Focusing on the Fundamentals

Recently I was at a dinner with a few successful and experienced serial entrepreneurs and the discussion covered topics such as:

  • How to deal with failure
  • How to assess the caliber of a person you might want to hire
  • How to make sure candid feedback is flowing through the organization, especially from the lower ranks
  • Work-life-balance
  • How to listen to customers without listening too much

The following night I was at a dinner with a few first-time entrepreneurs, young and green. The discussion covered topics such as:

  • How to deal with failure
  • How to assess the caliber of a person you might want to hire
  • How to make sure candid feedback is flowing through the organization, especially from the lower ranks
  • Work-life-balance
  • How to listen to customers without listening too much

The questions and issues at both dinners were the same. What differed was the sophistication of the answers and the depth of the specific examples to buttress an opinion. But fundamentally, the experienced entrepreneurs were struggling with the exact same issues as the first-time entrepreneurs.

It's like in basketball. From third grade to the peaks of the NBA, coaches talk about the same stuff: footwork, ball-handling skills, boxing out, two handed passes, and so on and so forth. The fundamentals. You'll sometimes hear commentators talk about a struggling basketball team too enamored with fancy plays, scouting reports, or esoteric training regimens. The great John Wooden, they'll say, just coached the fundamentals over and over and over again.

In business the same is true, I think. Smart entrepreneurs, even as they accumulate experience and wins, still obsess over the key principles taught in Business 101: build stuff that people want, tell a story, hire amazing people, go after a big market, fail forward, iterate, and so on. They re-read Peter Drucker instead of the latest management guru. They still practice layups and free throws.

2 Responses to Focusing on the Fundamentals

  1. grhook24 says:

    So true, Ben. Spot on. I work in IT and our organization’s fascination with the leading edge leaves our IT department bleeding in the corner. We can’t keep pace with the organizational changes. All the while, the fundamentals linger and we’re really making ourselves weaker. Our organization is young. Does this kind of experience come from years in the industry or does great leadership bring this experience?

  2. I think the biggest challenge for a new biz owner is getting over failure. Everything seems great in the planning, but when things don’t work right, and you have customers complaining, you have to know how to get through that.

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