Thanks to Antonio I’ve now got some of my favorite things from Panama. Tears very nearly appeared.
Wil was ousted by his board of directors at Omni Group and has some choice comments about it that fit in nicely with my Bootstrap Anti Patterns series of articles.
Here he talks about how the other directors started doing things the big company way against his own ideas:
I started feeling like actual evidence and experience wasn’t as important to Omni as was what was written in management and software books; so I was branded the crazy guy who wanted to ignore all the sage advice of my elders. Time and again our old policies, which had led to our success, were replaced by more conservative policies recommended by ‘experts’.
My feeling was (and is): You don’t adopt the mannerisms of big, successful companies when you’re small, because those mannerisms aren’t what made the companies successful.
They’re actually symptoms of what is killing the company, because it’s become too big. It’s like if you meet an really old, really rich guy covered in liver spots and breathing with an oxygen tank, and you say, “I want to be rich, too, so I’m going to start walking with a cane and I’m going to act crotchety and I’m going to get liver disease.”
The really important thing to remember is that what worked once won’t necessarily work again, and in fact is less likely to work again because it’s been done.
Brilliant. In particular I love the analogy with the old rich guy.
When asked “How do you keep from mentally imploding so you are still looking forward to coming into work every day?”, Wil replies:
Well, the usual… Booze. World of Warcraft. Driving the pimp-de-pimp-pimp-mobile. Shirt shopping.
On building the team
The biggest lesson for me has been to realize how much a company changes when you get more people. No matter what you hire people to do, no matter how much say they are supposed to have, they are going to have a say in how the company works.
On weeding out the team
You earn it, or you’re gone. I’m not saying, if you have a bad month, your ass is grass. I’m saying, if you’re consistently not helping the company, you need to go or you’ll infect everyone else, and it’s just not fair to anyone.
You’ve all heard the common advice that to startups that you need a good team. I’m sure that is right, however some times and at certain stages that team should consist of just you.
Granted if you happen to have a really good small founding team of really capable people, by all means you should work together. However, don’t go searching for your team unless you have a specific requirement.
Founders are also â€œexpensiveâ€? in terms of equity (usually, and sometimes even rightfully, to reward them for taking the risk in joining a startup). Founders are harder than normal employees to transition out of the Company (not legally, just emotionally: â€œHow can we fire Joe? Heâ€™s a founder.) Just like most people (including VCâ€™s), founders usually have skills and experiences that are narrower than they, themselves, believe (even sincerely). And finally, founders donâ€™t always pick their co-founders with a beady, cold-eyed, highly calculating gaze with a tough-minded focus on who can actually make the biggest contribution to the Company. Often, co-founders are picked because they are friends, or like-minded, or â€œgreat people, the kind youâ€™d pick if you were in a foxhole under fireâ€?.
He talks about how VC’s analyze the team. This also applies to us bootstrappers and it is certainly a kind of uncommon wisdom that we should heed.
My take on it is stay solo or tiny where each party has a clear role and clear talent to fulfill this role. When you actually feel a specific need that you can’t fulfill in your existing team (or by your self) bring partners in one by one to fullfill the necessary tasks. See for example 6 simple rules for micro ventures for more information on when you should bring further partners in.
â€œYou must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end â€“ which you can never afford to lose â€“ with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.â€? Jim Stockdale
While browsing around Joe Kraus blog after my last story about Great times for Entrepreneurs I stumbled upon this story about Startups and the Stockdale Paradox . It’s a story about optimism and realism, the story of Jim Stockdale who spent 8 years as prisoner in a Vietnam jail and was tortured regularly. He says the only reason he survived was that he was confident that he would survive, but realistic that it would take forever. He says the people who died first where the optimists.
As I read this it hit me that this is probably one of our greatest errors as entrepreneurs. I know that my greatest fault in some of my prior ventures has been not changing strategy when I should have done so.
For example things mostly take time. Most of my articles here in this blog reflect this. You could save up $20,000, quit your job and start full time on your business. However I have learnt the hard way that if you do this, you have to be ready to support your business even if things don’t move quite as fast as you want. Maybe your business is fine, just growing slowly. Is it really a good idea to quit your dream just because there is no money for rent or food? Maybe it is, but it might be better to be realistic early and work out other alternative ways to carry out your dream. Thats why I’m Funding through a nine to five. If you keep going to the last possible point of survival you can easily get so disillusioned that you stop alltogether.
Bob Parsons the founder of Go Daddy has given some good rules and advise for us Entrepreneurs
Go read the full back story at the above link as well as this later post When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think where he expands on rule 3.
For future reference here they are below:
Here are the 16 rules I try to live by:
1. Get and stay out of your comfort zone. I believe that not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zone. I hear people say, “But I’m concerned about security.” My response to that is simple: “Security is for cadavers.”
2. Never give up. Almost nothing works the first time it’s attempted. Just because what you’re doing does not seem to be working, doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it might not work the way you’re doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn’t have an opportunity.
3. When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think. There’s an old Chinese saying that I just love, and I believe it is so true. It goes like this: “The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”
4. With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be. Very seldom will the worst consequence be anywhere near as bad as a cloud of “undefined consequences.” My father would tell me early on, when I was struggling and losing my shirt trying to get Parsons Technology going, “Well, Robert, if it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you.”
5. Focus on what you want to have happen. Remember that old saying, “As you think, so shall you be.”
6. Take things a day at a time. No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don’t look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.
7. Always be moving forward. Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.
8. Be quick to decide. Remember what the Union Civil War general, Tecumseh Sherman said: “A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
9. Measure everything of significance. I swear this is true. Anything that is measured and watched, improves.
10. Anything that is not managed will deteriorate. If you want to uncover problems you don’t know about, take a few moments and look closely at the areas you haven’t examined for a while. I guarantee you problems will be there.
11. Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing. When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.
12. Never let anybody push you around. In our society, with our laws and even playing field, you have just as much right to what you’re doing as anyone else, provided that what you’re doing is legal.
13. Never expect life to be fair. Life isn’t fair. You make your own breaks. You’ll be doing good if the only meaning fair has to you, is something that you pay when you get on a bus (i.e., fare).
14. Solve your own problems. You’ll find that by coming up with your own solutions, you’ll develop a competitive edge. Masura Ibuka, the co-founder of SONY, said it best: “You never succeed in technology, business, or anything by following the others.” There’s also an old Asian saying that I remind myself of frequently. It goes like this: “A wise man keeps his own counsel.”
15. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up. Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are.
16. There’s always a reason to smile. Find it. After all, you’re really lucky just to be alive. Life is short. More and more, I agree with my little brother. He always reminds me: “We’re not here for a long time; we’re here for a good time.”
The above rules for survival are included with the permission of Bob Parsons (http://www.bobparsons.com) and is Copyright 2005 by Bob Parsons. All rights reserved.