Press the Hard 10: Doing the hard things in business

In Revenue Capital

I love playing Craps. My favorite bet is a two way hard 10 when 10 is on. Not an easy bet to win, but damn when you do it’s a hell of a ride. The two way bet gets the dealer involved, puts some skin in the game for them. An analogy for business too good for me to pass.

Doing the hard things in business isn’t quite as sexy as a two way hard 10. When the answer to a question is a hard thing, many don’t like what they hear. There is nothing harder in any business than operations. For founders this can be a seismic shift, a shift from product, engineering, sales, finance. All of these things on their own are a part of operations, but when you take on being a founder, you are now an operator. Full stop.

As a founder when you take in an investment from outside parties, you take on a full complement of expectations. One is that you can function as an operator. Most early stage founders have gaps as operators. That’s ok, it’s where you have to lean into learning, your network and build circle of trusted relationships that help you become the operator you need to be at the stage of the business.

This week I was invited to participate at a career fair at my high school. Awesome group of kids, articulate and curious with a ton of optimism. They all had their question cards ready with the common theme, “what’s your recommendation to be successful in business.”

I told the story of my first business out of college. I started that company with no money, no experience and no network. Not exactly a recipe for success, but with that I learned, the hard way, the answer to that question.

  1. Learn to sell. If you are going into business, especially as an entrepreneur, you must know how to sell at some level. Get an entry level position at a great company with great sales training. Highly valuable.
  2. Build relationships. Relationships are the currency of success. Everyone you speak with is an opportunity to build relationships. The key, especially early, is to figure out how you can add value to those relationships.
  3. Learn at least the basics of finance and accounting. College is a great place for this because it’s easy to access. I learned the hard way by starting a business, but I HAD to learn to survive.

Now as an investor I look for people who lean into the hard things as an operator. Understanding that it’s not my expectation that they do it all, but at least understand and show functional application before they hand it off to others in the org to scale. That provides them the context to appropriately incentivize them for their contributions.

Explaining to a couple hundred 15-18 years olds the basics of venture capital was in interesting exercise for me personally. I quickly learned how much jargon I use when I saw the blank stares back from my young audience. Personally, it was great exercise in simplification of message. As I spoke with more and more students my message got tighter, simpler, clearer and incited more questions… ultimately, the goal. Engagement.

The message at the end of the day is that doing things the right way likely is not the easy way, but if you want the best result you have to press the hard 10.