Unless you're a sole proprietor, with every minute that passes from the moment you found your company, you know less about it. While you're never going to know everything, collecting data, both inside and outside your organization, is an important skill that only grows in importance as your company grows.


Mike Mills, a long-time Return Path senior manager, frequently refers to the NIHITO Principle: Nothing Interesting Happens in the Office. Now that's not entirely true: running a company requires spending a huge amount of time with people and on people issues. Setting your company's vision and strategy means situating it into a larger market context. What problem are you solving? Whose needs are you meeting? Who else is trying to reach the same audience? You can't answer those questions intelligently without being “in-market.” Spend time with customers and channel partners. Actively work industry associations. Get to know customers well. Walk the floor at a conference. Understand what the substitute products are and not only the direct competition.

In one year alone, I traveled nearly 160,000 miles around the world to meet with prospects, clients, partners, and industry luminaries. You don't have to be a road warrior to get this one right. You can attend events in your local area and develop a local network of people you can meet with regularly. If you're running a company with consumer products, it may be a lot easier. You do ...

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