Author: Dave Tabor

From Media Darling to Shut Down

What a headline.  It makes me sad – but not depressed or troubled.

Revolar is Jackie Ros’s, first start-up.  She’s amazing!  One of the most delightful and upbeat founders I’ve interviewed, she has accomplished great things,
was celebrated in national media, and her customers love the Revolar product.

At a recent dinner bringing together five past guests of PROCO360, all having become more successful since our interview, I was struck by their genuine gratefulness that their successes outweigh their failures.  I could sense the recognition that even high-profile success can be fragile.

As a past entrepreneur I was not as successful as Jackie or those who joined me for dinner.  Still, I experienced firsthand the amazing “rock star” highs as my business took off – thriving, growing, expanding.  I also remember with great pain, the feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability when I didn’t have all the answers.  I remember the relentless fear and embarrassment, and the sleepless nights during a dramatic downturn.  I know what all that feels like because I did it, and that’s really gratifying.

The “Wise-Guy” Skill Set

When I asked Tom Ryan, CEO of SmashBurger, about what experience he applied to starting SmashBurger that really made a huge difference, he answered, “building-in scalability” from the start.  He said, “It’s a wise-guy skill-set… you gotta be around the block a few times to get it.” Tom continued that he’s often approached by ambitious restaurant entrepreneurs, frustrated that as they add locations, they are failing rather than scaling.  They hadn’t known to build-in scalability, or how to do it.  They weren’t yet wise guys.

That got me thinking.  Today as we celebrate the meteoric startups, particularly those in tech, we place an increasing amount of focus on innovation and speed, and relatively less value on experience.  While speed and innovation are more important in a software startup than for a burger franchisor, I think it’s worth asking, “Is there someone with more experience who might have advice that I should hear?”  I love the way Tom Ryan described the scenario of “needed to be around the block a few times to get it!”  There are lots of times when entrepreneurs need wise guys.  Of course, without experience, it’s hard to know those times.

Fortunate for us, our great collaborative spirit in Colorado makes it easy to find generous wise guys who fit your business and your path.

When Passionate Positions Make Us Idiots

As the national health care debate has played out, it’s a great example of how to become an idiot.

Health care is COMPLICATED.  Taking a “principled position” enables people to feel justified in ignoring the deeply interwoven complexities of this issue.  Please stop to consider these upsetting points of fact:

  • To my friends on the right: health care doesn’t, can’t and won’t work like any other “free market” service. Unrestricted competition works for craft beer or a Louis Vuitton handbag, and where supply and demand create an equilibrium.  It’s not free market when if have a heart attack you can go into any facility and get treated, without knowing what the price is, or often without the ability to pay.
  • To my friends on left who believe that all people should be treated equally: I was once driving with my young son who asked how health care costs work. There were two cars in front of us – a Mercedes and a Ford Focus.  I asked him, “Which would you pick if a stranger whom you’d never meet was paying?”  We just don’t have enough money to buy everyone “Mercedes” health care.  People with more money will get more care.

We need to accept that our world is complex and we need to approach problems with thoughtfulness.  Capitalism is another example where dogmatic positions are flawed. Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog ‏ did a better job than I can in his thought-provoking essay, “Unbridled,” in which he suggests we think more clearly about just how much we want the “markets” to run our economy.

Our world is COMPLICATED and simple answers, while convenient, are generally wrong.  Work and business are complicated too.  A great book to read to really appreciate the complex nature of decisions in an entrepreneurial environment is The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz @bhorowitz ‏.

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