In the final scene of “The Martian,” Matt Damon’s character, (Mark) says to a class of astronaut candidates:
"At some point, everything's gonna go south on you and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home."
--Andy Weir, author of “The Martian”
There are going to be times in your venture when no one is sending you any potatoes. (Go see the movie if you haven’t.)
A couple of random thoughts:
* You solve one problem, THEN you solve the next one. Multitasking is a bad idea. Focus and speed are better.
* Know everything that is knowable. Be an expert. If you are going to put yourself in a challenging situation (a startup!) learn everything that is known and innovate on knowledge. Never outsource to a new hire or anyone else a task that is critical but that you do not understand.
* Make no assumptions and reduce every assumption to facts. Competitors. Pricing. Customer Need. Reaction of other players. Rank and quantify the risks. Knock them down one by one.
* Sooner or later you need a committed team to survive. That team has to have the skills and knowledge the venture needs, but no more. No redundancy, brothers in law or friends looking for work. Commitment and passion are built by mutual respect and commitment to the mission. Involves a lot of stuff from intrinsic rewards to compensation, to being attentive – and choosing the team wisely in the first place.
And Winston Churchill? Here’s the actual quote from 1941:
…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.
Some mundane examples come to mind.
* One venture built a sophisticated “early reaction” system using lots of early adopter conversations, stats and expectations. When six months later, demand kicked off sooner than they’d expected, they were fully ready and got into growth mode inexpensively and quickly. The entrepreneur had become an expert and each time growth planning included assumptions, she devised a quick test to get at the facts. Success is following.
* In another case, the venture, seven years old, began to circle the drain. When all seemed lost, a director started calling people in the industry looking for lifeline options. At the 11th hour, he found a candidate for a merger and, when the product managers said it was a bad fit, pushed on anyway. Terms followed and now the upside looks pretty high.
Never give up.