There are literally hundreds of books that tell tales of startup businesses that are now, or were, highly motivating success stories. The author’s intent is typically to showcase their amazing journey and to share tips with other entrepreneurs who are looking for the secrets of business success.
Energized entrepreneurs are characteristically extremely gifted in some specialty that they see as being the next viral success story. From the moment they decide to turn their talents to creating a business, they enter a vortex that can suck the life out of their great idea, before the first product or service is delivered.
The intensity of the vortex is determined by the degree that the entrepreneur focuses their energies on the product or service and unintentionally abdicate the foundational principals of running a successful business. They surround themselves with like-minded individuals who are willing to sacrifice their all and wind up creating a myopic brain trust of technoids with no path to sustainable profitability.
Missing Chapter #1
I will use the Dell Computer success story as my primary example of “the missing chapter” because I was a senior consultant to the Company for three years during their days of meteoric growth. Would be entrepreneurs who study Michael’s amazing story of building computers in his dorm room and turning that into a multi-billion dollar business inspired hundreds of startups that wanted to replicate that success model.
One of the “missing chapters” is a discussion of how Michael realized that he needed to immediately surround himself with an inner circle of talent with core business skills other than his own. Mahogany Row in Round Rock was referred to the “Office Of” because it contained Dell as the charismatic business leader and entrepreneur, a financial expert, a technical expert and marketing genius. All strategic business decisions were made collaboratively taking the input from the four key areas of business expertise and creating a unified plan that everyone supported.
While the business community found genius in the Dell Direct Business model, one of the overlooked pieces of the success story was NOT surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals who will help you fall into the death spiral of the vortex of dysfunctional businesses. Instead, from day one, find and recruit those who have the complementary skills to create a balanced organization that sees business infrastructure from the realities of their experiences in all aspects of running an organization. So the first missing chapter should be titled “Leadership, process effectiveness, fiscal acumen, marketing skills and a clear vision are equally as important in a startup as the viability of the product or service.”
Missing Chapter #2
The next missing chapter should be called “Contextual Opportunity.” When entrepreneurs finally decide to seek business advice or read recommended business books, they are most often mesmerized by the story and do not comprehend the context in which the success blossomed. Most every curriculum for creating a viable business is missing the key ingredients of geography, timing in history, business demand, cultural evolution and a one-of-a-kind alignment of people, opportunity and science that is NOT replicable.
Murphy’s Law of Random Perversity begins with: If anything can go wrong, it will. There are literally scores of additional corollaries to the first law that document failure modes. I believe that there is a parallel universe of Murphy’s Law where the first law is: No matter how many times things go wrong, there is a force that always intervenes at the precise moment needed to rescue me from certain disaster. The corollaries to Murphy’s Law of Random Success include unpredictable interventions, by typically unforeseen forces, which light a path for the few who are in exactly the right place, at precisely the correct moment, to become a viral success story.
Continuing with the Dell success story, the missing chapter on contextual opportunity includes the fact that Dell partnered with Intel, disc drive manufacturers and other key suppliers at the precise moment in time where processor speed, physical storage and dynamic memory size were the emerging technologies holding back the Personal Computer from becoming the massively powerful tool it is today.
Serendipitously and by clever business strategy, every year or so thousands of people had to discard their old computers and buy newer, faster and more powerful PC’s and laptops. Demand drove innovation in even the most mundane components as batteries and in the most visible technology of displays and human interfaces.
We are now at a point in computer technology where the chip manufacturers are at the limit of atomic-level physics and must seek entirely new optical avenues to increase processor speed. In the meantime, the majority of the PC market has computers that are fast enough that they are not the lagging factor in emerging software and hardware products and Dell is just another computer manufacturer.
Avoiding the Failure Vortex
Anyone that uses Dell’s success model as a checklist for designing their strategic business plan will likely NEVER create the balanced business infrastructure early on and they will NEVER be at a time in history where demand created an ongoing market for them to sell a more robust version of the same widget to the to the same customer, a year or 18 months later.
I challenge the reader to go back to every book and business seminar they have ever employed in developing their own organization and examine them for the missing chapters of comprehensive business design and contextual anomalies.
There is a business truism that states that timing is everything. We cannot control time, we can only be at the effect of it. Learning the tools of others’ business success can only be replicated when the leaders consciously give equal commitment to all key business infrastructure components while actively and continually being aware of timing, context and Murphy’s laws. The ability to dynamically and effectively react to evolving opportunities and changing contexts separates those who write success books from those who read them looking for a magic success checklist.