“Having the advantage of size or strength or power is often the birthing ground for true and fatal weakness. The inertia of success makes it much harder to truly develop good technique.”
– Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join the founding team of a startup with seemingly all of the “right” ingredients: a solid team, a distribution partner already signed on, and FUNDING for the first two years. For those of you who have built companies from the ground up, you know that having these three things in place from Day One is practically unheard of.
We used this unique position to (what we thought was) our advantage, signing on advisors with industry contacts and expertise, spending our time focusing on PRODUCT, and flying forward with the grace of a dove. Our confidence was high; we knew we were set up for success. Everything seemed way too easy, but we kept moving, breezing past what we thought was our competition. In reality, this mentality was our ultimate demise.
Four months in, we had our first board of advisors meeting. To say the least, it was a disaster. By having everything in place from the beginning, we continually overlooked the importance of presenting our true INSIGHTS in a meaningful way. We danced through a deck and clumsily answered direct questions that were “off script.” Everything that had been given to us was ripped out from under us. It truly became our weakness, as we didn’t have to work for those funding, for distribution, for a team. That one meeting led to the investor pulling funding, the advisors disappearing, and the distribution partner giving us the coldest silent treatment we’ve ever known. The project was done.
What did we do?
We started over. From scratch. One of our team members left (we wish him nothing but the best!). We were forced to figure something out. To figure out the best and most efficient way to truly build a company. We are bootstrapping. Learning from our successful clients and past endeavors. Leveraging our strengths to learn from our weaknesses.
We’re currently knee-deep, forcing ourselves on a daily basis to focus on our immediate goal – to get funding. To not get bogged down in product, but to truly fine-tune our strategy. We make decisions on a daily basis as to whether we’re on track. If we’re not on track, we tweak. We are plowing forward relentlessly, but with the ultimate goal of learning how to build a solid company. How to focus on the necessary for today. Sure, we’ve got a big vision, a big dream. But if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do now, we will never reach our goal.
So here’s to today. Here’s to focusing on what counts right now. Here’s to never falling victim to the inertia of success again.