Archive for October 26th, 2010

Pure Entrepreneurial Perseverance

October 26, 2010

There is a very interesting interview of Steve Jobs done in 1995 by the Smithsonian Institute.  There are some great lines like “I’ve always felt that death is the greatest invention of life,” and “I do think when people look back on this in a hundred years, they’re going to see this as a remarkable time in history.”

There’s also a section on advice for future entrepreneurs. It’s right on the money.


What are the factors of success for young people today? What should they avoid?

Steve Jobs:

I get asked this a lot and I have a pretty standard answer which is, a lot of people come to me and say “I want to be an entrepreneur”. And I go “Oh that’s great, what’s your idea?”. And they say “I don’t have one yet”. And I say “I think you should go get a job as a busboy or something until you find something you’re really passionate about because it’s a lot of work”. I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

It is so hard. You put so much of your life into this thing. There are such rough moments in time that I think most people give up. I don’t blame them. Its really tough and it consumes your life. If you’ve got a family and you’re in the early days of a company, I can’t imagine how one could do it. I’m sure its been done but its rough. Its pretty much an eighteen hour day job, seven days a week for awhile.

Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. I think that’s half the battle right there.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Making $600 Mistakes

October 26, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I decided to write about my $600 mistake philosophy. It’s the idea that I’ll try something completely risky and unproven as long as the worst thing that happens is a $600 lose. This could be working with a new vender or contractor. This could be trying a piece of software that seems really promising. This could mean advertising in a new unproven way. This could mean buying a plane ticket to meet about a promising opportunity. $600 is my threshold for paying enough to learn from a mistake, but not enough to cripple my business.

I was so concerned with wasting a single dollar to kickoff entrepreneurial ventures before leaving corporate America, that I was often hand tied on making any meaningful progress. When I would attempt to build ideas or work through opportunities with no margin for error, I often failed before I began. I would refuse to pay for a service that I could perform even though it would save critical time. I wouldn’t pull the trigger until I’d found the perfect person to work with on it and considering my prices were lower than market rate, this became almost impossible to find a great partner unless they were a friend (which has its own problems).

I hope I don’t sound like I throw around $600. I really don’t. Talk to anyone that works with me and you’ll find I fight hard on negotiating as well as trying to be fair. On the flip side some people reading this might say that you can’t show any meaningful results with a $600 investment. In some cases/company phases that is probably true.   But for a startup you can’t be afraid to take some risks that require small injections of capital. Find the middle ground for learning a hard lesson but not collapsing your company.

On the flipside I’m sure some people are laughing that I consider $600 to be anything at all. I used to have one of those ballon budgets, and I understand when you’re spending $1MM on marketing alone, wasting $600 is small potatoes. But if you have a $1MM budget, you should spend $20k on 5-10 smaller one off projects that may or may not produce something meaning.  At that rate if it produces nothing no one will scream for your head, but if it does produce then at a $2k price tag, at best you’ll be the king of the office. At worst you’ll be looked at as innovating and taking risks.

I mentioned that I was going to write this a couple of weeks ago after I’d spent $600 on something that I knew I should cut off. Rather than taking the hard step and killing the project, I let the cost exceed the $1,000 mark (the mental mark where my attitude completely changes). When I test something/someone that produces nothing meaningful that costs more than $1,000 it creates a small tumor in my brain that takes weeks/months to go away. I may have a couple of new tumors when I really shouldn’t have. Take enough risks to learn valuable lessons, but be smart enough to cut things off before those mistakes turn into devastating errors.


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