Free your talents

What’s the point in spending a lot of time and effort in getting the best people to join your team, if you’re not prepared to let their talents loose for the good of the company?

It sounds like a stupid question, but in reality it happens all the time; great people are onboarded with promises of exciting challenges and an opportunity to make an impact. And a few months later they leave again, disgruntled, hopes dashed and with a really poor experience of you and your company.

Except in cases of a bad hire, it is rarely the departing team members fault that things didn’t go according to plan. It’s mainly on you for not ensuring that they were provided with the guidance, tools and mandate to do what they were hired to do.

Often this comes down to the fear of losing control as a founder. After all, you and your co-founders built the company to where it is today, and it would be a real disaster for anyone to come and mess that up. It’s super understandable, and I get it. But you can’t think like that if you want your company to continue on its growth trajectory.

Instead you need to realize that you have limits. That there are other and better people out there at doing what needs to get done to get to the next level. And that your task is to persuade them to join your company instead of the competition. And then – basically – get out of their way. Within reason of course.

Personally, I have always found that you generate the best results when you’re brave enough to be ambitious in your recruitment and go for people that are better and smarter than yourself and then do your utmost to provide them with the freedom to operate. Why? Because when they deliver according to expectations – or maybe well beyond that – you and your company deliver as well.

So please, free your talents. Or they will move on to somewhere else, where they can.

(Photo by JoelValve on Unsplash)

The ‘know all’ fallacy

Some of the most charismatic and persuasive people I have ever met have also been the ones who have been the most convinced that they had it all figured out and knew everything.

Until they didn’t.

I am not suggesting that they all failed. But a good number of them did. Because they thought they ‘knew’, ventured ahead without taking stock of what was going on around them – and ultimately hit a concrete wall.

Besides the pain of that particular experience, the most painful thing was that it could most likely have been avoided by adopting a very different approach.

A learning approach, if you will.

When you adapt a learning approach you are more humble.

You’re able to take more signals in.

You are more aware that you’re not directing the world, the world is directing your opportunities, and you adapt.

Adaption is key here. The world changes and you need to do that too in order to be forward looking.

‘Knowing it all’ is inherently backward looking. And not very useful when things fundamentally change.

When you learn and adapt, you are able to seize new opportunities and with that the odds of success increases.

Which again makes it pretty stupid to insist on being the one ‘knowing it all’, don’t you think?

(Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash)

Don’t try to be Keith Richards

Whenever you talk of ‘Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’, you have to think of the legendary Rolling Stones. Not only have they made an eternal contribution to great music that will live forever. They have also lived the above myth to the extreme.

Lead guitarist Keith Richards has been chief among those trying everything on the planet and then some. And it has shown, time and time again.

I distinctly remember a concert with them in Copenhagen, where during band introductions somebody had to step up to the ol’ geezer and shout into his ear where on the planet he was playing that particular night:

“Oh yeah…Copenhagen! Pleasure!”

And then a big grin on his face before going full body and spirit into yet another one of their evergreen hits.

While slightly funny in itself, the real interesting thing about Keith Richards is that he was not supposed to have been there at all. Judging from what he has done to himself over the decades, he should have been dead long ago.

Apparently the combination of a very strong immune system (that scientists will want to study when he’s gone) and luck has kept him alive.

That last part is the essential one here.

Luck.

If luck hadn’t played its very significant part, Keith Richards would probably not have been around to tell his countless tales. Luck enabled him to do so.

It wasn’t part of any masterplan on his part. If there ever was one it went up in smoke – literally – in the 70s. Because you can’t plan for luck.

Neither can you.

If luck is a key ingredient to your future success, take a step back and reassess what you’re doing and how you can work to ensure that you’re not so dependent on something as fluffy, fledgling and very little under control as luck is.

Of course successful people are lucky too. But most of them – 99% would be my guess – also made it with more hard work, focus, determination, grit, talent and whatever than sheer luck saving them from stupid decisions.

You should work your way towards success. While Keith Richards is undoubtedly a legend, he is and will remain a terrible, terrible role model.

(Photo by Vale Arellano on Unsplash)

Excellence in failure

It sounds stupid, right? That there can be anything of excellence in failing. Because failure is just that, right? Failure.

But look at it this way:

If you don’t fail in anything, you don’t try anything. You never follow your curiosity to explore new things and new ways of doing new things.

Having said that there are different kinds of failure.

The bad kind is the kind of failure, where you just make the same mistakes over and over either because you don’t learn anything from it or you simply just don’t care. Don’t ever follow that path.

The good part of failure is where you take on new things, challenges, projects, dive in from the deep end without having a clear idea about how things turn out. When you fail in some or all elements, you learn what NOT to do the next time. And you build both experience and confidence in taking the leap the next time.

And that is a good thing. Because it’s when you take the leap into something new that you have the greatest opportunity for actually effecting change and creating a positive impact. And if you’re driven by that kind of thing, it’s precisely these things that will give you the feeling that you and what you do matter.

Looking at it this way, failure in itself becomes a stepping stone to learn from to get better and to succeed in the end with whatever you’re looking to succeed with. It doesn’t become something to avoid at all costs, holding both you, your team and your company back.

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

An age perspective

“You’re just too old!”

I hear it thrown around every once in a while. Not specifically at me but more as a general shoutout to voice dissatisfaction that someone simply just not ‘get it’.

But does age really have anything to do with it?

Of course not.

In fact I think quite the opposite is at play;

Using the age argument is like arguing “This time is different” about why something that was a bust in the past will be a success now or “We have the best tech” as a reason for why you’re going to win whenever you enter the market:

High risk arguments with little validity in data.

So if the “You’re too old” argument is a flawed one in itself, what can we use the difference in age for in an extended startup team?

Well, for one youth can be put to superb use – if applied with clear thought – towards something that other people might not think is possible doing. Because the big advantage to a lack of experience is that you don’t know what you’re entering into, and thus you’re more open to risk.

Just think at the warm stove the first time you touched it, because you didn’t really believe that it was too hot. You only did that once, right? And got the hard earned experience.

Youth also typically have an abundance of energy of the sort that comes with eagerness to get out in the world and do something and – for most – a basic lack of other substantial obligations (family, kids, mortgages etc).

So what does age bring to the table that could be fruitful to the young ones?

First of all experience. Not of the kind that stops great ideas in their tracks but the kind that helps the young guns avoid the most obvious pitfalls, so they can stear clear and get a cleaner path towards ultimate success. A kind of a mentor that gently guides without taking over control in any sort of way.

Second, a shoulder to cry on. Now, I do not necessarily mean that literally, although if that’s what’s needed, so be it. No, I mean it more in the sense of someone to talk to and seek support at when the going gets rough, nothing works out, the roof is falling in and you’re just generally feeling like an utter failure.

Because that’s exactly what you need at that point; someone you can went to – and be heard, respected and understood by someone who has most likely been there her-/himself.

So think of these things the next time you feel the urge to claim that people who don’t get you are just “Too old”.

(Photo by Paolo Bendandion Unsplash)

Vision needs strategy

Most startups are founded on a vision; a wish to help bring about change to something in the world. But many lack a coherent strategy of how to get there in the end.

How come? The difference is in the meaning of the various words.

A vision is like a desert mirage. It’s aspirational, something we can imagine but is not real – yet.

A strategy is a plan to find the waterhole in the desert, so to say. It doesn’t have to be a complex plan with a lot of moving parts, but it needs to be a plan that can – if nothing else – convince people that not only might you be on to something. You actually also have some kind of idea of how to capture it.

Many startups frown at the word ‘strategy’ and doing strategy work is a pretty long way down the list of priorities. But while it’s true that execution is key and should take precedence over ‘thought’-work, they still need to set aside time to develop the plan.

Otherwise how are they ever going to make it to the fulfillment of the vision?

By luck? By endless trial-and-error?

Of course not. So get the strategy that supports the vision in place. Make it flexible based on what you learn on the journey, but nevertheless utilize it as a map to get to the destination, you’re longing for.

(Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash)

It’s all about People

Yesterday we finally unveiled what we have been working on for months; the launch of our brand new Venture Capital firm, People Ventures.

So why am I so excited about that?

First of all because it is a validation of how we have been operating since 2018; backing great visionary entrepreneurs not only with money but also with resources and people to help them achieve more and move fast forward with their businesses.

It is a very active approach that we have seen very positive results from. So it made a ton of sense to focus even more on that and just double down on helping even more entrepreneurs succeed.

And then it’s just such a cool name that truly captures who we are, and what we’re about: People.

Nobody succeeds without great people.

If you don’t have great people to help you out, even the best of ideas will most likely tank.

Great people can combine to ensure that even something that might not be the biggest thing since the invention of sliced bread can become a spectacular success.

And great people take care of each other when things hit a sour patch – as they will every once in a while – to ensure that emerge even better on the other side. That shouldn’t be neglected at all.

And we won’t do that at People Ventures.

(Photo: Private)

Political bets

Sometimes it can be a huge temptation for a startup to bet the whole shop on a political agenda. Fighting climate change is perhaps the best example.

Without arguing the importance of that particular cause – it’s probably the most important one, we face – the pitfalls of betting on political agendas, mission statements and policies are exactly the same as what make them so tempting;

While they can be set into law and put into effect, they can just as easily be taken away again.

All it requires is a new law.

I am not suggesting that you should never bet on something where the political agenda and policies are strong. Just that you should be aware of the risks associated and have a contingency plan.

Rest assured: You should have time to develop one if you don’t have one. The wheels of government doesn’t turn that quickly.

But again: Don’t bet everything on a political bet.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)