We are big believers in focus. As one serial entrepreneur we know is fond of saying, you can’t get anywhere by trying to “boil the ocean.” That is, if you try to do too much too fast you will fail. At the same time, one of our recent blogs explored the notion of luck. It highlights that a combination of mindfulness and directed energy can increase some types of luck to put your startup in a better position for success. Exploration is a key element of this part of the journey. So when do you explore and consider many alternative directions? When do you zero in on something and doggedly pursue it? How can you stay focused, without being too closed-minded to miss opportunities? This is a very delicate balance, and we thought a blog on the topic might be helpful.
Many of us are familiar with some version of this phrase that we’ve quoted from Pippin, The Musical. The idea is that if one is born lucky, they can acquire “smartness” through effort, over time. If one is born smart, that’s great—but you may never acquire luck. Of course, if you were born NFL Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, arguably you have the best of both worlds.
There is some bit of luck in avoiding hidden debts. Missing icebergs (or “debtbergs”) is not justabout navigation. Luck, fortune, and icebergs are inextricably linked. We thought we would devote this blog to a richer exploration of luck in the entrepreneurial world.
Guest Blog by Sunny Lu Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org)
At the book launch for The Titanic Effect: Successfully Navigating the Uncertainties that Sink Most Startups, Kim and Todd asked me to share my personal insights leading innovation activities both within my former employer of 13 years, Telamon Corporation, and now my own company, TechServ. Here are the 3 ideas I shared about how I manage the uncertainty to succeed:
Know your Role on the Rig– You have to start by knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. Then, build a team to supplement your strengths. Teams’ skill sets should enhance the whole, especially complementing where the leader is weak. Be flexible about what role you take on as a leader, working from your strengths…
To the Titanic Effect followers: This is an exciting week for us. The printed copy of the book was released earlier this week! If you are new to the party, here is a brief video summarizing the book’s contents, with props from a few endorsers: http://bit.ly/TitanicEffect.
We have been writing a weekly blog since October. It has been a lot of fun and a good learning experience for us. We’ve creatively thought about how to package the book’s key contents in bite-sized morsels. To be honest, it is also a lot of work! But our followers have grown over that time. We hope this effort will continue to “scale” as the book gets out there. We also realized that the long scrolling list of blog topics online is quite a challenge to “navigate.” In fact, a newcomer might find it intimidating. Even a hard core follower might have difficulty finding that blog they liked on product/market fit, for example.
With that in mind and to celebrate the book launch, we are using this week’s blog to recap our blogs by category, with a brief guide to how to “consume” them. This is a longer blog than usual, but we wanted to be comprehensive.
It’s clear that startups cannot “go it alone.” First, a founder needs to be coachable - learn more about coachability at our previous blogpost on Foundersplaining. They need supporters to help them get connected to employees, customers and investors. If you want to understand more about how and why supporters (we call them venture advocates) help startups, check out our academic article – Venture Advocate Behaviors and the Emerging Enterprise.
Investors will pressure you to mitigate as much risk in every aspect of your business. You control for as many variables as possible, but how do you live with so many unknowns?
Normalizing uncertainty will not only help you succeed with your startup, it will help you become more of yourself and allow you to be fully present with your family, friends, and colleagues. The following practices will help you develop confidence, deepen relationships with influencers, and get you through those tough times when you don’t have a crystal ball to predict the outcomes in your future.
Way--it really is! But first, another update on our journey. This week, the eBook version of The Titanic Effect: Successfully Navigating the Uncertainties that Sink Most Startups became available on Kindle. And yes, we purchased one on the first day.
People sometimes describe entrepreneurs as risk takers. They see starting a company as a risky activity. Yes, there is risk involved. But, navigating uncertainty rather than being risky is the essential task of the entrepreneur. What to build, how to build it, whom to partner with, whom to sell to, and how to fund growth… these are really tasks laden with uncertainty.
Most founders we talk to have a little glaze in their eyes as they share their vision. You can tell that in their mind’s eye, they see their startup as a Unicorn. At a minimum, they can see revenues of $100 million. And that’s great – they should have a lofty and bold vision of what they can accomplish. Without that vision, they are guaranteed not to get there. We wondered, just how likely is this kind of an outcome?
If you listen to a variety of startup pitches or work closely with startups, one refrain you often here is – “we are unique, there’s no one else like us.” What appeals to a founder about this idea is that they don’t have any competitors. Instead, this is a hidden debt that we explore in the Marketing Ocean.
So, why do we say being in a market category of one company is a bad idea?