10 Years, 10 Lessons: Year 1: The Smell of Success is Intoxicating

10 Years, 10 Lessons

At the tail end of the gold rush, on October 1st 1999, my wife, two dogs, and I arrived in Silicon Valley from Australia.  Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to work in marketing and strategy roles for startups, and while I’ve never found a pot of gold, I’ve enjoyed the journey, and believe there are a few nuggets I can share.  In the fine tradition of popular non-fiction, I’ve made a list of 10 lessons from the 10 years.  To keep it manageable, I’m aiming for 1 lesson each day for the next 10 days. I’ve included key takeaways and sign posts for the condition associated with the lesson with each year.

Photo courtesy of lushpup

Photo courtesy of lushpup

Year 1: The Smell of Success is Intoxicating

Greater mission vs. enlightened self interest

There is nothing more fun than working in a startup where everyone believes.  The energy is palpable and infectious.  People work joyfully around the clock and you jump out of bed every day, busting to get started.  Perksatwork.com was like this, my best ever year of work life, a veritable the-journey-is-the-reward, pot-of-gold experience (I’ve been trying to recreate this ever since).

I’m a great believer in a mission that people can believe in, but in this case, we had a nice idea (help people balance their life and work) and believed we could do anything, but either the team just got along really well, or Adam Smith was right and the prospects of success were driving the dedication.

Key Takeaway: Teams that believe (for whatever the reason) are a lot more productive and fun than those that don’t.

Sign Posts: Consistency of explanations about the overarching objective, and unshakeable confidence.

Caveat: The smell of success can be so blinding, you miss what’s going on in the market.  At my second startup we ignored the structural changes going on in the market for too long (see You Don’t Know What Customers Want).

Sign Posts: What are you worried about? (Nothing = blind spot – there’s always something to worry about)

Tomorrow: Year 2: Any guesses on the topic?  In the meantime, what lessons would you like to share?


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