You Can Be Right And Wrong At The Same Time

 I’m having a nice dinner with my wife in a small eatery in the City, when a customer comes in carrying a takeout food bag and begins ranting about how the order has the wrong food.  She wants her money back.  The owner looks at the receipt and at the food and sees the order and food match, and says so to the customer.  Things go rapidly downhill from there. Continue reading

Just Because You Can… Doesn’t Mean You Should

I spent a lot of time watching “This Old House”, back in the day.  I also did my share of small hobby projects for friends and family.  But when I bought my own version of this old house to renovate, I got a rude awaking.  The first project was a bathroom Nuke and Pave.  I was going to save a bundle of money doing it all myself, because it was my house, and because I could.  I had the tools, and knew what to do. Continue reading

A Startup Is Not A Business

I used to say I had worked in a number of startups. My first job ever, while still in high school, was with 5 guys making electronic navigation systems. Then there was a lifestyle company making cryptographic gear, a C-round electronic publishing firm and the ‘right at IPO’ workstation manufacturer. Throw in a few intrapreneurial ventures inside Fortune 500 companies, and I thought I had the whole startup/venture thing well in hand. I’d done business plans and managed scale in various functions pretty much focused on the transitions from quest to lifestyle to business, and even one exit. Then I started my own, with a couple of other guys. But the founding stage was totally different. In all the other cases, the companies had already attained a baseline business profile of revenue generating product, paid staff, established operational flow. With a startup, neither product, process nor people for the business are established. It’s all nothing more than an idea at this point. So, I started talking about having worked in innovative businesses rather than startups.

I came to realize that a startup is not a business. It is a hypothesis; a hypothesis with multiple levels of abstraction. Continue reading

Drive Your Business Like A Racer

 A bunch of co-workers and I were caravanning to an off-site luncheon. After navigating busy roundabouts and traffic lights we arrived the restaurant and, as I got out my car, one of the drivers following me told me my brake lights were` out.  That’s not good, so we checked things out.  To his surprise, the brake lights worked fine.  “But I followed you the whole way, through all the traffic and your brake lights never came on”, he said. “Probably because I rarely use the brakes”, I responded.  My car had a manual transmission and I had used the engine, transmission and timing to travel about 15 suburban miles without hitting the brakes. Continue reading

Big Thoughts In Thin Air

 This one’s from my first formal flying lesson.  After performing the preflight check, the instructor let me start the engine, taxi out to the runway and take off.  (Note: takeoff is real easy, landing is a little harder.)  Anyway, we’re puttering over the plains of north Texas at about 4000 feet when the instructor says “I bet you’re wondering what would happen if the engine died right now” and he shuts the engine off.  Well, I just looked at him waiting for the next piece of the lesson, and he was clearly disappointed that I wasn’t freaking out. Continue reading

Moving Toward Perfection

I learned to drive in a car that didn’t have power steering. (Yes, I’m that old.) But that didn’t prepare me for my stint in the Air Force.  I was in a tactical unit, which meant we had to be ready to go anywhere and set up shop on short notice.  So all of our gear was either loaded on trucks or had wheels bolted on them.  And, since we had to be light and lean, we didn’t have a bunch of truck drivers on the team.  All us geeks had to pack and drive our own stuff.  That meant I had to learn drive a truck.  Two and a half tons to be exact.  “Deuce-and-a-Halfs” they were called.  And they didn’t have power steering either. Continue reading

Team Building Is Shared Experience Under Pressure

Ok, I went through military basic training, disaster drills, fraternity hell week, and more than my fair share of corporate-team-building-off-sites. And they all seemed pretty silly at the time. The hazing, the overblown strictness and protocols, the seemingly pointless exercises. I wasn’t until I spent time with combat veterans, first responders and, yes, even startup founders that it all started to make sense. The fundamental currency of teams is trust. And trust is formed through shared experience under pressure. Continue reading