When my son played as Quarterback in high school, pictured in the insert, he related to me that his freshman football coach insisted that he pass or hand off the football to “Tom” on every play. That wouldn’t be difficult if he had the body and size of a Cam Newton, but this player was smaller than my son, with the height of 5’6”. His father paid him $10 for every touchdown and financed all of the regional workout programs. I figured that the coach was influenced somehow. So my son asked my opinion as to what to do, and I answered that his singular duty is to win for the team. Every time he gets on that field, he has to pull all stops to win. That is what people care about. After our chat, I noticed a game where “Tom” was heading toward the end zone, but Fitzpatrick, a much taller receiver was closer to the end zone. So my son, in a well recorded game, threw a perfect 35 yard into the hands of Fitzpatrick, who shortly scored a touchdown. I then asked him what he told the coach about throwing the ball over the head of Tom, and he told me that he related to the coach that the ball “slipped” out of his hands.
This true life recommendation applies to some of my decisions in relation to investors. In one startup company in which I was the interim-President, I had the plenary right find an office. The lead investors lived in Northern Virginia. The startup team lived near Baltimore. And for anyone who has driven around the Capitol beltway, I can swear that the traffic becomes unbearable during the rush hours. I also am aware that startup investors prefer the 2-hour rule, about having a finite time/distance to visit their portfolio companies. Yet I faced a dilemma with the initial investor, who wanted me to find a space in Virginia, and not Maryland.
Then I thought what was my objective? For this data storage startup, I had to deliver specific milestones within certainly defined time parameters. Failure to meet them would hurt the founders as well as investors. I also wanted to have an effective team working together and be present in the office. Being stuck for hours in traffic would decrease the effectiveness of that team. So, I found an office on the Northern edge of the Capitol loop on the Maryland side that came within the budget. True – the investor would have to drive a longer distance; on the other hand, he only did that once a month to stay a couple of hours at the corporate office for the board meetings. So I had ignored his advice while partially meeting his concerns as well the long strategy needed for the company. The company did meet all of its major milestones within 3 months that increased its valuation substantially! That is called winning.
Someone once described the needs to have a team to work effectively as ordering a pizza, where everyone chooses their preferred ingredients to have the pizza meet the particular needs of each team member. The same applies to startups and the early stage strategies. One addresses every vector influencing the company. Yet, one has to never take off your eyes away from the prize. The company must have a product out, or increase its revenues. There are many hurdles, conflicting recommendations, and urgent tasks that must be filtered, redirected, without slowing down the company. Winning is about handling obstacles in the most efficient fashion.