2015 Lessons Learned
It is December 31, and we all know what that means, 2015 lessons learned and resolutions. Yes, everything we did wrong this year all goes away in the morning when we wake up with a hangover committed to eating better, exercising more, being a better friend, working smarter, writing a book (maybe about yoga or morning meditation) oh, and never drinking again.
Instead of a list of resolutions I decided to sit down and explore what I really learned this year. Lessons learned are only learned if I get better.
Measure the Temperature When the Water is Hot
This year I learned the lesson that you should measure people on how they respond when things are not working. Several times this year I heard stories of founders bolting from startups when times got tough leaving investors literally holding the bag. I witnessed team members drastically change when the temperature got hot (translation: when they realized that building a business is hard). It is amazing how talented and smart we are when things are really clicking, but what really matters is how talented and smart we are when things are not clicking? A new investor showed me a real way of checking this. He was evaluating a potential investment with me and asked for references to people who had interacted with me when something didn’t work. Yes, he is smarter and had already learned this lesson.
1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2008
Markets go up and always come down. Great businesses with amazing teams can find capital. With that said, markets slow down. Have you ever looked at this list of U.S. recessions? Over the last six months it is clear that the blogging content around raising capital has turned. Many of my favorite bloggers including Semil Shah point to a slow down in 2016 (note: I asked Semil to mentor me, he is smart, he said no, he is still learning daily, I think he read my blog and said no way, just joking, he was a gentleman and got right back to me with encouraging words). So for the lesson learned. It is always hard to raise money. The idea that it is ever easy is nonsense. When the market is going up, it is hard, when the market is going down, it is hard. Just focus on having a great business with an amazing team.
Do What You Say, but, Write it Down
Over the years I have shared this saying from a mentor of mine “do what you say, work as a team”. It has certainly worked for me over the last fifteen years. What I learned this year is simple, “the devil is in the details”. I am Mr. Detail (stop laughing). No, I typically talk fast, take notes slow, and assume the white board drawing I did is a complete plan and everyone is going to go implement it, and of course it will work! I learned this year that the details really matter. On several occasions the details made all the difference and by slowing down and paying close attention I avoided mistakes, saved money, made money, and was a better partner. I am going forward with, “do what you say, and write it down, work as a team, and measure”.
Explain how Your Past Success Helps Me
2015 lessons learned will certainly include growth always matters. I gave this particular lesson special attention. I have been fortunate to be part of several successful and yes profitable businesses. Imagine that, a technology company with profits, yes, even a SaaS business with profits. They do exist and are more common than the unicorns we are all looking for. So, why is it a lesson learned? Simple, profits with no growth is the same as your mom saying you are special. Many people might say, no profits and no growth is worse, of course it is, so if your mom saying you are not special. Growth matters because it represents future opportunity and profits represent past success.
2015 lessons learned. Only if I get better. This year when the temperature gets hot I will focus my talents and efforts. This year when it is hard to raise money, I will say it is suppose to be. This year when I read page 187 paragraph 4 of that contract I won’t complain. This year, I will grow, they will grow, it will grow, or I will ask why not.