It was April 30th, 2013, one of the most exciting days of my life. I'm talking movie stardom excitement. With naïveté and wishful thinking, this is the day that we launched our startup at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York.
I wasn't a startup junkie. I didn't follow the industry trades at the time, so we were late to apply. Because of this, we were relegated to the pay-to-play section known as "The Alley." First class companies, those with VC connections or clearly promising products, were selected to join "The Battlefield" and present on stage. Second class startups, as defined by those who didn't get selected to present, presented in "the Alley."
"The Battlefield" is where all the attention was, and that is where we knew we needed to be.
The Audience Choice Award was the only way that we would be able to escape "the Alley" and present on stage. To win the Audience Choice Award, we had to get the more votes than every other company presenting in "The Alley". There was only one problem, we were outsiders.
Success is the result of a well crafted plan.
Some of the world's greatest leaders believed planning was the key to success. Abraham Lincoln said "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Colin Powell believed, "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." And Will Smith believes he possesses "just average talent" and what truly sets him apart is his "ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation."
Every success in our company history has been the result of a well crafted plan. Every large client, every award, every great hire came as the result of spending 10X more time planning than executing.
If we took the time to design a great plan, we won. If we didn't, we lost and business and people suffered. We would forever be stuck in "The Alley."
The word preparation seems to have lost its gusto in today's fast-paced environment. I can practice on the weekends, eat well, and fully warm up to be prepared for a basketball game. And then Steph Curry shows up. I am now unprepared.
The difference between us? He has spent tens-of-thousands of hours preparing to dominate the basketball court and I have not.
So if success is the result of preparation and preparation takes time, how much preparation does success take?
Prepare for every conceivable circumstance.
Here is the key. To win as an entrepreneur, we must be prepared for all conceivable outcomes. Startup copycats, well-funded corporates, upset customers, bad contracts, bankruptcies, fundraising delays, bad hires, and the numerous other factors that could go right or wrong.
At Disrupt, I didn't know if we would have a chance to make the stage. Our odds were incredibly low. We were competing against 181 other startups who were vying for the same prize. So we made a plan, divided it up, and all executed our parts. In addition, I wrote a fresh pitch and rehearsed it until it was perfect - just in case I needed it.
Watch well planned victories snowball.
And the results? Our plan worked. We won the Audience Choice Award. We were escorted to the big stage and given 7 minutes to wow the audience. And wow we did. Nobody could believe that we came up with such a great pitch on the fly. The announcer even asked the audience to be a bit gracious as we had "only had 15 minutes to prepare."
As soon as I stepped off the stage my phone began to ring. I spent the rest of the night bouncing between taxis and investor meetings. The video of our pitch was posted online and has since been watched by thousands of people looking for shipping solutions. It still is one of our top lead gen tools.
And the only thing we did was prepare. We prepared to compete and we prepared to win. And we did.