Going after What You Want
I recently listened to a guy tell the story of how he landed a difficult-to-obtain job. He wielded unconventional tactics that included cold emailing his soon-to-be boss. Now he has a coveted job he’d been trying to get for years. When I asked why he took such bold steps, he said he had nothing to lose. Hearing “no” was the worst that could happen.
I love his perspective and perseverance. He knew what he wanted and went after it. He didn’t let rejection stop him.
Talking to him was a good reminder that if I want something in life, I should go after it. I may not get it on the first try, but if I keep at it, my chances of success will go up.
Wayne Gretzky said it best: “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”
The Digital Wallet and Personal Finance
Personal finance has been a hobby of mine since high school. When I hear founders solving for problems in this area, I’m always interested. Today a founder shared some interesting insights that got me thinking. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is that most tools to help people manage their finances are outside the normal consumer flow. If you want to save for a big purchase or just stick to a budget, it can be difficult. Part of the challenge is that these tools are usually independent apps that the user utilizes after a transaction has occurred.
Digital wallets on smartphones are gaining traction. I believe that in the not-so-distant future, we will no longer carry a wallet in our purse or back pocket. Everything—driver’s license, credit cards, etc.—will be in our digital wallet. The digital wallet will be how we make purchases, and it will become the center of gravity for consumer purchases. When that happens, we’ll see the next evolution of personal finance tools, because they’ll be built into the consumer’s purchasing flow. They’ll be able to affect the buying decision before it’s completed. This could lead to sustained behavior change, which many of us desperately need if we’re to improve our financial situation.
I’m not sure when the digital wallet will be adopted by the masses, but when it is, it could have a big impact on consumer spending habits.
Tuning Out the Noise
I’ve been told by friends and family that I’m good at staying focused on an objective. I wouldn’t have said that about myself, but after hearing it from a few people I spent some time reflecting. It’s true that historically I’ve been able to tune out distractions more easily than other people can. Sometimes I barely notice something that’s driving others crazy.
I’m a goal-oriented person, which has a big influence on how I navigate any situation. I think about it in terms of my goal. Will it affect my achieving the goal? If not, I don’t worry about it—I don’t put much weight into it and let it play out. If it will, I determine if it will help or hurt my chances of achieving my goal. I lean into things that support my goal and look to mitigate things that could hinder me from reaching my goal.
Time and energy are finite resources. This approach helps me focus them where they matter most: my goal.
Don’t Forget the Why
A friend asked me to sit in on a chat with a founder. At the end of it, my friend asked if I thought the founder was right or wrong about the problem and his plan to solve it. I told him I had no idea.
I tend to be more interested in how someone arrived at a conclusion than the conclusion itself. Why they want to do things a certain way is more interesting to me than what they want to do. I shared this with my friend and told him that I think (at least based on this short conversation) that the founder has a solid thought process. He could be right or wrong initially. But his thought process will likely lead to eventually figuring things out and being successful.
Having a strong opinion is a great founder trait, but why you have that opinion is more important. As your share your vision and how you plan to execute it, consider sharing the why too.
Asset Land Grab
I listened as an investor described what he’s seeing in the world of investing: a “land grab for high-quality assets.” He’s been an investor for years, so I was curious to hear his definition of high quality, which turned out to be a rapid growth rate that can be sustained. He doesn’t think a specific number defines rapid growth; rather, grown is relative to others in the sector or business model. As for the meaning of sustained, he wants to see a path to maintaining the growth rate for at least three years.
His perspective is interesting. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but I respect it. Sustained growth is great, but combining it with profitability is even better, in my book. I’m not saying that a company has to be profitable to be great, but sustained rapid growth and profitability is an amazing combination that’s difficult to achieve. The companies that have it are the ones I view as being in a league of their own.
That’s Not What I Wanted to Hear!
I was asking a founder what he’s been up to. He gave me an update on the last few months, including something that’s not going well. His conversations with potential customers aren’t yielding the results he expected.
As we dug in, I realized a few things. He’s being told that his solution is lacking. It isn’t solving the problem well enough, so potential customers aren’t committing to trying it. Getting told that his baby is ugly is frustrating him. He’s not taking rejection well at all.
I reminded him that regardless of what prospects tell him—yes or no—the why is what’s most important. If multiple prospects turn into customers for the same reason, he’s likely hit on something and should lean into it. If multiple prospects tell him no for the same reason, his solution is missing the mark, and he should figure out how to address their concerns in the solution.
Bad feedback is part of the entrepreneurial journey. How you perceive it, though, is within your control and can be the difference between success and failure. Next time you don’t hear what you want, try to understand what it will take to get prospects to a yes.
Weekly Reflection: Week Eighty
Today marks the end of my eightieth week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week eighty:
- Connecting – Had an opportunity to connect with folks in person this week. It was good, and it energized me. Zoom is time efficient, but face-to-face conversations can’t be replaced.
- New beginnings – I spoke with a few people this week who are starting new chapters. It feels like lots of people are starting or getting ready to start new things. I’m excited to support them and can’t wait to see where they end up.
- Feedback – I continued connecting with friends to get feedback on things I’m thinking about. I’m very thankful that I have people in my circle I can count on for great perspectives.
Week eighty was an energizing week. The quarter is off to a good start. Looking forward to continuing the pace next week.
Today I joined an intro meeting only to realize that I already know the other person. We’re not close but have been in the same circles for over a decade. Catching up, we realized that our work overlaps, so we can help each other. Here’s what I was thinking as I left the meeting:
- The world is smaller than I think.
- You never know where life will take you or others.
- Relationships matter a lot, even if they aren’t super deep.
- Being nice is easy, feels goods, and can pay dividends many years later.
I’m glad we finally got to know each other after all these years, and I’m looking forward to working with him.
The Early-Stage Specialized Generalist
A friend shared an interesting realization with me today. He had a generalist approach early in his career. He wasn’t someone who grew up saying I want to be an X when I grow up. He wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do, so he learned about a lot of things. He knew a lot about a lot of things but wasn’t an expert on anything. He wishes he’d known earlier what he knows now. He wishes he’d picked something and gone deep into it earlier. Eventually, he went deep and became a domain expert, and it’s served him extremely well.
Early-stage founders are operational generalists by necessity. Resources are too scant to do everything, so founder(s) fill a lot of gaps. They do sales, marketing, HR—whatever is needed. As revenue (or investor capital) increases, they begin to be able to afford help. Until then, they’re the glue holding everything together.
Founders need to be able to do multiple things in the business, but the great ones know their space cold. They have domain knowledge too. They’ve learned so much about a problem and market that they’re qualified to solve the problem better than others are. They often have a unique insight that will make their solution superior.
If you’re a founder or considering becoming one, take the time to learn your space and your potential customers well so you can make early strategic decisions that set you up for long-term success. Also be ready to jump into areas that you know nothing about. Learning new things on the fly will be key to surviving those early days when you’re wearing multiple hats.
Make It Clear Where You Need Help
Had a great chat with a friend today. He reflected on his entrepreneurial path and said something that stuck with me: he had the support of advisors and investors in the early part of his journey, but he may not have been as clear as he could have been about how they could help him or in what areas he needed help.
A lot of founders make this mistake. I’m one of them. I didn’t take the time to process everything that was happening to understand where I was failing. I didn’t ask my team members for feedback, either. When I connected with people who were in a position to help me, I didn’t make the most of those opportunities because I didn’t have a clear ask. Since I couldn’t articulate how they could help me, they didn’t. It was a big miss.
Building a company is hard, and founders can’t do it alone. They need help. Everyone understands that. But it’s not apparent to outsiders how they can be helpful. They must be told.
If you’re a founder, consider taking time to periodically think about what kind of help you need. Then tell other people. Those conversations will make it much more likely you’ll get exactly what you need.