In mid-2000, I was part of a consulting company (Bauhaus Technologies) in Chicago that was bought by BEA Systems. BEA was the main competitor to IBM during the Java heyday. The people at Bauhaus were considered experts with their app server stack (ha…EJBs), so they decided to make Bauhaus their midwest professional services wing.
Early on during the on boarding process, we had a call with the whole company, where the CEO at the time (Bill Coleman, or the ‘B’ in BEA) took questions from employees. The only one that stuck with me after all these years was this one:
Random BEA Employee: Bill, when are we going to go after IBM in public? I mean, their ads are everywhere. Hell, even my grandmother knows who IBM is, but doesn’t know BEA.
Bill Coleman: When your grandmother can write a $1.5+ million check for Java middleware, we’ll worry about advertising to her. Next question?
Slightly pompous delivery aside, Bill had a great point about business and who you should spend your time selling to. If you’re not talking to people who can write the check, you’re not talking to anyone.
I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who are having good talks with this person or that person. Always claiming to be one-hop away from “the money”. I’m not sure these founders realize those people are there PRECISELY to keep them away from “the money”. “The money” is busy. They have stuff to do. If they talked to every single person claiming to solve all of their problems with their product, they’d cease to be “the money”.
Of all the things at the start of your entrepreneurial journey, learn one phrase: budgetary approval. Those who have it are your true customers. Find them, woo them, sell them. Everyone else you meet are, buffers meant to keep you spinning your wheels.
In conjunction to the previously linked to, chesty xkcd cartoon, comes Steve Jobs from Merlin Mann:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
I thank my fiance ( soon to be wife ) 10 times every day for being an amazing person and in my life. Don’t wait for hallmark holidays to tell people how you feel. Don’t wait until “when there’s time” to do what you love. Don’t wait for someone to hand you a business, a passion or a reason to get excited.
In fact, it’d be great if we could each skip needing outside permission to be awesome by not waiting until the universe starts tapping its watch.
His 7 lessons are gold for anyone starting anything, but especially a tech based company.
Lesson #3 – Steadily improve your product. Big jumps in functionality means lots of time without updates, and releases are where you get nice spikes in sales.
Lesson #5 – Lesson #5 – Have money in the bank for a rainy day.
Cash is King.
Some more goodness from xkcd. You have no idea how often I use this phrase when people describe their fears or problems to me.
Someone once asked me what I wanted to make sure I taught my kid(s). I answered ’empathy’. Leo explains:
Learn the art of empathy. Too often we judge people on too little information. We must try to understand what they do instead, put ourselves in their shoes, start with the assumption that what others do has a good reason if we understand what they’re going through. Life becomes much better if you learn this art.
Also, this is something I’ve noticed only recently:
You will miss a ton, but that’s OK. We’re so caught up in trying to do everything, experience all the essential things, not miss out on anything important … that we forget the simple fact that we cannot experience everything. That physical reality dictates we’ll miss most things. We can’t read all the good books, watch all the good films, go to all the best cities in the world, try all the best restaurants, meet all the great people. But the secret is: life is better when we don’t try to do everything. Learn to enjoy the slice of life you experience, and life turns out to be wonderful.
About 15 years ago, I decided the persona ‘The Hawk‘ by Aldo Luongo is where I want to end up when I get older. Learning to enjoy what you can experience, to me, is one of the ways I can get there.