Which one are you—fragile, Phoenix or Hydra?

Being an entrepreneur and all that requires one to take great deal of hits in its head, stomach and elsewhere—if I use k1 wording. In my 5 year entrepreneurship I saw people come and go. They couldn’t or wouldn’t handle the startup presshure—but every single one of them left in different personal condition.

I could classify them in three main categories:

  1. fragile
  2. robust—just like Phoenix
  3. indestructable—just like Hydra

Fragile

These folks are like a vase made from glass. They are negatively affected by volatility. When something bad happens they get broken. They are left worse off then when they started. They are definitely NOT the type of person you should hire on your startup.

Robust (Phoenix)

These folks aren’t negatively impacted by volatility; they’re resilient! Just like mythological bird, the Phoenix. If the Phoenix is killed, it rises again from the ashes. It is not harmed by a negative event—but it isn’t made any better, either.

Indestructible (Hydra)

These folks are positively affected by volatility. When something bad happens, they actually grow stronger! Just like mythological creature Hydra! When you cut off one of Hydra’s heads, two more heads spring up to replace it. By hurting it, you are actually increasing its power. This is the folk you want in your startup!

In Hydra example I don’t imply you should hurt anybody by purpose—like ever! Bad events are typical in startup environment when one person does few things.

So try to recognize Hydra(s)—or any other type for that matter— on your next future employees interview.

Use checklist(s) on daily basis

I’m a true believer of checklists! I have them for everything(well almost). If you have clear goals then you can further systematize them by creating a checklist(s). You also should have a checklist in your job (not all of them but at least the ones that require team work)

A checklist is useful for 3 reasons:

  1. It helps take action
  2. It communicates you know how to get things done
  3. It motivates

It helps take action

With a list, there’s a plan, and a plan focuses people on doing, not deciding what to do. Also note that on goals that span more than few(lets say for example 10) checkpoints, it’s better not to rush into checklist, but decide which tasks(checkpoints) are priority—create right order first.

It communicates you know how to get things done

In a world of incompetent time wasters it communicates you’ve got your act together and builds certain level of trust (of course goal achievement is the ultimate trust factor).

It motivates

Checklist motivates you because it enables you to see the progress you are making and feel a sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment encourages you to do even more.

Also note that checklist doesn’t need to be made in some fancy software (Not true for collaborating teams—use Trello for that occasion, it’s free). It’s enough they are written with a pencil on a piece of paper. I’ve got those as well (actually whole notebooks of them).

Now go make your checklist.

Have you established clear goals?

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to go.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

—dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

The dialogue shows us a great picture of every situation you have if you don’t clarify your goals. How can you get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going?

And if affects all aspects of our lives—from everyday tasks, work, business, relationships etc.

I’ll take a look on the business aspect here. Knowing what you want to do with your business makes it easy for you to explain that ˝mission/reason˝ to your customers. That way you’re better able to achieve what you were up to in the first place (e.g. why you started a business).

On the flip side, if you fail to be understood because you haven’t clarified your goals or didn’t communicate them right, customers will have hard time embrace your business as they won’t be shure what you want from them.

One more thing—stating your goals adds to trust factor, to transparency. Your agenda si on the table, and while people might not like it, at least they know what it is.

So state your goals more clearly. If you have problems with clarification (it happens a lot with tech startups while pivoting on ideas)—begin with elevator pitch—it’ll work wonders! Trust me on this one. We’ve been in this ˝fog˝ for 5 years before clarifying goals.

Identify the right customer — don’t run for just everyone

When in a (any) business sooner or later you’ll start-up selling something to someone (I’m noting this as many tech startups tend to ˝burn˝ cash from some series xy funding). And that means marketing. If you are a neewbie— as was I — you think you have the best product the world will see and that every user or business will jump in — em… Maybe you’ve got the best product but ˝jumping˝ part is probably not going to happen, sorry to disappoint you.

So at start don’t try to market your product to the masses, pick the right customer for your product/service—early adopter

An early adopter or lighthouse customer is an early customer of a given company, product, or technology; Typically this will be a customer who, in addition to using the vendor’s product or technology, will also provide considerable and candid feedback to help the vendor refine its future product releases, as well as the associated means of distribution, service, and support.

Wikipedia article

You should form a group of early adopters and market to them. People outside this group should think you’re crazy, or at the very least, ignore you.

Ask this questions when defining the (early adopter) customer—and be rally clear about the answers:

  • What does he already believe?
  • What is he afraid of?
  • What does he think he wants?
  • What does he actually want?
  • What stories have resonated with him in the past?
  • Who does he follow and emulate and look up to?
  • What is his relationship with money?
  • What channel has his permission?
  • Where do messages that resonate with him come from?
  • Who does he trust and who does he pay attention to?
  • What is the source of his urgency—why will he change now rather than later?
  • After he has changed, what will he tell his friends?

Play smart and don’t burn your energy and resources on something that doesn’t work. You’ll end up with few unhappy customers instead of bunch of happy ones!

Burn your company hot and long – if you can!

Starting a company is just like starting a fire (a bit harder than it sounds, I know) You have to do things in right order..

To start a good fire, you need kindling. Something that will catch easily. And summer indeed helps. Unfortunately in business you don’t have the summer and kindling isn’t so obvious—well that are the magic pieces you must get right to succeed.

You know—you can fail if you have great logs to burn but no kindling to get them started(no-burner). On the flip side, if you only have newspaper and dry twigs, you’ll be off to a quick start, but your fire won’t last long(fast-burner).

There aren’t many fuels that start easily and burn hot and long(well I don’t know them all but you get the point). So start with kindling and then transfer the heat to something bigger—that’s the key.

Also, lighter fluid helps — but only for a short while and only if applied at the right time. Be careful not to burn your resources too fast and for nothing—play smart not fast!

on Why building a product is such a fun thing to do

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.

— Steve Jobs