I once listened to a founding executive of a publicly traded Atlanta company speak. Bob helped scale the company from a five-man team to an IPO with thousands of employees. He was sharp and reminded me of a startup founder. He always believed the impossible was possible. When asked what the secret to his company’s success was, Bob said his team didn’t blindly trust anybody or anything. Their motto: “prove it.”
As it scaled to an enterprise-size organization, his company was pitched tons of products and services. Often, when he asked why ABC product or XYZ service was the best, the answer was, “All the big companies are using it.” This never made any sense to him. His team learned to give that rationale zero weight. They tested everything to find out for themselves if it was the best. Often, they found that big companies were not using the best—far from it. They’d find competitors with superior offerings. And knowing the shortcomings of other companies gave them insights on how to differentiate themselves to customers.
This approach ultimately produced their competitive edge. Bob and his team did the tedious grunt work of vetting everything that underpinned their technology. Their competitors had chosen the lazy way, piggybacking on big companies’ decisions. Over time, using the best of the best made Bob’s company’s platform lightning fast. Once customers discovered how fast it was, the company developed a cult following.
My big takeaway from his story was to trust but verify. You can’t lean on someone else all the time. You have to dig in and put in the time yourself.