Start Slow and Snail
When I talk to companies about their social media strategies, I recommend that they start small and scale. A measured and iterative approach makes a lot of sense when you’re adopting new technologies for your company. But it’s not a life philosophy that makes sense for every entrepreneur.
Unfortunately, for a lot of entrepreneurs, the phrase “start small and scale” has taken on a life of its own. It’s become a business mantra that can create inappropriate expectations on people who want to start a new business and create new jobs and opportunities, but who don’t necessarily plan--this week at least--on changing the world.
Not everything or every business has to be gigantic. Not everything has to happen at light speed. There’s actually more to life than just increasing its speed. It’s perfectly O.K. to “start small and snail.”
There are a lot of different ways for someone to be an entrepreneur, and it’s important to decide where you, and the company you want to build, fit on the spectrum.
To help you think it through, I’ve divided the entrepreneurial universe into a few different categories and included a few short thoughts and formulations to help flesh them out. Take your time and be brutally honest with yourself. Proper alignment now will save much agony later.
Once you have picked a path, it’s a lot easier to explain your strategy to other people. You’re in this for you and yours, not to please other people or have them live vicariously through you. All of this stuff looks easy to the people who don’t have to live through it every day and make it happen.
Here’s how I see it:
1. The Happy Camper I like my life. Enough is enough. Time to work for myself.
• It’s not what you do, but how you do it
• To be happy, set yourself a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes
• If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself
2. It's About Trade-Offs I’m concerned about work/life balance. Family matters.
• Making a life consists of more than making a living.
3. Measured Growth Be careful about what you grow into. Size matters.
• I want to see how big we can get before we get bad.
4. The Runaway Train I didn’t plan it and I’m trying to hang on. I need some help.
• Speed is useful only if you’re running in the right direction.
• All movement is not progress and all change isn’t for the better.
• You can’t control the winds, but you adjust the sails.
5. Speed Demon Disrupting existing markets. Leading the way forward.
• If your team looks like a bunch of ferrets pumped up with double espressos, you need to take a break.
• There’s a point in the process when the trill of speed overcomes the fear of failure, but it’s not a happy point.
• It’s the reason there are rarely skid marks when start-ups fail. They hit the wall head-first and full on.
6. Ruler of the Universe Changing the world. Nothing else matters.
• People who change the world have an original and obsessive vision. It’s more likely to be based on their dreams and aspirations than in their experiences, but it’s just as real.
• Too much is not enough for rulers of the universe.
It’s your choice, and it’s pretty much within your control. Even if it’s a long, hard road, it helps to have a vision of where you’d like to be; how you’d like to live; and an idea of how you’ll get there. Otherwise, you’ll soon learn the wisdom of that old cliché: life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.
HOWARD TULLMAN | Columnist
Howard Tullman is the CEO of 1871 in Chicago where, at the moment, 260 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V, LLC and Chicago High Tech Investors – both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council; and Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. @tullman