Who Needs Honesty, Industry and Quality?


Answer: People who want entrepreneurial success!

Recently I was a guest at Artiman Ventures Concept Spring event at the Santa Clara Marriott. It featured some keynote speakers followed by wine tasting and dinner.

It was entertaining and edifying in every way – and I am not just talking about the 1983 Bordeaux!

I especially enjoyed a talk by one of the speakers, Tom Miller. Tom offered some insights gained by working at companies big and small. His talk centered on three critical success factors for (entrepreneurial) success. I would like to share them and offer some commentary.

In order of occurrence:

1. Honesty

Entrepreneurs need honesty to realistically assess the “facts on the ground” and make adjustments when necessary. Be vigilant – there is a tension between the optimism, which comes “with the territory” for entrepreneurs, and a need for really brutal honesty. As entrepreneurs we need optimism for daily survival, but we need to dig deep and be uncompromisingly honest to assess company progress. Drinking our own Kool-Aid is a certain path to disaster.

2. Industry … or Don’t Be a Bee Watcher!

Industry is all about DO-ing; but doing is all about results. Measure outcomes, not hours spent. It doesn’t matter how many hours you spent hunting dinner if you never caught the prey. (For more about this see our previous blog post – Hacking the 80-hour Workweek

The opposite of do-ing is “bee-watching”. To illustrate Tom recited – by rote – the following excerpt from Dr Seuss:

“Oh, the jobs people work at! Out west near Hawtch-Hawtch there’s a Hawtch-Hawtcher bee watcher, his job is to watch. Is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee, a bee that is watched will work harder you see. So he watched and he watched, but in spite of his watch that bee didn’t work any harder not mawtch. So then somebody said “Our old bee-watching man just isn’t bee watching as hard as he can, he ought to be watched by another Hawtch-Hawtcher! The thing that we need is a bee-watcher-watcher!”. Well, the bee-watcher-watcher watched the bee-watcher. He didn’t watch well so another Hawtch-Hawtcher had to come in as a watch-watcher-watcher! And now all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch are watching on watch watcher watchering watch, watch watching the watcher who’s watching that bee. You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher you’re lucky you see!”

You get the idea! Don’t be a bee watcher, don’t hire bee watchers, and don’t tolerate bee watchers in your company!

3. Quality

Tom’s third critical success factor was quality. This is a tricky one, because the rules for startups are different from big companies. For startups the evidence shows that quality risk (= your product is not good enough) kills far fewer startups than customer risk (= nobody needs your product).

So for young companies you need to get your product in front of customers – early!. So how do you get those early customers without the immaturity of the product becoming a quality issue? The answer is to start with early adopters as your target customers. Early adopters are more tolerant of gaps in your product, because they get – and share – the long term vision.

You can build more quality in later as you move from early adopters to a mainstream audience.

More later. Gotta go watch some bees!

By Silicon Vikings blogger Jeff Snider.

Jeff Snider

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