On being bold, and risking everything on an idea

I have an idea. I believe it’s an excellent idea. But belief doesn’t write code. People do.

I’m 4 years into a project — Under Cloud — which is a web application focused on the creation, curation, and management of research. It’s about capturing that moment of serendipity; when you realise you have something that fits with something else you did, or read, or wrote, and then linking them together with similar items, to create a narrative, and a stream of thought.

At present, the project is at an usable stage of development — I’m using it on a regular basis to manage my own personal and professional needs. However, much remains to be done. So, I had another idea.

The power of 3

By the end of the week, Octane will have gone from 1 employee (me), to 3. In the end, I had no choice, because to move the gain line forward, I needed to do something so different that it would mean transforming Octane and risking just about everything on a belief in an idea. I’d be running the risk of losing control, and — once more — staring into that darkness, not knowing where things were going.

Yes, I have a plan. Of course I do. But I’m charting a different course, and heading for unknown waters. It’s amazing.

I was asked: “Why not do [x] yourself?” which was an option, but it would have meant missing the chance to recruit two people who — if their delivery is commensurate with their obvious talents — could propel the Under Cloud forward at a pace and in a direction I couldn’t hope to do alone. Or worse, I do the work myself, and then 6 weeks later those same two people are no longer available to take things further.

I’m not just spending £x per hour on two people, I’m investing in a possible future for 3 people.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

So this is it, the biggest and most expensive gamble I’ve ever undertaken.

Be bold, hire “A” list people

Guy Kawasaki — ex-evangalist for Apple Inc. — once said that when you’re in the market for hiring people, hire people smarter than yourself, and don’t hire people like yourself.

It’s a bold move, and not without its dangers, but it’s something I’m having to contemplate in an attempt to move Under Cloud forward to the next phase.

The fact is — and it’s simple when you think about it — if you want to move the gain line forward, you don’t just need a different perspective, but also an alternate mental attitude, and a different set of strengths which compliment your own weaknesses and deficiencies. I know what my weaknesses and deficiencies, and that pre-qualifies the kind of person I’m looking for.

Want versus Need

Sometimes, a little education goes a long way. What a client wants is not always compatible with what their customers need. Here’s when saying no could be crucial, perhaps even pivotal to moving the gain line forward.

Want is a bar of chocolate. Need is breathing. A huge difference, but so often it goes unnoticed and unaccounted for. In the words of the inimitable Henry Ford:

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

Business people aren’t like Twitter

Everyone in business is looking for advice. Even after 14 years, I’m still looking for advice. However, it’s a question of quality over quantity, the former of the two being the goal.

So imagine my disappointment — and bemusement — when I read advice about how to tell your story in 30 seconds. Quite frankly, it is — by and large — terrible advice. If you want to read it, do so, but I’ve expanded on several of the points with my own annotations. In short, it’s advice for people afflicted with a Twitter-esque blink-and-you’ll-miss-it attitude to engagement.

“Your elevator pitch should answer three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Where do you want to go, or what are you looking for?”

How is my directionality even relevant to the person I’m speaking with? At no time ever have I encountered anyone who cares where I want to go. Usually, they have a problem which bars them from going where they need to go, and it’s my task to help them get there.

“After studying your resume and LinkedIn profile, write down four bullet points that explain why you’re great…”

Why you think you might be great is not nearly as accurate or as meaningful as evidence of what you have achieved, and what others think of you. If you want to impress, ask for testimonials with names — in other words, ask for references.

“People love stories…”

Yes, storytelling has its merits, but it assumes the person you’re speaking with cares enough to listen, or even has the time. So go for relevance and accuracy over being concise. If what you’re saying has merit, they’ll make the time.

If you have story, make sure it’s relevant to a problem or “pain” the person you’re speaking with is suffering from.

30 seconds is a nonsense amount of time. If someone expects you to say anything of meaning or merit in that amount of time, ask yourself this: why give your time to someone who prizes conciseness over accuracy and quality?

Maybe this article took 1 or perhaps 2 minutes for you to read. But since you got this far, I’m assuming you did so for a reason other than your time being more valuable than gold.

You are here!

Just in case you’ve found yourself on my website for no obvious or apparent reason, it’s likely that you’re the victim of a scam which is targeting me along with several other websites. In the meantime, take a moment for calm reflection and consider more pleasant things. Enjoy the rest of your day!