for W3c validation
BusinessPundit, which my boss got me hooked on, is one of the blogs that I follow regularly. Rob May, the guy behind the blog for the past 5 years, is moving on to do other things — and he wrote a fantastic post titled “The Top 10 Changes in my Business Thinking” summing up his business learnings over the past 5 years.
There’s so much good stuff, that it was hard to not quote the whole thing. Here are his 10 learnings, and my quick thoughts on each of them. I quoted his complete text on the bullet points that really struck a chord in me.
10. Luck Matters
I’m pretty torn on this, but I do agree that luck is a factor in business — mostly in terms of timing. However, that said, I’m a pretty firm believer that everyone controls their own destiny. Hard work and commitment will trump luck anyday — but I won’t rule out the idea that I’ll have a different mindset in 5 years.
9. Touchy Feely vs. Analytical
I think business success requires a bit of both. No matter how much hard data you have, the touchy feely stuff will never be irrelevant.
8. Beware of the Hype
I agree — don’t get caught up in the hype of the media, it’s not all real.
7. It is Always Easy to See What You Want to See
I totally agree with this point. I tell one of my friends quite often that it’s easy to justify anything to yourself, but that doesn’t mean it is the rightly justified. Don’t fall victim to justifying your actions or decisions just because you’ve made them already — keep your mind and your options open.
6. Do Stuff
I used to plan and talk, plan and talk, plan and talk. I’m not criticizing planning or talking… they can be beneficial, but now I prefer to do something instead of talking. Your plans will probably be wrong on anything that is new, so you may as well just start doing. Doing stuff gives you a better “feel” for a business than all the planning in the world. Plus, once you get labeled as a doer, everybody wants to work with you because they have all been burned by planners and talkers. Of course, doing takes a lot more time. It’s also much harder. And once you adopt the doing mentality, you risk doing stuff just for the sake of doing stuff, but action for action’s sake is sometimes the wrong approach.
Actions speak louder than words. I know it’s hard, but strive hard to follow through with the things you say you will do. I’ll admit — I’m guilty of breaking this from time to time, but I’m always improving. Rob’s right that people follow “doers”; it’s a huge reason that I’m at Zillow (the exec team has a vast amount of experience at other successful internet companies).
5. Failure Doesn’t Really Matter
It is embarrassing to fail. We all wish we could string together a bunch of wins. I used to be concerned about looking stupid, or dealing with the criticism that can come with failure, and while I won’t say I like it and embrace it, I will say that it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to. One reason for that is many “failures” are only temporary setbacks, and if you don’t let them scare you and demoralize you, they can be turned into wins. The second reason is that failure is almost always a great learning experience, and you can charge valuable consulting fees by finding companies who want to get into a space and selling them the more efficient learning curve they can get by avoiding the mistakes you have already made.
Learning from your failures is crucial.
4. Find Your People
Search is the key process you need to master. I used to think that I needed to be more persuasive. I thought the key to raising money, hiring good people, or selling a lot of whatever it is I was selling was to learn how to convince skeptics. No. Spend your time finding investors who are looking for ideas like yours instead of convincing investors who don’t care that they should listen to you. Spend time finding employees who believe in what you are doing instead of convincing potential hires that they should want to come work for you. Spend time searching for a customer who needs and wants what you have, instead of trying to convince someone who doesn’t that they should want it.
Don’t try to change other people. Try to find the people who are like you in the ways that are most important. Work on meeting and connecting with the people who matter.
This is a huge realization I came to a couple years ago, which I’ll even venture to say has changed my life. I love Rob’s last sentence — “Work on meeting and connecting with people who matter.” I used to spend a lot of my time trying to please everyone, regardless of how much we had in common or liked them. There are some friends who I know won’t be a big part of life in 10 years — and that’s okay. I won’t go so far as to say their relationships don’t matter to me (far from it), but they certainly don’t matter as much as others. I think it’s importance to understand you can’t stay connected to everyone (though Facebook does make it easier) — now, I choose to devote the most time and effort to the relationships with those who I really get along with and have similar passions such as microfinance, web 2.0, and eradicating poverty.
Several months ago, one of my close business friends told me something I won’t forget — you’ll always be able to count your close friends, those who will be there through thick and thin, on two hands. Those are the people that REALLY matter.
3. Revenge is a Waste of Time and Energy
There is absolutely NO point to getting revenge.
2. Help Others Reach Their Goals
Five years ago, I would have said you should monopolize talent, force people to do what you wanted, not what they wanted, lock people in, and in general do whatever it takes to keep everything tilted in your favor (maybe that is why I favored the trimmings of a happy workplace mentioned above… because I didn’t believe work itself could be happy). Now I believe that everyone has dreams and if you can help them reach those dreams, most of them will go to the ends of the earth to help you out down the road. When skilled employees are ready to move on, don’t be mad, be happy for them. When customers have outgrown you and need a different type of provider, help them find what they need, don’t be angry at them. Don’t be one of those people who only takes and takes in a relationship. Be a giver, even if other people call you a sucker. In the long run, you will be better off.
Again, I 100% agree. If you help others, you will be in their debt forever and they will gladly return the favor down the road — what comes around goes around. But that’s not the primary reason to help others; it’s rewarding. I’m lucky enough to have close friends with high aspirations, and I certainly do whatever I can to help them succeed — and expect the same in return down the road.
1. Relationships, relationships, relationships
The single biggest thing that I have learned is that relationships matter. People like to work with people they trust. Five years ago, I thought I would be a successful entrepreneur some day because I would hole up in my house and read all kinds of technology and business books and play with lots of software and then have some breakthrough insight that would shake up the world on its own. Now I think if I am ever highly successful, it will be because a bunch of people helped me get there. My biggest regret at this point in my life is that I wasted my MBA years by not networking. I skipped almost every networking event we ever had because I thought it was a waste of time and I was better off studying or reading. I should have spent that time networking and getting to know my classmates.
In December, we decided to give up our search for funding and turn to services work to bring in revenue and keep our product development hopes alive. We went from $0 in revenue in November to an expected $40K in March, and we have enough potential business in the pipeline that if we close just part of it we will be over $100K in revenue a month by the fall. Almost all of that business came from relationships. Some of the relationships are relatively new, but still, my point is that no one contacted us through a web site and we haven’t done any advertising. We just started talking to friends about the stuff we are doing and our network of relationships started sending us business. It saved us from having to shut down our own hopes and dreams. If we end up successful, it will be because of other people. It will be because of the relationships we have.
Business is all about relationships. You’re going to have a hard time succeeding by yourself in anything you do, so it’s imperative to build and nuture relationships with friends, partners, and foes. The importance of building a network can’t be downplayed if you aim to be successful in a business career.