Fred Wilson has a great post on remembering the old wounds from the last bubble in 2000. In particular, he highlights the question that many of us have asked at board meetings – are we being too conservative or is it time to step on the gas a little. This is a vibrant area for discusssion – we never know the real answer as hindsight is 20/20 but it reminds me of a post I wrote back in March 2004 called Thoughts from PC Forum – going into attack mode. Here is a little excerpt:
The companies that survived this downturn were excellent at cutting costs, repositioning their products for new markets, and being resourceful and creative to survive. While these are some of the business principles I want my companies to continue to adhere to, I also want to caution that there is a danger in being too cheap. Some of these companies were so shellshocked from what happened during the past couple of years that they have become too cautious. For anyone that has been through the tough years, the only thing I can say is congratulations for surviving but now it is time to take some calculated risks. It is time to get out of the bunker and go into attack mode. Go after your competition, take some calculated risks, and focus on creating some revenue growth. What is different now than before is that most companies that survived the nuclear winter know who their customer is, how much they will pay, and what features and functionalities they may want in future versions. While it may sound like idle VC talk, I encourage you to spend that extra $$$ now as long as you can see the real ROI behind a targeted marketing program, the hiring of a new engineer to finish a product faster, or a new sales person to manage more qualified leads. Once again, take it with a grain of salt, as some entrepreneurs may think this is another VC swinging for the fences, but the point is don’t be too cautious because the opportunity may just pass you by.
Trust me, having lived through the bubble has changed my mentality a ton but I always have to remember that there is that lingering fear in my mind (fear can be good), and that I also have to temper my psychological mindframe with the data we have at hand and the opportunity in front of us. In other words, have a strategy and stick to it and if anything remember that old wounds can haunt you and use the data at hand to help make your decision. If the ROI and return is there, test it out and try it as you never know until you take that step. There is a huge difference in building your company because your competitors are doing it versus building because it is the right thing for your company and the data suggests it. Underinvesting in your company is just as much a sin as overinvesting in it. So find the balance and continue building.