Since I prefer to use sports related metaphors for business strategy, let me us the following one for strategic direction and execution. In tennis, a server might be hitting his first serves at the daunting speed of 150 miles an hour. You, as the returner, stand ready at the tennis corner box to receive. However, at that speed, you realize that if your feet are planted flat without movement, your effective ability to return will be zero. You either turn to the left or to the right and that alone will increase your chances to 50%. And to increase the probability beyond 50% to return that serve, you have to look at tell-tale signs from your opponent – the twist of the wrist, the eyeballs, or any other indicia that will help you predict where will that 150 mile an hour serve will be placed. Sometimes you adjust your position to add one or two seconds to react. Whatever approach, any successful receiver uses these tactics to win the game.
Now, in business, I hear of Tony Robbins-like presentations that extol the benefits in being an entrepreneur. Yet, these suggestions don’t even bother to point out the many adjustments any entrepreneur must make on a daily basis to succeed. They leave out the details on how to execute on these so-called dreams and leave these startups flat footed like the tennis player seeing the 150 mile an hour serve going by the service box. And business and tennis have a common denominator – it is about winning.
Once an entrepreneur takes that fateful road to begin a startup company, he/she must select the right path. And then make adjustments to win.
Just a few days ago, I heard various remarks from experienced VC investors in what they look for in a young or startup company. One speaker mentioned that she prefers to see more than one founder. Or, in other words, any company with one founder will be rejected. This observation goes back to my comments about the “T”eam. There is no “i” in the word, team. Experienced, successful entrepreneurs always refer to the quality of their teams, and never mention their personal contributions to the company
Even more yet, I participated in a recent conference call where the potential investor asked about the current funding of the company. Unfortunately, the entrepreneur recited the word “I” when referring to the funding of this company. Kiss of death. Now why is that important? He could have used the term, “self-funded”, and that would mean that the “team” has been financing the operations of the company. Once one uses the word “I”, there is no team. It could also mean to the audience that the rest of the participants don’t necessarily see value behind this company beyond the few dollars of compensation. Not a way to attract investors.
Like the tennis example, people must make a decision of where and how to direct their time and resources, and make whatever adjustments to win. Again, not appearing redundant, raising capital is a marketing problem. Every entrepreneur must make adjustments to handle the questions related to funding and respond to what the potential investor is looking for. As the VC panelist mentioned, they are looking for “teams”, not “I”s.
Too many conferences all talk about the success to be an entrepreneur. The other side of the coin is left out entirely about the details on execution. The details are incorporated in the adjustments one makes while travelling that entrepreneurship road.