Burn The Ships!

…And Other Words of Advice From A Successful Entrepreneur

(This is the second of an exclusive two-part series on Atlanta data services company Cloud Sherpas. See Part 1  to find out how the company went from basement hobby to Google app.)

Uncertainty and stress are a part of all startups, which is why an aspiring business owner should actively seek out successful entrepreneurs for advice and support.

Mike Cohn, co-founder and current senior vice president of marketing for Atlanta-based Cloud Sherpas, has three advice points for those thinking of taking the plunge, or who already have.

#1: Burn the Ships
Mike Cohn

When the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico in 1519, he burned his ships to motivate his men and eliminate any possibility of retreat. Similarly, according to Cohn, starting a business requires an all-in bet, where the threat of failure is a driving motivation.

“In our first year, my partners and I went all in with our life savings, and all of us eventually quit our other jobs entirely. So there was a huge incentive for us to succeed, because failure basically meant not being able to feed our families,” said Cohn.

“It definitely helped keep us focused and drove us forward.”

From an investor perspective, burning the ships also demonstrates your commitment to success. It won’t guarantee investment dollars by itself, but your determination will make a positive impression on prospective backers.

“For the first year of the business, my primary goal was to go out and raise financing,” said Cohn. “I quickly learned how important it was for investors to know we were all in it as a team.”

#2: Go Sell Something!

A business plan means little in the absence of sales and revenue. If you can’t demonstrate success, however modest, your presentations and meetings may be perceived as nothing more than business theater.

Investors and customers want to know you’re serious about what you do. A solid sales history will beat a presentation long on hypotheticals every time. “You have to prove there’s a business before you find investors,” said Cohn. “Explaining our business concept as a hybrid reseller and product provider was fine. But by selling something, we not only proved ourselves to be serious, we proved our business worked. It all starts with sales.”

#3: Cash is King

In the early stages of a startup, cash means more than revenue. It means you’ve got the power to  reinvest to generate more revenue.

Cohn believes that reinvesting is key because the business landscape – particularly in the IT industry – is constantly changing. Staying current on technology and innovation is imperative.

In the case of Cloud Sherpas, which didn’t have much physical resource collateral early on, moving cash  (including selling receivables to fund future growth) was a necessary daily reality.

“It was a tedious process, but it was never all that nerve-wracking because we were fortunate to have clients who paid on time,” said Cohn. “We were definitely judicious with our growth in the earliest stages, but as our financial pipeline grew, we felt confident about moving more money.”


4 Definitive Examples to Understand and Serve Your Customers

4 Definitive Examples to Understand and Serve Your Customers

These four company case studies have yielded success across industries Running on Innovation, A New Solution for City Dwellers, Focus on Customers. Learn from these companies that are doing it right. Recently, I attended a public forum called Healthcare in the 21st...

4 Components of Small Business Agility in a Diverse Market

4 Components of Small Business Agility in a Diverse Market

Small business leaders need to understand diversity in order to be connected and create opportunities for success   The model of how to effectively navigate business leadership is changing. For decades stability and homogeneity were hallmarks of business across...

Top 7 Ways to Show Your Customers You Care

Top 7 Ways to Show Your Customers You Care

Even a small gesture can go a long way with a client and will be appreciated.   Nowadays, having a good product or service isn’t enough. Relationships are the differentiator. Today many companies are making investments in customer advocacy and loyalty programs...

Video Gallery

Modern version of Stoic philosopher Epictetus
A professional leads a cybersecurity training session for employees, emphasizing best practices. The photography captures the engagement of participants, showcasing the educational aspect of safeguard
Hispanic bearded male businessman trainer teaching coaching new recruitment African American female businesswoman employee in formal suit sitting studying learning company graph chart strategy
The presence of a robot using a computer. Office keyboard being typed on by machine. future IT group,.
Latino Streetwear Entrepreneur Latin Biz Today
Chef Lorena Garcia cooking with a wok
Latina Chef Loren Garcia
Latin Biz Today partner Johanna at the San Sebastián Festival


Which item currently represents the greatest hurdle in the growth of your business?(Required)

Sign Up for the Latin Biz Today Newsletter

PR Newswire

Featured Authors

Innovation & Strategy


Four Basic Principles for Raising Capital

Four Basic Principles for Raising Capital

Outside investors want to understand a business' strategy as well as its financial statements.   The need to raise capital from outside investors requires a great deal of preparation across multiple dimensions. Among many things, investors look to understand...









Work & Life


Health & Fitness

Travel & Destinations

Personal Blogs

Pin It on Pinterest