I often think about the key lessons of my career to date and reflect: how much of success is preparation, how much is skill, and how much is luck? All three are important but I firmly believe that if anyone of them is missing, one cannot be successful. I can’t help you with the “skill” or “luck” elements, but I can share what I learned about preparation.
Planning by itself is not the secret of success but I can say with a high degree of confidence that most entrepreneurs have a “depths of despair” story and felt like giving up. Preparing for these moments, and avoiding as many mistakes as you can by learning from others is essential to moving through the darkness quickly and getting back to business.
Here’s the PowerPoint/Elevator speech on the learnings I had on planning.
Slide 1: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Take people’s advice and integrate it into your thinking. If they are smart, you should know they are smart, and you should take their advice, even if you don’t like what they have to say.
Slide 2: Don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love it. The money will follow good people and, eventually, on a risk adjusted basis, you will be compensated appropriately.
Slide 3: Work with people you respect. If you go down the entrepreneurial path, start a company with people you know EXTREMELY well. Can you imagine marrying someone after one interview? Exactly.
Slide 4: Just because you are good at “X”, does not mean you can start a successful company. Starting a company takes the right people at the right time during the right economic circumstances. Lots of companies were selling books before Amazon. Apple almost went bankrupt in 1997.
Slide 5: Revenue equals good (don’t reject new business because it doesn’t fit the initial plan). Expenses equals bad (don’t hire more people than you need until you absolutely need them).
Slide 6: When you can feel red flags, there are red flags. Do something about it.
Slide 7: Do not believe that you are more or less than you are based on the results of what you are doing. Results and money are two different things. I know a lot of really dumb people with a lot of money, and a lot of really smart people with no money. You are judged by how you treat people, not by how much money you make (or lose).
Slide 8: Roll with the punches. There are a lot of ups and downs when you start a company and the only way to manage them is to keep your emotions in check. Easy to say, hard to do.
Slide 9: It’s easy to see how you got to where you are, but you really have no idea where you are going to end up. Your career is less like a “ladder” and more like a “river”. It’s not a climb but a journey, filled with turns and branches but eventually leading you to where you are supposed to end up.
Slide 10: It could be the next meeting that changes your life.