The Essential Panacea For Founders

As the expression goes ‘Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.’ Failure is inevitable if you are unable to listen, absorb & assimilate feedback. You then must incorporate that great feedback to make your venture better, stronger and potentially unassailable. You need to do this every day.

In 2018, everyone wants a dashboard, a GPS hack, a shortcut to success. But who will sift through the dross and distill the deluge of information to extract the essential information for your business? You will.

You are the arbiter of your business. The buck stops with you. If you want to be great, you have to understand the basics and get them right. A start-up often uses the metaphor of a rocket launch, so I will borrow that to remind You — the pilot- that the mechanical failure and ensuing explosion was due to a failure on your part to pay attention to the signals. Trust me, if you crash and burn this time, lining up some more founders, funds or a team at your next launch will be a tough ask. To avoid the crash takes hard work, continual honest introspection combined with unshakable self-belief.

During the last 20 years in business, I have worked through a lot of different problems, perhaps twenty thousand of them. Why? Twenty thousand problems other people bring to me to solve has driven me to be better at what I do.

Clients, staff, friends, families plus new and world-class entrepreneurs are my people. My Care Factor is off the chart on my imaginary DIST diagram. People say a wise person learns from his or her mistakes, but a wiser one learns from the mistakes of others. Resolving a multitude of problems every day has improved my ability to predict, avoid and resolve problems.

If you are a founder looking for someone who can help guide you and help you focus on the critical issues for your business, drop me a line.

Advisory’s Panacea aka the checklist/tool/life hacks for navigating your journey.

1. Pick the best possible subject-matter experts in your network. Love them (in a platonic sense).

2. Ask questions that will help you to move forward, don’t just seek praise. Your dog and your Mum will give you unconditional love, you need some tough love and brutal honesty. Now. Urgently.

3. Read widely, (listen to talking books if you don’t like reading) but really absorb, evaluate and reflect. Write notes too, underline and disagree if appropriate.

Look at companies 18 months ahead of you. But also look at the Masters regardless of them not being in your space/market/ whatever — great is great. But remember to differentiate the hype from the facts — Don’t believe marketing hype of a high flyer. Everyone has their good and bad days.

4. Look at your problems and challenges from different angles. Then come back and look at them again. You can’t solve every problem in one sitting. Michelangelo took 4 years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

5. Do it with music, or meditation — find what fuels your creative juices at the time of writing. For me, Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark is blaring as I write.

6. Decide…then have the courage of your convictions.

7. At regular intervals, repeat steps 1 to 6.

This too is no formula; YOU have to work it out.

Did I mention 30% of your time will be spent thinking about managing money and resources? By managing money, I don’t want you to picture a banker, VC or financial planner. I want you to picture a Great Founder. You want to be a great entrepreneur, step up.

The high-five moments make all the struggles worth it, for me at least. If I have invested in the company, that’s a bonus. Lunch this week with a founder was a Kodak moment; his usual facial expression, cool as a cucumber was more of a nodding know than a cringe. He was lucky to have survived the first 18 months. I give you Hartley Pike of Construction Cloud. He was green as grass (commercially) when we met. We were discussing an oversubscribed next round of capital over some great Middle Eastern food. Hartley and the team are reinventing the way worksites work for Engineers, Foremen and CEOs. This Angel investor loves it too. Simple, cost-efficient safety at your fingertips and at scale real time. The verdict: a game-changer for the building and construction industry.

I certainly didn’t choose to amplify founders’ weaknesses for some cheap laughs. Everyone started somewhere and if they applied themselves, they transitioned. If you see yourself, or others, exhibiting these traits, I hope my article is a panacea to be shared with new founders.

My message is simple: Power is knowledge, or should I say knowledge is power?

David Kenney

Start-up mentor and investor