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We’ve been accepted to speak at this monthly networking event! We just won the coolest office award! Our press release was picked up by a local tech rag (that picks up all local startup press releases). We were just accepted to a no-name, accelerator that doesn’t invest a dime in their cohort companies.

Fantastic! That took work and focus and you wasted energy that had nothing to do with developing a product, finding customers, or making money.

Investors love traction, you have glitter traction. Smart investors eschew glitter traction… they want real traction. Revenue traction. Moving your business forward traction.

  • Did you win a pay-to-play pitch contest? Congratulations you spent money to win a contest against a bunch of other people who wasted their money on some meaningless contest instead of spending it to build a product or gain customers. “But, Glen, we did it to raise money!” Hmmm, if you have to pay investors to see your pitch, then I don’t think you have the hustle to build a company. Are you going to pay your customers $100 to buy your product for $10?
  • Did you win the coolest office contest? Do you think investors are looking for a team of people who care more about their office than building a strong company? Do you think they want their money wasted on a $3,000 coffee machine or a circular slide connecting the two floors of an office that requires one floor of space?
  • We were accepted into the Prestigious Triverdonent-Oscillator Accelerator! So let me get this straight. You joined an accelerator that handed out somewhere between no and zero dollars and promised to teach you stuff that you should have known before you started your company?
  • Winning the “Hot Company” or “CEO To Watch” award from an organization that makes its money by selling sponsorships and running events and the sole reason you’re a “hot” company is to stock a barrel of fish to all the service providers who paid for sponsorships, the PR firms, the Law Firms, the Marketing Consultants, the Accountants that pay to shoot you fish that are swimming in that barrel?

There’s real traction and there’s glitter traction and the time for glitter traction is when you’ve made it.

What’s Real Traction? Real Traction is Revenue! Real Traction is a growing number of real customers. Real Traction is meaningful Strategic Partnerships based on agreements that commit the partner to an investment significantly greater than a Press Release.

Glitter Traction without Real Traction is a red flag. The best companies I know work out of cheap offices, keep their heads down, and concentrate on a few simple things:

  1. Customer Discovery
  2. Product Development
  3. Customer Acquisition
  4. Raising Capital

In that order, although in terms of timing, Step 4 is company, market, and product dependent.

I’m an executive coach, I help founders develop strategic plans, set priorities, and build great companies. I help people who run businesses focus on what’s important. If you’d like to experience what it’s like to work with an executive coach, you can schedule a complimentary one-hour coaching session here.