Have you ever thought about what classic characters would make awesome entrepreneurs in today's society? Clearly Willy Wonka and his chocolate empire with disruptive tendencies would scale. Princes Leia and her ability to lead huge teams would make the Resistance the next unicorn. My new favorite is Alice--the character from the famous Lewis Carroll novel, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
Alice famously said, "She believed six impossible things before breakfast." If that is not an entrepreneur, I am not sure what is--You know between 2:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. every entrepreneur has at least six new ideas about their business. If you have decided to be an entrepreneur, and take the risk of being self-employed, you must be out of your mind. Instead of that steady paycheck, you are going to torture yourself with worries of cash flow, sales and the daily extremes of a founder's life. But, in Wonderland, they would look at an entrepreneur and say, "You are mad bonkers, off your head... But I will tell you as secret, most of the best people are..." The Mad Hatter
As entrepreneurs, here are five lessons we can learn from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland":
Lesson One: "If you don't know where you want to go, then it doesn't matter which path you take." Entrepreneurs must have a purpose filled vision and stick to it. No business plan in the world is going to matter if you don't think big and drive towards that goal - that giant disruption of industry. There are thousands of ways to scale a business and there are a lot of good ideas in the world, but to be the first and the best you must have the passion that will drive you through the execution. Your vision also keeps you focused when you grow and there a thousand agendas pulling you in different directions. So, as you make your way to profitability, keep purpose in profit or you will lose sight of why you started in the first place.
Lesson Two: Before you ask which way to go, remember where you have been. So, you have a vision. Now, what is the plan? Where are you taking your company? What are the metrics towards scaling? In some way, we are all are chasing the white rabbit. Your rabbit might be Series A funding, a thousand new customers, a new board member, but that path needs to be created by you, based on the plan you have. You can get a lot of advice and counsel but at the end of the day, every decision falls on you.
Lesson Three: Door to Alice, "Why, it's simply impassible." Alice to the Door, "Don't you mean impossible?" Door responds, "No, I do mean impassable, nothing is impossible." You are an entrepreneur because you jump over barriers, walk through fire and bust down doors. And on the way, oh boy are you going to fail. I had no idea how many noes exist in entrepreneurship. Strength here is critical. Think about what Alice had to do get through the impassable door. She ate something to get big, she ate something to get small, she jumped into a never-ending fall, and she smoked a hookah with a giant caterpillar (or whatever is now legal in Wonderland...). Sounds like what you all do each day to be successful. So, when you hit a failure, or your 100th no - remember - that moment might be impassable, but the not impossible. You will find another way around.
Lesson Four: It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that. Technology and our pace of humanity causes everything and everyone to move at lightning speed. Because of this, pace is critical in entrepreneurship. Remember, I said multiple people might have a good idea, so you must get yours out there first. You must corner the market first. A study from Dell Technologies showed, 78 percent of enterprise companies are worried that a startup might disrupt them in the coming years. I think part of this is due to speed, fast failure, and the pace at which we can innovate as entrepreneurs. If you are going the same speed as everyone else, you are only going to tie, not win. Sprint and win.
Lesson Five: If you drink too much from a bottle marked "poison" it is certain to disagree with you sooner than later. Oh, are the haters gonna hate. You are going to be shocked by how many people do not get your great idea. If you are a female or minority, you will get greater scrutiny (as backed by the current data). Don't drink that poison. Constructive advice is very valuable. Sometimes you can even extract good ideas from those who criticize. But don't drink that poison, because it will make you and your business sick. Stand on your own principles and those of your team.
Oh, that reminds me of one of my favorite conversations in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland": It's where one character says, "I don't think..." And the other interrupts and responds with, "Then you shouldn't talk." Might be a quote you can use next time someone is hating on your company.
Today at the 2017 Circular Summit, we are getting a preview of the "new Alice," who like the classic Alice, will guide entrepreneurs to help them achieve the impossible. We can't wait to share the new Alice with you to help you through your journey. All of you find ways to be strong, to make the impassible possible, and to above all, do what Alice said, "The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it is possible."