes that work to get products to market efficiently, but when you're starting out, execution is often an afterthought.

Startups are often very deliberate and highly intuitive, but also frequently lack the discipline of being strategic in decision making and short- and long-term planning. While this is good for the spirit of a business, it often creates challenges for resource planning and the people working for them. It's important to have a clearly identified and articulated road map for where the business is heading and what the specific goals of the business are.

Senior executives of large companies are often too far removed from their consumers and really have no idea how these people live, what they value and the realities they face. Companies that put the customer first really understand their needs from the top down and it shows in their service and their connection with their customers. Entrepreneurs are often the customer for the product they created so they intuitively understand what their customers want. They are often still literally in the market selling to, learning from and connecting with their consumers, so they understand their needs, their behaviors and their language. They can iterate quickly and, because they don't have large research budgets or teams in the field, they are getting the input and insights first hand.

Entrepreneurs often find themselves using credit cards and life savings to fund product development and payroll, whereas large companies have the luxury of significant budgets and well-resourced teams so they can operate efficiently. Entrepreneurs don't necessarily have the funds to hire seasoned strategic partners or the best employees due to start-up budget constraints, but developing an equity-based engagement that vests over time for both key employees and strategic partners can be a motivating proposition for everyone concerned. One key takeaway for entrepreneurs is to never compromise on key hires and to invest the dollars in the best people with experience in key parts of the business from the very beginning.

A good fighter, or any good coach, studies the moves and the plays of their competition. One thing that entrepreneurs can learn from large companies (without obsessing over them) they might compete with for retail and consumer attention is to really understand where they've come from, where they started. By looking at what consumer feedback sounds like from blogosphere, from social media and the news, you might find valuable insights into gaps in the category or patterns that signify what not to do as you go to market. Understand what they've done well, where they've failed, where they might go next and why.


Shawn Parr is the The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, Annie's Natural Foods and World Vision. Learn more at

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