Tag Archives: startup

Time to Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome


Most people in the entrepreneurial world feel that startups succeed or fail based upon the quality of the team running the show and their ability to handle the challenges that come their way.  It’s not the idea, or the industry, or the marketing plan — it’s THE TEAM.

I subscribe to this philosophy and firmly believe that, for the vast majority of startups, it really does come down to execution.  My definition of execution relies upon the unofficial Marine motto: time to improvise, adapt, and overcome. 

All startups must adapt or fail

The reality is that very few startups ever do exactly what they set out to do.  You must be prepared to improvise, adapt, and overcome your obstacles or you won’t find acceptance in the marketplace.

So, to all the current and future entrepreneurs out there, remember this: you are only as good as your ability to handle the unknown

Improvise and do whatever it takes to get things done, adapt to the changing landscape and marketplace, and you will be in a position to overcome your fears and your competitors.

Fellow Entrepreneurs – Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees

stepbackI was reminded last week how critical it is to step back and reassess difficult or challenging situations when a simple technology problem at home took far too long to resolve.  This is true for your personal relationships, family life, and, most certainly, any efforts to build and run a startup. 

What drove home this reminder was the fact that after switching to Comcast phone service at home, I could not get the new voicemail system to work right.  No matter what we did, it picked up after 2 rings, had a default message despite recording many new ones, and our test voice messages weren’t there.  Comcast worked on it, I worked on it, and ultimately, to make a long story short, they asked me to confirm whether or not our home answering machine was picking up before the Comcast voicemail.  The answer was no, it was not…but in truth, it was. 

Our home answering machine was turned off and clearly not picking up.  However, what both the installer and I had not noticed was that when he added the new phone service, he had connected a second phone in the basement that apparently had a digital answering machine and it was the culprit. 

Why share this story? Besides showing how even technology people can be flummoxed by relatively simple gadgets, it highlights how critical it is to step back and look at things from a thirty-thousand foot view.  I was so certain that the problem was on their end, I never bothered to reassess the situation and see if it could have been anything else. 

When someone is absolutely certain about something in their business (their model, their marketing, their product), that “certainty” becomes a blind spot that will most often lead to failure.  I’ve learned a lot over the past 15 years building and running companies and I would have to say that this is one of the most important things I and other entrepreneurs need to remember. 

It is okay to be passionate and steadfast in your beliefs, but you must remember to constantly step back and view the big picture; otherwise, all too often, you are likely to miss the forest for the trees.

Hiring (and firing) at a startup

The recent post by Dharmesh Shah (Startup Hiring: An Entrepreneur Disagrees With Entrepreneur Magazine) reminded me of a few simple rules I follow regarding hiring and firing people:

  • Find great people who excel at learning new things as they will almost always be of the greatest value to your organization.  This is expecially true for startups as you need people able to quickly adapt as your company grows and changes. 
  • Put an emphasis on finding people who are able to execute.  In a startup, whether it is a sales guy, a programmer, or a customer support specialist, your employees need to accomplish the task and move on.  Some people get caught up with the process or by trying to do it perfectly. However,  when you are trying to launch and grow a new company on a shoe-string, you need people who can really get it done with as little fanfare and struggle as possible.
  • The moment you realize that someone is not working out, fire them.  Dragging it out (and that is what you are doing) makes it worse for everyone.  When it comes to employee management, this was one of the hardest lessons I have ever learned but one of the most critical in keeping the company productive and the morale high.  As soon as it starts going sour for you (or them), cut the ties, find a replacement, and move on. 

So, when hiring at a startup, find those people who love to learn and execute.  And, don’t let the difficulties of firing someone prevent you from doing the right thing for your company.

Building a Startup is both Exhausting and Exhilarating

If you are thinking about starting your own company, be prepared for the highs, lows, and completely exhausted moments. It is nothing like a traditional 9-5 job and if you are not prepared for the rigors and frustrations of building a company, they can take you by surprise.

We did an initial private BETA launch of VendorCity this past Friday and I spent much of the weekend (roughly 20 hours) preparing for our public launch this week. I missed going to a birthday party, mowing the lawn, spending quality time with my two boys, and simply having a chance to relax after a very long and arduous week. And, it is only going to get worse as we launch VendorCity over the next couple of days.

So, why go through all of this? The reasons are many but they come down to the excitement of building something, the thrill of watching your work have an impact on others, the ability to dictate how and when you work (to a point), and the opportunity to make more than just a salary. And, of course, being your own boss and having the chance to make your own decisions and learn from them in ways that are nearly impossible when you work for others.

So, what do you think it takes to be an entrepreneur?