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“The ultimate test of your (mission statement) is if your telephone operator can tell you what it is.” – Guy Kawasaki

… not that small companies have operators anymore.

I’m usually a bit skeptical about mission statements.  Perhaps because most I have seen are pretty weak, or crafted to send a message that is different from reality.  Perhaps because it’s hard to distill the purpose of a complex organization down to a simple statement. Or, perhaps it’s because no one wants to declare a statement of accountability  where there’s natural conflict between customers, shareholders, and the general public.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise.  I am biased toward Jim Collin’s idea of the Core Ideology, a set of fundamental beliefs that seldom if ever change.  That combined with the company Purpose covers the basics that provide a firm’s moral compass.  What’s left is then to make sure everyone knows it by heart.

The Boy Scouts start every meeting with the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.  It constantly reinforces Scouting’s Core Ideology that a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  Something that doesn’t change and one remembers 40 years later.

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“You don’t normally get spiders in space.” – Dr. Who

Entrepreneurs have a way of observing what’s going on around them and making associations between things that seem ordinary on the surface and other things that may be related somehow.

One person noticed that more ordinary people were owning computers in their homes.  That same person noticed that advent of a new way to communicate called the Internet and it led to a question, “What if people could buy stuff on their computers using the internet?”

Amazon was born.

There’s nothing unusual about noticing spiders (which are cool creatures by the way), but noticing one in space means something.  What if…

 

“Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.” – John Ruskin

I am a hiker, or backpacker to be more precise.  I spend considerable time and some treasure  figuring out how best to keep my load as light as possible.  I find that the lighter my pack is,  happier are my legs, faster I can go, and more things I can see.  It also has the benefit of making camping chores simple and quick.

Another aspect of of traveling light is that it takes less time to plan and gather resources.  An idea for an adventure can come and within a couple hours, you can be on your way.

Agility, flexibility, simplicity, endurance.

All helpful things for the entrepreneur.

“Innovation without implementation is wasted time.” – Pete Braile

Coming up with good ideas is the easy part.  Get a group of smart people in a room and you can fill up a white board with the precipitation of a brainstorm.

The ideas are worthless and the time wasted if there is not a plan to implement.  It means someone has to take responsibility and lead.  It also means others must collaborate to accomplish the task.

This is the essence of being an entrepreneur.  There are plenty of problems and plenty of ideas for solutions but these benefit no one unless the idea is put into the hands of a customer.

 

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Experience makes liars of us all.” – Dr. Who

Having accomplished some great goal, we all tend to look back and find out things about the journey:

  • It’s usually harder than we thought
  • We ran into problems we didn’t anticipate
  • It cost more money than we planned
  • People we respect and admire may have gotten hurt in the process
  • There are mean people out there
  • (Fill in your own blank)

So when you are pitching your company, there is no way you can know what will happen in the next 6 months, let alone 2 to 3 years.  Your pitch today will not be what it is a year from now.  You will pivot – perhaps several times as you learn more about the market you want to play in.  Your financial projections are lies the moment you make them.  You may have to invite friends and good people to leave the company.

It’s OK!

You have to get started and you can’t wait until all the truth is revealed.  Otherwise someone else will solve your customer’s problem before you do.

Start with what you know now, but start nonetheless.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“There is nothing new under the sun” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

It’s compelling to contemplate the idea that every element that makes up our planet, plants, trees, animals and ourselves, was created at the moment the universe was created and has been around since then.  And yet, these same elements get rearranged, transformed and reconstructed into something unique each time a new life checks in.  In the end, those same elements dissipate and are returned to the universe for the next cycle.  Ashes to ashes…

The same can be said of ideas.  Humans needs are largely constant over time and therefor the problems in need of a solution can be traced back to some fundamentals.  Music, movies, video games, books, etc. all serve to pass along the culture, distribute content and engage our attention.  Technology and methods change but the needs remain the same.

Invention is important to entrepreneurship but it’s not the foundation.  It may not even be necessary.  A researcher pulled together disparate “green” technologies into a design for Habitat for Humanity homes where the home owner’s monthly energy cost was only a few dollars.  All the technology already existed.  The key was assembling the ideas of others into a new and unique solution.

Invention is about solving technical problems.  Entrepreneurship is about solving problems for people.

 

“The fact that one or more competitors are operating in the market proves that an opportunitiy exists.” – Rob Adams

I hate to hear someone pitch, “We don’t have any competition”.

For one thing, it shows they aren’t being honest with themselves, let alone me.

For another, if it is true, then there is no market and if there is no market, then there are no customers.  It’s not impossible to create markets from scratch but first movers have the burden of convincing people to be interested.

Finally, it shows they have overlooked the one competitor we all have.  That’s the customer’s decision to do nothing.

If there are a number of competitors in a market with no clear leader, the good news is that there is a defined customer problem but it also means no one has figured out the solution.  Go figure out why and you’ve got a hit.

 

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“I have only one superstition. I touch all the bases when I hit a home run.” – Babe Ruth

This is the Babe’s version of “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

There are few short cuts and even fewer free lunches. Michael Jordan still practiced 8 hours a day. Great jazz improvisers took years to learn how to play with spontaneity.

Opportunity rarely finds those who haven’t earned it or otherwise, put themselves in a position to receive it.

Investors don’t invest in your ideas. They invest in your ability to create value. The rounding of the bases comes after the ball is hit…. Luck has very little to do with it.

“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” – Barry Switzer

Interesting for a football coach to use a baseball metaphor…

The world has plenty of those who live off someone else’s effort.  This is not dependent on economic status either.

Most entrepreneurs have to figure out how to create value with little or no resources.  In the end, it’s probably a better scenario.  But if you happen to be blessed with the resources of others, be it family wealth, friends and family, venture capital or even government grants, know that these resources were entrusted to you for the purpose of creating value.  Don’t squander it.

No one owes you success.  It can’t bestowed or inherited.  It must be earned.  A step up is a blessing.

“Not everyone who [craps] on you is your enemy…” – Henry Fonda from “My Name Is Nobody”

“My Name Is Nobody” is a long time favorite movie of mine and thanks to my Netflix account, I was able to see it again recently.  There is a scene where Terrence Hill’s character “Nobody” is telling a story from his grandfather: http://youtu.be/7TtjmsuB0zY

Henry Fonda (Jack Beauregard) finally understands the moral of the story in a letter to Nobody at the end:

“Not everybody who [craps] on you is your enemy.  Not everyone who helps you is your friend.  And when you’re neck-deep in it, it’s best to keep your mouth shut.”

Seek out people you trust who will be brutally honest with you about your business, your leadership, and your strategy.

There are great service providers who deserve to get paid.  They should be able to quantify their benefits in a measurable way.  Insist on milestones and deliverables.

Finally, you rarely do yourself a favor by reacting negatively.  Take out your frustrations on a bike or a racquetball court.