20 Business Lessons You Don’t Want To Learn The Hard Way

January 15, 2014
A little bit louder now

Echo: A little bit louder now

Jim Belosic of Pancake Laboratories shared 20 Business Lessons You Don’t Want To Learn The Hard Way in a recent issue of Forbes.

The list echoes what we’ve advised in the past and belongs with other numerary posts here at NVSE.  (E.g., Top 10 Legal Mistakes of Entrepreneurs, 10 Rules of Entrepreneurship.)

Here are a few examples to help amplify the message:

“You can’t do everything on your own.”  As we put it in Building a context for better judgment:

Like so many entrepreneurs, Dal LaMagna [CEO of Tweezerman] pursued his new idea with a vengeance, but insisted on doing it all himself. …  As he recalls, looking back, “I sort of had this epiphany. I suddenly realized what my own time was worth, and I wasn’t taking advantage of what I could do when I had to do everything alone. All along I had really just been sort of a promoter, selling this or that crazy idea. And it hit me then.  I had to build a company.  I needed to… get good at picking people I could trust and who could do the job.”

…and in Good boards need tension and mutual esteem:

Owners of private companies get to pick both their investors and their board members.  If entrepreneurs pick great partners (broadly defined) to fund their business and make sure both financial incentives and long term goals are aligned, they will have achieved “high performance” corporate governance that will contribute substantially to their eventual success.

“You may think your product is perfect, but your clients won’t.”  In Stupid Experimentation we cite Jim Manzi (author of Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics and Society), who recommends epistemic humility:

Many things about our company turned out differently than we had expected…  The Hayekian knowledge problem is not a mere abstraction.  Our innovations that have driven the greatest economic value uniformly arose from iterative collaboration between ourselves and our customers to find new solutions to hard problems.  Neither thinking through a chain of logic in a conference room, nor simply “listening to our customers,” nor taking guidance from analysts distant from the actual problem ever did this.  External analysis can be useful for rapidly coming up to speed on an unfamiliar topic, or for understanding a relatively static business environment.  But at the creative frontier of the economy, and at the moment of innovation, insight is inseparable from action.  Only later do analysts look back, observe what happened, and seek to collate this into categories, abstractions and patterns.

Or as Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn once put it:  You are at least partially wrong about your product.  Launch early enough that you are embarrassed by your first product release, and find out how people are using it.

“Patience and flexibility help you survive the lean times.”  A short glance at business history serves as a great teacher.  We shared several unusual origin stories in Outcomes that feel ordained only in retrospect:

A few of the stories of these companies’ origins may ring a bell (DuPont began as a manufacturer of gunpowder, Berkshire Hathaway of textiles) but more than a few will likely surprise you:  Avon started as a book seller, Nokia in wood pulp, Wrigley in soap and baking powder, McDonald’s as a drive-in BBQ, 7-Eleven as an ice house, and Coleco made shoe leather (Connecticut Leather Company) long before it did Cabbage Patch Kids and video games.  Another interesting bit of trivia:  the original site of the first Burger King remains unknown.


© 2023 Ballast Point Ventures. All rights reserved.