Improving on the last 5 years
Ian Dyason . 5 March 2021.
We are into our introspective journey at GCA. Having celebrated our 5 Years' anniversary last week, I took a short tour into the highlights of the past five years and published the key things we had done well in my previously post. This week, I continue on this journey by looking at what we hadn't done so well, and the lessons these bring for us. I hope that by being open on our shortcomings, we can learn from them so that we don't repeat them as we move into the next 5 years. So here they are... the things we did over the last 5 years where we could have done better and resolve to learn from them...
If the business volume is not high enough to support a larger headcount, then, we cannot hire. But when we do not hire enough of the right people, for example business development, then we will will not be able to build more revenue. So it is a vicious cycle.
A friend of mine commented on LinkedIn last month that resource - or the lack thereof, more accurately - is the KEY reason why a business will fail. I don't disagree. Resource is so important and one cannot start up without doing his/her sums 10 times, and then 10 times over. The worst thing that can happen to a business is to have a winning product or service, but no resources to bring them, or sustain them, in the market. By resources, I don't just mean capital; although with enough capital, we can overcome many other resource issues. But resources also refer to knowledge, manpower (referred to as capability and capacity), time, technology and real estate. While some of these will impact your business more than others, all of them are important considerations. Over the past 5 years, we have had to test our business to ensure that it can support a higher resource level. (In fact, we are constantly testing our business to ensure that we have a viable on-going concern!) Getting capital is one issue, but spending that capital to create more is another! If the business volume is not high enough to support a larger headcount, then, we cannot hire. But when we do not hire enough of the right people, for example business development, then we will will not be able to build more revenue. So it is a vicious cycle. In our case, what we did poorly, is started small. We injected just enough capital to keep it chugging along, but perhaps not enough to take great leaps. Such is the bootstrapping methodology. While I swear by bootstrapping, it may sometimes confine us to playing the small game.
And this brings me to the next point...
2. Too conservative
If there is anything I can learn from this, is to bite the bullet sooner! You might think that someone with more than 20 years of entrepreneurship experience would know this, right?
Since every dollar came from my pocket, I tended to be more conservative. I tried to take it slowly and built every dollar upon the other. While this is prudent, it is also very slow. In systems thinking, we know that what goes around comes around. If you drip drop the support, business will also be dripped-dropped! It is easy for us to exhort others to take risks when it is not our resources; but when you are the one who is supplying the resources, you suddenly become risk averse! It is difficult to divorce personal feelings from professional decisions when the cost of your decisions will impact your personal life! And yet, these conservative decisions serve to hold back the business, not advance it. If only we had a way to devolve emotion from logic! Even when I facilitate strategic decisions, and give people an unfiltered analysis of the decision as an outsider, I fall for the same problems when it is my turn to make those decisions! Fortunately, the business has turned a corner and we are now able to take more risks and hire more people. And with that, growth begets growth. It would be so much easier if we knew this in the beginning and took that leap then! But since we cannot tell the future, we tend to be more conservative. If there is anything I can learn from this, is to bite the bullet sooner! You might think that someone with more than 20 years of entrepreneurship experience would know this, right?
3. Greater sense of urgency
I am putting pressure back on the business so that we are at the precipice of failure! And in that position, we become alive! We think of new and novel ideas because it is now existential. We take more risks and we come up - hopefully - on top!
In last week's post, I shared that having been at SCALA was good since it had also been able to help me conserve capital. But having had that luxury, I suddenly lost focus for GCA (I was putting all my energies into SCALA, also a startup