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Entrepreneurs: Get Your “Chickens” and “Pigs” in a Row or Else…

We’ve all heard that we need to get our “ducks in a row” if we want to succeed as entrepreneurs. This is certainly true, but…

Chickens and Pigs are even more important to your business.

There’s an old farmer’s parable that talks about the difference between the “chicken and pig at breakfast” - the moral being that the “chicken” is a participant while the “pig” is committed. I.e., the chicken lays an egg and can then go on his merry little way. The pig has become ham or bacon and is therefore fully committed.

Take stock of your Chickens and Pigs.

If you look at all of your customers, partners, employees, investors, coaches - or anyone else you engage with in your business - and then you compare the nature and quality of your interactions with each of these parties, you will quickly realize there is a huge difference in motivation, commitment, and dependability among them. Some are clearly “chickens” (casually participating in your success and failure), others are “pigs” (committed to your success).

You need both to succeed.

It would be nice if everyone we interacted with was a pig - but unless you’re preparing the cult for ascendance to the mother ship, this probably isn’t the scenario you’re in. In the real world, we are surrounded by both chickens and pigs - and the key is to 1) know which category each person falls into, 2) make sure we treat them accordingly, and 3) realize that they are both critical to getting to the end goal.

As a general rule, a company’s initial traction is hugely dependent on pigs (i.e., your initial supporters, evangelists, etc); and its ultimate growth depends on getting lots of chickens (i.e., the mainstream)  involved along with continued commitment from the pigs.  Treat your chickens and pigs as you should - and the growth will be smooth. But get it wrong and you are in for some serious pain…

Beware the Chicken that Oinks.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment that we ever experience as entrepreneurs comes at the hands of chickens that we mistake for pigs (through their fault or our own).  They seem excited, they agree to get involved, they make some promises - and then… nothing. Even worse - maybe we acted like pigs and wasted our time, money, or energy catering to their “needs” or following through on our side of the bargain with them - but still, nothing.

Meanwhile, (and fortunately)…

The pigs deliver the goods.

Any entrepreneur who’s experienced success has had fortunate encounters with some pigs along the way. They seemed excited, they agreed to get involved, they made some promises - and then they delivered. Maybe it was the initial customers who became avid evangelists and sang your praises as you were getting your concept nailed down, maybe it was the investor who got involved in your business and worked alongside you to get it done, maybe it was the employee who bought into the vision and then did her part to push it forward. It’s the pigs that get you off the ground, but…

Treat Your Pigs Right or Else…

Pigs are special, and they should be treated as such. If you treat them the same way as chickens they will quickly lose steam, feel hurt, and maybe even get disillusioned and shift from your strongest asset to your biggest headache. If you treat them as special, and acknowledge their commitment, they will continue to match you with their own commitment; and they will continue to rally alongside you to help you grow. Then all that’s left to do is…

Bring chickens into the game while continuing to treat the pigs as special.

For most meaningful market plays, there simply aren’t enough pigs in the world to achieve the growth you want. At some point, you need to bring chickens into the mix - and you need to satisfy the needs of the wider chicken audience while continuing to engage your pigs so the momentum continues.

In terms of company growth, you will likely encounter more pigs when you are targeting “Innovators” and “Early Adopters”, than when you are rolling your concept out to the mainstream market (which has very different needs than the early market). We’ll save that post for another day - but in the meantime, you can read “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore for more detail, or read this excellent summary of Crossing the Chasm here.

Author: Jeff D'Urso Categories: Startups Tags:
  1. July 14th, 2009 at 23:16 | #1

    “Oink oink” goes the chicken shephard!

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