What to do about people judging you

A friend works in a creative field. He’s a talented artist and was telling me how he hates being judged while presenting his work. So he prefers to do the work and let others sell or pitch it.

I told him this:

You’re being judged anyway. Best you inform that judgement with your presence.

Hiding from reality rarely changes the outcome, but when we do hide, we can never iterate on the fly, we can only wait for the news.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Constraints are your friend

You’ve probably never heard of Rodney Mullen, but he basically invented modern freestyle skateboarding. The tricks you see with kids flipping their boards with their feet – it mostly came from him.

But here’s the really cool bit about Rodney’s story as he tells it:

“I learned to skate in our garage. We lived in the country in Florida, it was sort of farmish, and there was no cement anywhere else. Vert skating was the kind of skating that was done in pools, where you could get airborne and be weightless. The other style, which is what I did, was called free style, which was tricks you could do on flat ground.”

How cool is that…. he literally had nowhere to skateboard. There was no concrete to ride and glide along, so he used the little square space of his garage to learn. And he did what his small space allowed. Cool little flips and tricks you can see in this video. It was what he didn’t have – space to skate – that helped him invent something entirely new. New solutions and new interpretations of skateboarding based on constraints.

While it’s easy for entrepreneurs to think that limited resources thwart possibilities, they are actually what we need to create something amazing.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why on line prices can mislead

Cars for sale

On line markets where people sell peer to peer – think eBay sellers, or used cars on line –  can trick our perception of the price of things. Here’s why:

This is the advertised price, not the price it sells for.

When we compare similar items on line, we are more likely to see the price of things that haven’t sold yet. The price people actually buy at, is often not advertised long enough for comparisons. This means the real value of something is often much less than we think. Especially when we are looking to sell something we own. We are weirdly programmed to think items we own are worth more than they are. 

You might notice a car like yours is advertised for $20,000. There may even be multiple advertised at this price.  Other sellers also see the most common price and follow the market. But we need to remember these are the cars which ‘haven’t sold’ – those that sold probably did so at $17,ooo and are no longer listed. It’s the overpriced stock that creates our price perception.

Why does this matter? Because it is counter intuitive, the opposite of what we’d expect. It’s the filter bubble in action. The more we see homogeneous products with price X on line, the more we should remember it’s the price people hope for.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Your startup is a restaurant

Startup restaurant

Yes, your startup is pretty much a restaurant. Which means there are a few things you should know about new restaurants:

  • A domestic kitchen is different to a commercial one.
  • A successful dinner party does not translate into a successful restaurant.
  • Most restaurants can’t afford a janitor, a book keeper, advertising or…
  • A restaurant can never please all tastes.
  • You’ll need to experiment with dishes and scale.
  • Small menus work better than extensive ones.
  • The meal the customer sees is a small part of what makes it all work.
  • The margins are always smaller than you expect.
  • Working hours always exceed opening or revenue generating hours.
  • Customers can be wrong, but we need to look after regulars.
  • Regulars come back for the consistency or experience.
  • Customer perception from the outside determines if they’ll come in the door.
  • Recommendation from friends matters more than anything.
  • There is no chance of annual leave until customers will really miss you.
  • If you want to be successful enough to go big, you can’t run the kitchen.
  • 95% of new restaurants close within the first year.
  • 99% of new restaurants close within three years.

Sounds a bit difficult, with a low probability of success. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It does mean you should know it might be one of many tries to get one that works.

A learning curve only happens when you are prepared to push up hill.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why burning the boats is terrible advice

Burning the boats at the shore

You’ve heard the story about burning the boats right? Legend has it that the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes told his 600 men to ‘Burn the boats’ when they arrived in Mexico in 1519. He wanted to ensure his men had no option but to succeed in plundering the riches of the Aztec empire.

Here’s the thing – Hernan was kind of like Google or Apple with an incredible amount of resources at his disposal. And us? Well, we are not Hernan. We are probably living a comfortable existence in a developed country. We would probably not die for startup success. We, in the modern world should probably be smart enough to ignore this advice.

Personally, I’ve had a lot of startups, more than ten. I’ve also had a lot of projects. The large majority have failed in financially. I’ve had two startups in which I succeeded in selling the business. I never burned the boats once. I always had some boats hidden away under the bushes by the shore for a quick and painless escape. Once I even joined another army (went back into a corporate role). I always had some form of investment to fall back on, safety cash, shares and housing. I even continued to make passive investments while I was bootstrapping my startups. And it is this reason alone I could keep on playing the game. I could keep going back into another startup and try again. I’ve got friends and colleagues who went all in, and now have very little to fall back on. Sure, we all approach things in different ways, but for me startups are an infinite game that I want to keep playing, therefore, I always keep a few boats by the shore.

See the amazing reviews of my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why I already trust you

lost of faces

People often talk about earning someones trust. Which is a bit like saying, I think you’re a jerk until you prove otherwise. My approach is the opposite. I trust you from the outset. The moment we meet you have my trust. Occasionally this means I get burnt. Probably around 5% of the time, it turns out to be a bad policy. Which then gives you a clear indication of why I choose to trust first. Most humans are good, and will honour the trust given to them. Which means that 95% of the time it works out well.

The problem is that most companies make policies to account for the 5% of bad apples. The few that take advantage of things. They punish the majority to account for minority. A better option is to have a business model with the robustness to account for those we who do the wrong thing. By doing this we respect the humanity of our most important customers, the majority. They also happen to be the trustworthy ones.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

You’re too early for the market – so what

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.17.57 PM

So you’re a bit early… maybe you startup, or whatever project you have a deep need to undertake is far more important than that. Maybe it’s a gift to humanity.

When Gutenberg built his moveable type printing press around 1440 the market looked like this:

  •  7% of the population in Europe could read.
  • Reading glasses hadn’t been invented. (people didn’t know their eyes couldn’t focus that small!) 
  • There were no public libraries .
  • Schools for the public didn’t exist yet.
  • There were exactly zero bookshops.

Maybe he should’ve waited for Amazon to come along….. he did it anyway.

When Karl Benz built his first combustion engine car around 1882 the market looked like this:

  • No one knew how to drive an automobile
  • It was illegal to drive
  • There were no roads
  • It was slower than a horse
  • It was many thousands of times more expensive than a horse

Maybe he should have waited for the Autobahns to be built….. he did it anyway.

We can focus on what the market wants. Build them houses, sell them packaged food, and provide entertained where the good guy wins, or we can do a project for ourselves. When we do it for ourselves we only need to finish it to satisfy who it is for. And we might just make something the market really wants as well.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.