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Archive for February 6th, 2009

Should Your Startup Ignore All the Advice?

Posted by Bob Warfield on February 6, 2009

Maybe.  Simply emulating what appear to be the reasons for other’s success without understanding why it works or what the ramifications of a particular strategy may be is certainly likely to fail.

Jason Cohen is tired of being lectured by others on how to run his startup.  Based on the indisputable fact that a lot of advice is contradictory, he is frustrated to the point he declares that most success is due to outliers.  Because of this, and with a quote from Malcolm Gladwell, he concludes the real answer is just to buck the conventional wisdom.

I couldn’t disagree more with the view that you should ignore everyone’s learnings, do whatever you want so long as its different, and just assume some magic outlier factor is all that separates you from success.  Call it luck if you want to be blunt about the outlier factor.  How many have decided that success is a matter of luck and the only reason they’re not successful is they haven’t been lucky?  I remember hearing a conversation between two older men I overheard one time where they were in violent agreement that all successful people were either lucky or crooks.  It’s very comforting to think you don’t have to learn, you don’t have to take responsibility for your own success or failure, because it’s just luck.  But ultimately, it’s also debilitating.

Luck is a factor, but successful people also make their own luck.  They have a track record of enough successes that it gets pretty hard to assume its just luck

BTW, out of curiousity I had to go check out Jason’s company, Smart Bear Software.  Unfortunately, the site was down at the time:




Posted in business | 3 Comments »

Three Blind Men and an Elephant: A Business Parable

Posted by Bob Warfield on February 6, 2009

There is an old story about three blind men and an elephant that is said to have originated from India.  Each one touches a different part of the elephant, one the trunk, one a leg, and one the tail.  None of them can agree on what an elephant really is.

Here is a modern parable based on the elephant story:

The sales guy wants to know, “What size companies are our target customers, small, medium, or large?”  Translation:  How big are my deals, how many do I need to close to hit my quota, and how shall I go about closing them?

The marketing guy wants to know, “Where do our target customers go to learn about new products?”  Translation:  Where should I buy ads?  Who should I buy mailing lists from?

The CFO wants to know, “What kind of margin do we get on that business?”  Translation:  What am I telling the Board and Investors about profitability?

The engineer wants to know, “What kind of hardware and software will they run my software on?” and “Why would customers want to do that?”  Translation:  How will customers interfere with my pristine architecture?

The professional services person wants to know, “How many hours can I bill while installing this software?  How little training can I get by on giving my consultants?”  Translation:  I just want to bill profitable hours: as many and as often as possible!

The elephant they’re touching is the customer.  None of them see the customer as they really are, but only as the customer affects them.

I was listening to someone tell me the other day about budgets and how it is hard to sell something that’s good for a company but doesn’t fit any one’s budget or goals.  Everyone will applaud the new idea, but then point there finger to the next guy to take responsibility. 

That’s the problem with Elephants.  And Customers.  No real organization, or at least no successful one, is quite as polarized as the parable suggests, but even a little polarization can obscure important issues that stand in the way of success.

What are you doing to make sure your organization sees Customers and not Elephants?

Posted in business, strategy | 1 Comment »