I n 1988, Purdue University strategy scholar Arnold Cooper and two colleagues asked 3,000 entrepreneurs two simple questions: “What are the odds of your business succeeding?” and “what are the odds of any business like yours succeeding?” Founders claimed that there was an 81% chance, on average, that they would succeed but gave only a 59% probability of success for other ventures like their own. In fact, 80% of the respondents pegged their chances of success at least 70% — and one in three claimed their likelihood of success was 100%.
At the beginning of an enterprise, the business is only an idea in the mind of the founder, who probably spent a great deal of time analyzing the idea so much so, it becomes his paradoxical “baby”. He quickly becomes emotionally attached to it without noticing.
Founders’ conviction, attachment, optimism, confidence and naïveté may be necessary to get new ventures up and running, but founders often downplay the intensity of execution and discipline required to grow the business and keep the business default alive.
We have spent some time thinking through the differences between a high performing founder and an average/low performing founder assuming both have access to similar resources. In observing the several companies in our portfolio and companies that have gone through our several programs, one of the key traits we see in top performing founders is the strength and pace of their learning and their speed of execution — the ability to always move fast, deploy to the market, learn from the process, rinse and repeat. The best founders are “relentlessly resourceful” always figuring out a more effective way to execute a task or an alternative route to a roadblock they are facing.
While some founders sit around analyzing what can and should be, how their competitors are raising too much cash, how regulations are skewed (which might all be true), the best founders are constantly taking ideas to market to test and validate, they spend little or no time worrying about things they cannot control e.g their competitors raising money at a high valuations. They are constantly in the trenches trying to chart a path for their company, trying new things out and making new mistakes.
A founder once asked if the discipline of execution can be learnt, my answer was a resounding; yes!
Here are a few tips for founders to improve their pace of learning and speed of execution.
- Agree/disagree and commit, whenever you get a piece of useful advice. Decide on a strategy, document the plan and implement immediately. Chances are — the longer it takes, the more likely you would forget and the less likely you would implement.
- Be accountable to your team, advisors and investors. When you decide on a course of action, share the details and let these people hold you accountable. You would be pressured to deliver as you sure wouldn’t want to be perceived as incompetent by your team members, advisors or investors.
- Plan your day ahead, decide the day before what your top 3 priorities for the next day are and maniacally focus on doing those 3 things and ensure these are tasks that significantly move the needle for the company. Remember at the core of your company, you should be building a great product and selling to customers, so your daily activities should be largely focused on that. Reference the Eisenhower decision matrix
- Review progress daily. Did you knock off those top 3 priorities? If you are constantly not knocking off your top priorities, you are not doing it right.
- Track your time, track how much time you spend working vs checking twitter, WhatsApp and the likes.
- Set a learning goal that aligns with a key problem you are trying to solve in your organisation eg. Your company is trying to figure out distribution, so you set a goal that requires you take 1 course and read two books on growth and distribution over the next 7 days. Once again be accountable to your team.
The founder should make a periodic habit of analyzing his time to match intention to reality. How are the tasks on your daily to-dos moving you closer to your goals as a person and as a company? This is an important habit for every founder, as it will trickle down as a culture to other members of staff.
Always remember no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy (the market), so you will need to quickly get out and execute to figure out what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly.
Lastly, stay relentlessly resourceful.
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What are we reading?
- Execute Like a Rookies, Lead like a multiplier — here
- A founders Guide to Discipline — here
- Why “Leapfrogging” in Frontier markets isn’t working — here
If you are building something great and have developed the habit of being relentless, we would love to talk to you. Fill out our funding application here.
Know how we can be better, do better? Please drop us a line at [email protected].
See you next month.
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