- My startup journey coincided with my application of TRP principles.
Dostoevsky once wrote, "To live without hope is to cease to live."
It is only through a life struggle that you will achieve greatness. The good life will kill you long before you are dead.
I went from an overweight supply chain exec in my mid 20's, living with an older woman, no real friends (post military social life died) or understanding of my life goal; to making $7.6MM last calendar year, being listed on Forbes 30 under 30, fittest I've been since I left the military, a good close circle of friends who inspire me and finally a passion for my vocation. (Proof at bottom).
I won't expound on dating, relationships or lifting, these I'm trying to constantly improve but I will illustrate the principles that helped me find my direction, my raison d'etre and accordingly increase my SMV.
What's the most important skill for an entrepreneur?
A mentor dropped this question in my lap, he paused patiently waiting as I considered my response.
The biggest asset you have before you in your ability to understand people; including yourself.
1. Understand your customer
Understand a pain point you have or customers have. Would people pay for a solution?
Be it cloud data solutions, instantaneous translation; or quick internet data search.
Find a solution, build it and engage with customers who will pay for it.
2. How to recruit talent and manage people
People execute on your vision. Your ability to recognize talent, to convince them to take substantial salary cuts, to train young professionals, and most importantly to challenge, reward and retain them is critical.
Recruit students or recent graduates looking for a new challenge, or experience in a new vertical in your industry, the best candidates demonstrate they have worked in side projects or leadership in social activities. Demonstrate that your product or technology is potentially 10x better than any other product on the market. Sales is like dating, if you can convince a woman to get fucked you can most likely sell an opportunity to someone who’s hungry.
Once you have these engineers on board, give them a probationary period, let them demonstrate you made the right choice. If you don’t, terminate their employment. If they prove you’re right; issue them equity (make this equity with a 12 month cliff and 3 year vesting - make them earn that equity and build it's value), pay them your wage, and build a company culture of working hard and encouraging competition.
Create objectives with quantifiable milestones.
If he is a mechanical engineer, design this component by the project plan timeline, if he is a sales executive, close this contract or execute the MSA by date x, etc. Hire two of a role if budget permits, appeal to their competitive drive and transparently illustrate which of the two is performing better. Men want a challenge, they want to grow, they want someone who recognizes their hard work and rewards it.
If you close x or perform beyond my slightly high expectation, we'll have a glass of whiskey to celebrate, I'll note your high performance at that weekly meeting and I'll give him a bonus in equity from the company ESSOP at their annual review.
Give credit where credit is due.
But conversely, critique bad performance, state I know you're working hard but I'd suggest you do this, prove you can live up to my expectation. Be short, concise in your admonishments.
Execution is everything.
If they continue to perform poorly, access expectations, if they are reasonable then I'll line up a brief discussion, if there is no improvement you must terminate their employment. Hire fast, fire fast; dead weight will kill your company.
As a leader you will also have to continually improve and work on your leadership qualities which moves into the second point.
3. Learn from other people's mistakes
The greatest tool TRP ever taught me was that knowledge is best attained from wise counsel not by making mistakes. Either from reading the words of men long gone like Aurelius or by surrounding yourself with men who have more experience than you, this is the quicker and less painful method of learning.
If you read a book from an author who has been instrumental in your thinking, or who inspires you. Contact them; you will be surprised at how many will respond.
I identified 5 executives who were either still in industry or had recently retired, and invited them for a coffee to discuss their experiences and insights they could share. Rinse and repeat until you have a network of 10 executives. This will only cost you time and often instead of costing you money, this network will be critical for the most important element in your business, money.
4. Network with people
People don't invest in ideas or products, they invest in people. When they observe you, a young leader taking a limited wage, and a team of good engineers working under salary, that's the team many will choose to invest in.
If you're not rich, surround yourself with rich people - this sounds easier said than done. Dress nicely, get some nice quality cards printed and network at events like conferences, use LinkedIn to network, don’t be afraid to leverage your personal network. Use monthly meetings to illustrate that you are hard working, always ask for assistance where possible and demonstrate that you are coachable, and finally have your actions illustrate that your team can execute.
Ask advisors for introductions to investors and network with investors.
5. Manipulate people - utilise propaganda
The key to understanding people is recognising people seldom think independently.
FOMO or fear of missing out is a big driver in investment and typically if your advisory board members invest their friends shall also.
This also applies to customers. An easy way to also get increased exposure if leveraging the media, we planted several stories in the media regarding our company which helped drive B2B customers to engage with us. I can expound on this further as this is an art form itself and also a reflection that journalism standards have decreased considerably.
This helped us achieve our first 7 figure contracts.
Close your Pre A round, like managing your team set dates and keep people on point. Likewise drive customers through a CRM and keep them pushing through the cycle. Always be closing.
Also as with women, always have a plan B and plan C as investors can be fickle.
6. Understand yourself
Finally the most important person is you, as a senior executive in your company you’re instrumental in determining the vector of your business and secondly in executing the boards directions.
Always get enough sleep
Hold yourself to a high standard. Qualis rex, talis grex. Work hard with your team.
Use your team and delegate where possible. You want to make yourself obsolete and hire those who can do time consuming tasks better than you so you can concentrate on the broader vision.
Get a recommended financial planner, don't spend your money beyond when you were poor - particularly with women. Establish a trust in BVI and use it to hold your equity and purchase large assets like houses etc. Do not get married without a solid agreement executed before and mitigate the damage of a defacto breakup or divorce by shifting your assets to external vehicles - speak to a professional for localised advice.
Approach women with the exact same approach one takes to business, transactional. Business will teach you skill sets useful for women, act with indifference, use long silences used in negotiations, have a limited time schedule, listen more and talk less, dress for success and know your value.
When you are at your top, be careful of the fall.
Have fun but not too much fun - keep on working and don't touch cocaine or other hard drugs. Say good bye to free time until you cash out.
Do not rest on your laurels, take a short break and repeat the above and leverage your experience and network to accelerate time between startup and IPO / Cashout.
Surround yourself with good people and focus on the next challenge. God speed
Casa De Franco
If anyone is starting a business feel free to post a comment with questions here and pm me.