Some thoughts, first posted in 2015, about the long-term
This week we spent some time thinking about patience. Over the last few months, we have actively sought out advice from many people in our network as we tackle the challenges and formulate the strategies associated with helping to operate a company. Universally, they all encouraged us to resist the urge to do too much, a perspective we certainly understand. We deliberately seek out investments that are already performing very well by most objective measures, and with that backdrop, success for us probably could mean simply making sure nothing goes horribly wrong. If we understand where we want to get to, we need to be patient to make sure the long term vision plays out. In his excellent blog, Fred Wilson references this concept when he talks about long roadmaps:
“A big vision is critical for a big success. You have to know where you want to be in a decade or more. That’s where the long roadmap comes in.”
That said, the focus on long term patience directly conflicts with our natural tendencies. We are somewhat paranoid about the risk of becoming complacent, that somehow simply “not messing up” will overtime become “good enough.” We also realize that any large vision will be comprised of smaller, more mundane component parts, and each of these requires focus and attention as they tend to be cumulative in nature. Again from Fred Wilson:
“A long roadmap is comprised of many short and focused roadmaps, each leading to the next one. It’s like you want to drive from NYC to LA. You start by driving to Philly. Then you drive to Pittsburgh. Then Cincinnati, then St Louis, then Kansas City, then Denver, then Salt Lake City, then Las Vegas, and finally you drive to LA. Each trip is its own thing and you plan it out carefully and then execute it with focus and energy, not thinking about where you want to end up beyond the next city.”
When dealing with those shorter term issues, the problem we have been grappling with recently is the trade-off between analysis and execution. Our investment related backgrounds mean that we are very comfortable tossing around ideas on a theoretical basis, but turning those ideas into tangible action comes less naturally. To borrow a carpentry analogy, while we believe it is important to measure twice and cut once, we want to make sure we aren’t performing an in-depth strategic review of the measurement plan, and then forgetting to cut altogether.
To us, the solution to this problem is to exercise a degree of controlled impatience with the smaller tasks that comprise the larger vision. Once we settle on an idea or a course of action, we try to establish a plan for implementation and/or execution so we can then move on to the next issue. Of course the competing impulses for patience on the one hand and impatience on the other are difficult to balance. Once again, we thought Fred Wilson did a nice job of highlighting this juxtaposition by noting that “building a great company is a combination of patience and impatience in equal doses applied unevenly. Impatient short term, patient long term.” We think this is great advice and will be sure to keep it in mind as we move forward. So, for lack of a better term, we’re on to Cincinnati.