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University Curriculum


Basecamp InQb8r University is a knowledgebase of content, methodologies, processes, tools, spreadsheets, diagrams, resource lists, research, data and software, organized to take a startup from idea to $50 million in annual sales.  Regardless of whether you want to stay small and private or grow large with investor participation, University teaches the fundamentals that matter regardless of size. It includes:

  • The Growth Stack, which is a road map for developing, launching and growing a consumer product company through methods that can lead to more sales – faster – and can make a company and its products more appealing to consumers, resellers and investors, with less risk.
  • The Lean & Agile Framework, which is the operating manual to help support executing on the Growth Stack. It is organized into eight core sections.  There are more than 40 tools in the forms of models, spreadsheets, standard operating procedures and diagrams

The goal for incubator members is to build into their companies the following top line fundamentals.  If entrepreneurs can successfully do all five, they are more likely to be successful. Basecamp InQb8r’s content is designed to support these five elements.

  1. Capture customer’s attention. My products or something about my company has a “WOW” factor that grabs consumers quickly. I solve a problem, pain or satisfy a customer’s desire in a noticeable way.  Think cheaper, faster, better, and/or more convenient than competing products.
  2. Defensible– can include any of the following:
    1. I have a patent or the potential for a patent;
    2. my products are hard to copy;
    3. I have a proprietary or close to proprietary way of selling and distributing;
    4. I collect data on my customers that is unique and which no other company can collect or is very hard to do so;
    5. or, anything else about my company that makes me unique that customers desire which is hard to copy or duplicate.
  3. Repeat purchasers. I am not constantly having to replace lost customers with new ones.
  4. Scales up.  I can grow to serve a lot of customers, which by nature defines a typical consumer goods company that gains economies of scale with growth, but further means that the supply chain is not overly fragile. My supply chain and production are closer to my customers, which means doing all possible to source supply and produce in the same country that I sell.
  5. Profitable at a 20% net margin that is sustainable. Sustainable means several things:
    1. I have good cost control in my cost of goods sold, my marketing acquisition costs and my operating expenses;
    2. My products and operations minimize or even reverse resource depletion and minimize or offset environmental impacts;
    3. My products leans towards consumer staples and not discretionary, so they sell well in most any economic environment.

Growth Stack

We see so many startups and product launches that waste money, time or outright fail because they use the wrong growth strategy.

In my experience, the Growth Stack requires the least amount of investment and the least amount of risk, and has the potential to provide much faster, more robust and sustainable growth.

It will work for any size company. If you want to stay small, it will work, if you want to grow big, it will work.

Learn three key things:

  1. How to have very profitable products and without having to sell a lot;
  2. How to get FREE marketing, so you can run a lot of it;
  3. How to get resellers and retailers and investors to chase you, not the other way around

Section 1: Strategy

Before starting your company, achieve alignment and fit between your goals, brand pillars, category/product selection and target market.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • How to determine your interest, passions and talents and why these should be aligned with your business;
  • Why it is important to have deep joy in building your company and how to make sure you build that into your company;
  • A list of resources and tools to help you determine your interest, passions and talents;
  • The difference between interests, passions and talents and what stays the same and what changes;
  • How to come up with the best business idea for you;
  • Why you should work on your strengths and not your weaknesses, but when it is important to work on your weaknesses;
  • What is a backstory and why it is important for your business idea;
  • Examples of backstories that you can find to learn from;
  • What is a company vision;
  • What is a company mission or values;
  • What is company culture;
  • What are goals;
  • How vision, mission, values/culture and goals fit together;
  • How to align your interest, passions and talents with your company vision, mission/values and culture;
  • What are customer personas;
  • Why it is important to think about your target market in terms of customer personas;
  • What are brand pillars, why they are important and how to develop them;
  • One way to stand out in your business that you build into your brand pillars;
  • How to determine the viability of your business idea;
  • Characteristics for a great product (or business idea)
  • Which are you: product centric, marketing centric, sales centric and what are the differences and how do they impact your growth strategy;
  • What are the predominant marketing influencing factors, how are they different and why timing of their use is important;
  • What are the major sales models for consumer products, how are they different, what is their relative cost to execute and risk factors;
  • Which sales models might you pick and why;
  • The major consumer product growth strategies and why the framework emphasizes certain ones over others;
  • Why having a lot of cash is often your most dangerous resource that can kill your company;
  • How to set goals and how they fit into your business planning process;
  • What is a scorecard and how to start using this tool;
  • Why it is important to measure, track and report;
  • How having to make fewer decisions can make you more successful;
  • How to manage strategic, tactical and day-to-day distractions in growing your company;
  • Models and tools for analyzing risk and how to manage;
  • What is strategic alignment in your company;
  • Why you need strategic alignment;
  • When I ask people who are successful what is the one thing that they owe to their success, most say it comes down to this one thing.

Section 2: Systems

Implement the right technology and processes so that growth is easier to manage and scale.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • Why data and information is power;
  • Goals for the technology I use;
  • How systems can help you attain success;
  • My systems, processes and technology for productivity;
  • What are dashboards and KPIs;
  • Key KPIs I like;
  • Supply chain tools I use;
  • Production tools I use;
  • Logistics/Shipping-Warehouse/Inventory tools I use;
  • My main website infrastructure platforms I use and why;
  • WordPress plugins I use;
  • Woocommerce add-ons I use;
  • My website customizations and why I developed them;
  • My ecommerce sales funnel, why I developed it, and how the rules engine works to power it;
  • The email list infrastructure I use;
  • The social media tools I use;
  • The web analytics tools I use;
  • Systems I no longer use and why;
  • The database I use and why I developed it;
  • Other database alternatives;
  • Sales tools I use;
  • Customer service tools I use;
  • Finance tools I use;
  • What I use to run my finance and accounting;
  • Systems to manage contractors and human resources;
  • My technology costs.

Specific models and tools I have created for this section:

  • Business Organizer;
  • Growth Plan & Timeline;
  • Calendars;
  • Task List;
  • Dashboard-KPIs-Metrics;
  • Email SOP;
  • Mailchimp SOP;
  • Website Development/Changes SOP;
  • Consumer Product Ecommerce Sales Funnel (purchase required as a separate add-on);
  • Database SOP;
  • Consumer Product Customer-Ecommerce-Marketing Database (purchase required as a separate add-on);
  • System Costs;
  • Operations Database.

Section 3: Product Development

Develop “WOW” products that capture attention, perform competitive research, determine positioning, overcome sales objections, determine value propositions and document risks

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • How to develop products in context of value ladders and sales funnels;
  • How to develop products for a traditional reseller/retail approach;
  • What is rapid-prototyping and why you need to develop products this way;
  • What are WOW products and why you need them;
  • What things cause people to talk about and share;
  • Classic direct response marketing elements for blockbuster products;
  • Ten elements that make up WOW;
  • WOW products can be a combination of things;
  • A WOW product is relative to the target market;
  • Validate the existence of buyers;
  • Passive Consumer Voice Mining;
  • Use neuromarketing in place of surveys;
  • How to research and secure names for your company and products;
  • Resources for names keyword & search phrases;
  • Why I am not a fan of traditional surveys;
  • Tools if you want to conduct surveys;
  • Key industry research questions to answer;
  • Key competitor research questions to answer;
  • Competitor research tools to use;
  • Key reseller/retail research questions to answer;
  • Key questions to help determine your competitive advantages;
  • Key questions to help determine your dream customers;
  • How to improve customer personas with affinities research;
  • How to determine your product positioning;
  • How to document sales objections;
  • Document risks with your product;
  • Document constraints to working with your product, category and industry;
  • Get UPC and GTIN numbers.

Specific models and tools I have created for this section:

  • Specifications & Price List.

Section 4: Finance

Pricing, cost of goods sold (COGS), accounting, budgeting, forecasting, fundraising and all things finance-related

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • The ultimate goal in any company is to acquire AND retain customers where costs to acquire and retain are less than expenses, which leads to profits;
  • Lay out best practices in accounting and finance that will tell the business what activities are most successful for acquiring and retaining customers, so the business can do more of that, and where they are less successful (or not at all), and stop doing that;
  • The flow of money and key financial metrics that underpin the use of direct marketing to sell products;
  • The main profit and loss buckets;
  • The million dollar question: how much to spend on marketing & sales;
  • Why the common rule of thumb on marketing spend is wrong;
  • What is marketing efficiency and why do you want it;
  • Where to obtain the key data for building the key financial models;
  • The right way to track and categorize expenses;
  • Why you want to separate investment costs from all other costs in the profit and loss statement;
  • What is cost of goods sold (COGS) and what expenses make up this bucket;
  • The important questions to consider in determining and managing COGS;
  • A rule of thumb for COGS;
  • How to create profit & loss statements by product and sales channel and why you want to do that;
  • How to determine marketing costs by product and sales channel and why you want to do that;
  • How to determine return on ad spend (ROAS) contribution margin, and return on investment (ROI) and how to use these ratios;
  • How to determine average customer value and why you want to know that;
  • How to determine average order value in context of a product sales funnel and why you want to know that;
  • How to drill down and determine your suggested retail price (MSRP);
  • How to eliminate channel conflict in pricing;
  • How to set pricing based on profitability goals;
  • How to set pricing in context of discounts and special offers;
  • The right way to build a sales forecast model that is based not just on end consumer sales, but what you ship out;
  • How to use a resellers target weeks on hand inventory to manage your sales forecast;
  • How to use prior year data to help in your sales forecasting;
  • How to use promotions and seasonal spikes to help in your sales forecasting;
  • How to create profit & loss statements with actual results and forecasted numbers;
  • Why you want to avoid equity fundraising for your company;
  • The key questions your finances need to answer with respect to your company;
  • How to set marketing spend based on specific growth strategies;
  • Why sell direct-to-consumer and not use resellers;
  • Pricing after you have acquired a customer;
  • How to increase revenue;
  • A case for using resellers before direct-to-consumer.

Specific models and tools I have created for this section:

  • Accounting General Ledger;
  • Simulation P&L;
  • Traffic & Funnel Model;
  • SRP Pricing Model;
  • Sales Forecast Model;
  • Standard Ownership/Fundraising Capitalization Model;
  • Operations Database.

Section 5: Production & Logistics

Supply chain, production, logistics and warehousing

Here is what is covered in this section:

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • How production and logistics is entirely driven off of your inventory management tool;
  • The different subsections of production and logistics and how to think about them in sequence;
  • What happens to finished goods in context of direct-to-consumer shipments and retail shipments and why;
  • What you need to do daily to manage your inventory;
  • What you need to do weekly to manage your inventory;
  • Additional items related to production and logistics to think through;
  • Supply Chain Risk Management Tool.

Specific models and tools I have created for this section:

  • Product Production Log;
  • Operations Database.

Section 6: Marketing

Organize marketing so you have a detailed framework to know what kind of marketing to create, why, when to deploy it, and where to deploy it.

Here is what is covered in this section:

Why you need a framework for marketing;

  • The one secret to success in marketing;
  • Why marketing is about trust and relationship;
  • The 1000 true fans concept and how it can work in growing your company;
  • The two broad categories of marketing and why you need to focus on both;
  • Hot vs warm vs cold prospects and how to market to them;
  • Direct marketing vs brand marketing vs grass roots marketing;
  • Paid vs owned vs earned media;
  • Awareness vs engagement vs conversion;
  • Active vs passive media;
  • How to organize the above marketing concepts into a framework to know what kind of marketing to create, why, when to deploy it, and where to deploy it;
  • How to get marketing to pay for itself (so you can spend a lot on it);
  • How to test marketing before you invest in more marketing;
  • How to visually organize the marketing framework into a useful tool;
  • Understanding basic and advanced concepts in behavior and psychology for use in marketing;
  • What is brand identity and how to create it for your products and company;
  • Understanding marketing creative & copy;
  • Using storytelling to market your products;
  • Understanding value propositions;
  • Product pricing from a financial vs marketing context;
  • Building landing pages, funnels, using conversion rate optimization (CRO) and UX/UI;
  • Basic analytics tools you want to have in place to capture marketing data;
  • Targeting your marketing to behaviors vs interests;
  • Marketing strategy vs tactics vs ideas;  what is the difference and why;
  • How to keep track of your marketing ideas;
  • Marketing channels & tactics list;
  • Diagnose marketing failures.

Specific models and tools I have created for this section:

  • Blog Posts and Social Posting SOP;
  • Business Organizer;
  • UTM Formula Tool;
  • Marketing Campaigns & Ideas Tracking Tool;
  • Marketing Channels List.
  • Customer support cost and comparison model

Section 7: Resellers

Sell through retailers, distributors, drop shippers, affiliates and others

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • What does sales do?
  • A product vs a product line;
  • How the category buyer sees your product;
  • Why your product may not be of interest to a category buyer;
  • Questions you need to answer before selling through resellers;
  • Why you have to forecast tradespend and reseller ROI ahead of time;
  • What is pricing from financial and marketplace contexts;
  • How to account for tradespend in a P&L;
  • How to look at SRP, wholesale cost, product size by channel, retailer margin and distributor pricing in an example;
  • One method for determining channel margins when you are not able to talk with industry insiders;
  • How to get into resellers and grow;
  • A process and checklist to sell to resellers;
  • Working with brokers;
  • How to handle annual reviews with resellers;
  • What is sales operations what does it do and why;
  • SOP for setting up new resellers;
  • Purchase order receiving and fulfillment SOP;
  • What is merchandising and how to do it;
  • What is account marketing and how to do it;
  • The best way to manage forecasting to keep you sane;
  • Specifics on doing business with Costco;
  • A complete diagram on all the components and activities of a sales department and how they interact.

Specific models and tools I have created for this section:

  • Retail Terms Sheet And Setup Checklist;
  • Simplified Retailer ROI Model;
  • Complex Retailer ROI Model;
  • Model and sequence determining margins;
  • New Account Setup Checklist;
  • Master Account Summary Tool;
  • Daily Ship vs. Open Tool;
  • New Reseller Setup SOP;
  • Post-reseller account setup SOP;
  • Purchase order receiving and fulfillment SOP;
  • Graphical layout of a Sales Department.

Section 8: Support

This section is a basic high level checklist for support areas to build out the company

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • Human Resources;
  • Legal;
  • Insurance;
  • Regulatory;
  • Finance;
  • Facilities.

Specific models and tools I have created for this section:

  • Operations Database.

Knowledgeboard Posts



Charts, Graphs and Visuals

Interesting charts, graphs and other visuals, either from my own datasets or that I find elsewhere which I make available in my public content.  Please go to this page.