Everyone gets tested in life.
Wounds. Sometimes physical. Sometimes emotional. Always spiritual. A blow to the gut.
But these tests happen at different times to different people. Some people start sooner in life. And then get more. Others start later in life. But then get extra.
Starting a business is one of these tests. In fact, the journey of a founder brings multiple tests. Building scar tissue the whole time. Successful entrepreneurs are able to recover. And come back stronger. Sometimes still building the same business. Sometimes starting over.
Of course, many people don’t recover from the tests of life. They still live. But differently.
What about people who haven’t been tested? Who don’t have scar tissue? It’s hard to predict who can recover.
Looking for success? Look for people who have recovered from scar tissue. They’ll do it again.
Distribution channel partners.
Direct to consumer online.
Mass market consumers.
Mass affluent consumers.
The App Store.
The other App Store.
All the other app stores.
In between tweens and teens.
Fast growing startups.
People with money.
How many target customer segments do you have? Try fewer.
Lean is a great discipline. It drives focus. It eliminates waste.
But there’s a downside to being too lean.
Big opportunities need big resources. Either pass on these opportunities or face the real risk that the company breaks under the weight of what’s required.
Fat startups can handle big opportunities. They have lots of money. And plenty of people.
But there’s a downside to being too fat. Waste is abundant. Changing direction quickly is hard because of all the excess baggage.
Do startups have to either starve or gorge?
Successful startups have already figured out the paradox of lean and fat.
Endurance training because it’s a marathon. Sprints and cardio for critical inflection points. Stay flexible to withstand unexpected challenges. And agile to change directly quickly. Build mass and strength in order to deal with bigger challenges as you grow.
Successful startups are fit startups.
Being the founder of a company seems glamorous.
Lots of money. More than you ever imagined.
No bosses. And all those employees who follow your orders.
Interviews by star-struck reporters. Glossy photos that make you look good.
Awards and prizes. Sparkling awards and prizes.
VIP status at snazzy conferences. With crazy afterparties.
But the reality?
No money. Less than you ever imagined.
Customers as the ultimate bosses. And good luck hiring employees.
Reporters ignore your emails. Those selfies ain’t looking too hot.
Who cares about awards and prizes. It’s not kindergarten.
No invites to conferences. Forget afterparties. Anyways, don’t you have work to do?
Most people are much better off joining a startup that has reached a positive an inflection point and is already growing super fast. This kind of company is usually desperate to hire people.
Does the world need more founders? Absolutely.
Should everyone be a founder? Absolutely not.
And that’s OK.
Quality is rare.
Usually, it’s the result of a small group of people, sometimes a single person, completely obsessed beyond all rational comprehension. They’re not doing it for money. And many times not even for pleasure. Most likely, they simply can’t stop.
You can see it in the results.
Quantity is everywhere. Our modern world is full of people and machines and software making more. Not better. Just more. They may be doing it for money. They may be doing it for pleasure. But they also can’t stop.
But there’s a crucial paradox.
You can’t get to quality without quantity.
The arithmetic of serving customers seems easy at first glance.
Add more things that customers want. Get more business.
Annie likes oatmeal cookies. Annie orders 12 oatmeal cookies. You surprise Annie by adding 1 extra oatmeal cookie.
12 oatmeal cookies + cookie = one more happy customer.
Bob likes oatmeal cookies. Bob likes chocolate. Bob orders 12 oatmeal cookies. You surprise Bob by giving him 12 oatmeal & chocolate chip cookies.
12 oatmeal cookies + chocolate = one less happy customer.
Adding more can subtract business.
Because adding the chocolate actually ruins the taste of the cookies for Bob. He doesn’t want to mix oatmeal and chocolate. And he’s very happy buying his chocolate from the chocolate store.
Celine likes oatmeal cookies. Celine orders 12 oatmeal cookies. You surprise Celine by giving her an offer of one extra oatmeal cookie for every new customer she refers. Celine refers 12 new customers right away. The 12 new customers are happy.
12 oatmeal cookies + bonus = 13 more happy customers.
Adding more can multiply business.
Is this just about cookies?
Do you think Bob really wants you to add that extra feature to your software which he already gets somewhere else?
Is Celine a thought leader in the industry who also happens to love your new product?
Stop adding things that subtract value and add more things that multiply value.
When doing something we know well, we’re really efficient.
In the zone.
It’s easy to get comfortable and simply do more of what works.
Focus is good, right?
When we try something new, we feel slow.
It’s uncomfortable and easy to give up.
Why step outside our comfort zone?
It’s inherently inefficient. Most of the time, we’re simply flailing. And failing.
But once in a while, something works. It joins our comfort zone. And we quickly become efficient.
Efficiency is great, but long term exponential growth only happens by moving beyond what we already know, by exploring.
Stop crawling faster and start trying to walk.
Dinosaurs are awesome. Imagine seeing some in person. It would be unforgettable. And they would be able to smell your fear. Hopefully, for your sake, they would be busy doing something else.
Ants are puny. You’ve seen them plenty. Probably can’t remember the last time you saw any. And you couldn’t smell their fear. Hopefully, for their sake, they would be able to get out of your way.
But here’s the funny thing.
Dinosaurs used to rule the earth. Until they didn’t.
Ants were around before dinosaurs. Ants were around along with dinosaurs. Ants are around long after dinosaurs.
Why ants? Why not dinosaurs?
Ants ain’t stronger than dinosaurs. Ants ain’t faster than dinosaurs. Ants ain’t smarter than dinosaurs. Ants ain’t fiercer than dinosaurs. Ants ain’t more competitive than dinosaurs.
So why do so many business strategy books tell you to be stronger, faster, smarter, fiercer and more competitive?
To become a fossil?
The environment changed. Ants adapted. Dinosaurs didn’t.
It’s true that software is eating the world. And this ain’t good for everyone. But more people than ever before are using software.
Learning more ideas.
Saving more time.
Saving more money.
Because more people are eating more software.
Some of the many unintended consequences of organisations with rigid structure.
Many old companies still operate this way. At best slowly sinking into irrelevance. At worst dissapearing faster than they can think.
Many new companies are now starting to explore the opposite extreme. Nothing is fixed. Everything is changing. All the time. No structure.
Will no structure be the new path to success?
The history of the universe suggests otherwise. Structure is all around us. And inside us.
Structure that adapts to the environment. Structure that stays connected but separate. With resilience.