“I want to be successful so badly I can taste it. What do I do?!” I said to the wall in my office. It was my first day after we launched our startup and I needed answers.
“Yes, my son,” a booming voice responded.
I was startled momentarily. “Who are you?” I asked.
“I am the God of Business,” the voice responded. “I am here to help you become successful.
“How can I help you, my son, succeed in business?”
“Could you tell me what to do? At least, could you tell me where to start?”
“Of course,” the booming voice of the God of Business responded.
I opened my notebook, and got my pen. “I’m ready,” I said.
“Before we get started, I need to be honest with you. I will reveal how you can become successful in business. However, there’s a but. And before I tell you what the but is I need you to promise me that you’ll will not respond in anger to what I tell you.
“Do you agree?”
“Yes, yes. I agree. Anything to hear your wisdom,” I said.
“I am going to summarize how you can become successful in business into ten rules. I will call them commandments. Are you ready my son?”
“Yes, I’m ready to hear your wisdom.”
“Then I will begin.
“Commandment Number 1: You need to keep your business simple.”
“That’s your wisdom,” I said, standing up. “Simple. There must be more to it.”
“I warned you not to respond in anger.”
I nodded, and I sat down. The God of Business continued.
“What I don’t mean by simplicity is that your product or has to be simple. What I do mean is that you don’t have to complicate things.
“That means your business processes, your systems, your business plan, and the way you communicate. All of it can be really simple.
“In fact, the red flag you should look for is when things start to get complicated. Do you remember the game of telephone you played as a kid?”
“Yes, of course I do,” I said.
“Think of business as a game of telephone. The more complicated the message is, the more likely the message is to get screwed up. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I do,” I said. “What’s the next commandment?”
“Commandment Number 2: You need to hire a great team to help you.”
I nod my head in agreement. “Why is a great team so important?”
“Try doing anything without a great team. A great team is your force multiplier. A great team executes your vision. And a great team enhances your vision.
“Have I said enough? I can say more.”
“Yes, then please do.”
“You’re not perfect, and you’re going to make mistakes. A great team also tells you when you’re wrong. That’s critical.
“But there’s more to it than just hiring a great team. Would you like me tell you?”
“Yes, I would oh God of Business. Yes, I would.”
“Commandment Number 3: You need to build a great culture for your team to thrive in.”
“Yes, you’re absolutely right!”
“It starts by treating your team and your cofounders fairly. That means you need to be generous with equity.
“The great business philosopher Dick Butkus said…”
“Dick Butkus. He was a football player, not a businessman!”
“You said you wouldn’t respond in anger. That’s your second warning.”
“I know,” I said calmly.
“As I was saying, Dick Butkus said of his CEO, George Halas, ‘You throw nickels around like they are manhole covers.’ You don’t want to do that with your equity.
“Be generous with your equity. The equity you keep will be worth much more.
“That’s just the start of building a great culture.
“You don’t want a culture where you micromanage your team. You do want a culture of accountability where you give your team the freedom to do their jobs.”
“That’s great advice,” I say. “What else do I need to do?”
“Commandment Number 4: You need to find great investors to work with.
“Every company has investors. For example, how did you start your company?”
“I used my own money.”
“Then you were the investor. Many people start with friends and family, or they get a loan from the bank, or they get both.
“What’s important is, regardless of who your investors are, that you are in alignment with your investors.”
“Alignment. What does that mean?” I ask.
“Alignment means that your goals and your investors goals are similar. Your vision for the company matches, and how you will achieve a financial exit and when you achieve a financial exit are the same.”
“Well there’s one more thing. You want investors that are going to support you when times get rough.”
“How do I know that?”
“Easy. You talk with CEOs that have taken money from these investors and you ask them about their experience.”
“I get it. Okay, what else?”
“Commandment Number 5: You need to find a growing market that you can succeed in.”
“Yep, I think we did that. But how do we know it’s the right market?”
“Have you read The Innovator’s Dilemma?”
“I did a long time ago.”
“Well, read it again. It’s got so many good lessons about how to pick the right market for your company.”
“Okay, you convinced me. I’ll read it again. I think you’ve given me five, and I want to hear the rest.”
“All right, how about this one:
“Commandment Number 6: You need to provide at least 10X the value of of your competitors.
“This is a really important lesson for you to absorb. Starting a company is not natural. After all, the world has gotten along without your company forever, so for you to win you have to cut through the noise.
“The way you do that is you provide so much more value than what your competitors are providing that customers can’t resist your product or service.”
“What if my product is only 2X better.”
“That’s not going to be as easy to sell. The bigger the gap between your company and your competitors company, the better off you’re going to be.”
“That’s good to know. I’m ready for the next lesson.”
“Commandment Number 7: You need to make your customers know that you exist.”
“Okay, I’m not going to get angry, but that’s pretty obvious. Can you give me a little more than that?”
“Of course. Just like I said before, you need to cut through the noise to make customers aware that you’re going to exist.
“The mistake many CEOs make that I don’t you to make is they give up too soon on a marketing channel. The key with successful marketing is repetition because each marketing message builds on the previous message.
“I recommend you read the book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. These two books will give you a methodology and process of how to market your product or service.”
“Got it. Those are helpful recommendations. What about customers?”
“Funny you ask:
“Commandment Number 8: You need to treat your customers as if they are the king and queen.
“Great customer service and support is the secret weapon of many small companies. I hope you use this weapon too.
“If you treat your customers like royalty, respond unbelievably quickly to their requests, and you make the sales process as frictionless as possible then you will have customers that love working with you.
“Oh and one more thing.”
“You still need a great product too.”
Of course. Thanks. I think the count is up to eight. What’s number nine?”
“Commandment Number 9: You need to be appropriately frugal with your spending.”
“Appropriately frugal? What’s that?”
“The only thing you have complete control over when you run a company is your spending. The common advice is you should always save money, but I don’t agree with that.”
“What do you believe in?”
“That’s where being appropriately frugal comes in. There are some areas where you likely will have to spend because you’ll hurt your company if you don’t spend money.
“For example, to attract the best team you’ll likely have to pay what it takes to hire really good people. That may mean you might even have to pay market rate.”
“I know, that’s what we’ve had to do.”
“Great, I’m glad you did that. I have one more commandment for you. I can’t believe I forgot about this one.”
“What is it?”
“Here it is:
“Commandment Number 10: You need to be fanatical about your company.
“Fanaticism is critical because fanaticism is the secret ingredient that you’ll need to get through the tough times. And I guarantee you there will be tough times.”
“Tell me about it. We just got funded, and it took over two years.”
“Exactly, and what got you through those times?”
“I just wouldn’t give up.”
“That’s fanaticism. That’s what you’ll need going forward. And I’ve got one more piece of advice for you.”
“Look for people that are fanatical to join your team. You’ll need them as well.”
“Thanks, that’s a good one.”
“You’re welcome. Well, that’s all I’ve got. Now get back to work.”
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