A repost from 2016
We have been thinking a lot recently about silver bullets. Entrepreneurial culture tends to concentrate, for good reason, on examples of massive efficiency-creating technology or truly exceptional leadership. Uber represents a one-stop solution for local transportation just as Steve Jobs is credited with being a singular driving force behind the success of Apple. The trouble with these narratives is that they encourage a belief in simple solutions to difficult problems.
At our portfolio companies, we find ourselves prone to thinking of this type. We catch ourselves assuming that the right ERP system will magically create excellent data sets overnight, or that the right manager will revolutionize the company culture. At the Chenmark level, we sometimes wonder if there is an optimal “system” that will lead to identifying and closing deals. Of course, experience has proven this is never the case, just as it likely wasn’t for Jobs or Uber. The reason is that beneath the celebrity culture that praises seeming overnight success is the long, sometimes painful, often unrecognized hard work that goes into producing the incredible final result and is the true differentiating factor. From an article on Ed Latimore’s blog:
“The ability to [work hard] is valuable because it is rare at all levels. Everyone from your factory worker to your CEO would rather avoid the unpleasantness of a hard problem. If you can attack difficult things with gusto and a high pain tolerance, there will always be a well-compensated place for you in the world. The most under rated talent is the ability to work your ass off. Therefore, it is immensely valuable.”
Of course, the search for efficient solutions isn’t without merit. We can work really hard to streamline the process of collecting relevant company data. We can also focus intently on our recruiting to ensure we are attracting and retaining excellent people. And we can refine filtering techniques to ensure we follow up on the most promising leads. However, the point is that eventually, we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of building the companies and the portfolio that we want one interview, customer meeting, and data point at a time. A blog post from Farnam Street summed up this sentiment best:
“At some point, to be healthy, you do need to suck it up and eat some broccoli! And for many days in a row. Or, more to the point: The ‘failure point’ with any new system; any method of improvement; any proposed solution to a life problem or an organization problem, is when the homeostatic regulation kicks in, when we realize some part of it will be hard, new, or unnatural.
Even a really well-designed system can only cut up the broccoli into little pieces and sneak it into your mac-and-cheese…eventually, if you’re going to hang on to that habit…You can’t just go back to plain mac-and-cheese, no broccoli. When the newness of the ‘one day at a time’ system wears off, you’ll be left with a heaping portion of broccoli. Will you continue eating it?”
Have a great week,
Your Chenmark Team