Don’t believe in magic

Giff Constable startups

sorcerersappTwo observations:
1. Very little happens in a startup if you don’t make it happen.
2. Very little is done right if you don’t examine best practices and iterate your own efforts.

Common sense, right? And yet here are some further observations:

Right after I posted about demo tips and the importance of practice, I ran into someone who was at a different startup event where the demos were poor, unpracticed, and un-coached. It is a common problem.

I had coffee a little while ago with a highly successful woman who was frustrated that she hears too many younger entrepreneurs complain about the lack of mentors. “When I started,” she explained, “I didn’t wait for anyone to come to me. I picked the right people and went out and chased them.” She approached landing mentors as a sales cycle, impressing and winning over her targets with brains and a go-getter attitude.

To give a personal example, I used to believe in magic when it came to public speaking. I thought there were “gifted” wizards like Steve Jobs who could just get up and wow the crowd. Then I realized that all the best speakers practice the hell out of their talks. Brilliance doesn’t happen on its own.  (btw, if you want to learn more about public speaking, I recommend Scott Berkun’s book, Confessions of a Public Speaker)

There is no magic in marketing, virality, and product design. Instead there is creativity, smarts, measurement and iteration. Yet you see teams piggy-backing on the fad of the moment, hoping for a silver bullet but not going deeper.

A big part of “lean startup” is getting teams out of “guess and hope” mode (aka magic), and into reality-based iteration. This requires getting out of your comfort zone.

Now, the *other* hard truth of early stage startups is you cannot do it all with the resources at hand. You have to make choices and some areas will get short-changed. But do it consciously. Be master of your choices, and don’t believe in magic.