A major success factor for emerging growth companies is the ability to elicit and respond to
feedback from a number of different sources. Many entrepreneurs talk about the necessity of the
ready, fire, aimstrategy for building an emerging growth technology company. In this strategy, the
entrepreneur attempts to get something out there in front of the customer, as quickly as possible, get
feedback, change, and come back to the customer again. This is a development cycle that is done over
and over again. The concept is to be able to "learn and change quickly, and to manage that change."
As David Guo explains, "Our strategy changes every five minutes. Our vision and goal have not
changed, but the strategy changes every time there is new information."
Don Pickens (founder of Urban Design Online, Inc., former Vice President and General Manager
of Connectix Corporation, and Group Product Manager at Microsoft Corporation for the $300 million
Macintosh Office products division) claims, "If you get it wrong the first time, go back a second time,
go back a third time. Lots of times, you won't get it right until the third time. There's nothing wrong
with that. The problem is, when you screw up the first time, a lot of people are telling you, 'You got it
wrong, you should do something else.'The hard part is understanding what part of it you got right,
and what you learned about what you got wrong. [When we were developing the Connectix
QuickCam] we were the only ones who were talking to our customers. Our next generation product
was two generations ahead of everyone else."
Pickens advises that it is essential for entrepreneurs to "stay focused and understand that your
vision will differ from others who are looking at the same map."He adds that, "By definition an
entrepreneur has a vision that is moving forward--beyond what people are currently familiar or
comfortable with."Thus, it is important for an entrepreneur to believe in his or her vision, and work
with others who believe in that vision as well. According to Pickens, "You have to identify and work
with the people who are willing to move forward with you, because the rest will hold you back."
As Pickens implies, in the dynamic and uncertain world of emerging growth companies,
establishing key relationships is another important success factor. In fact, who you know and who
you have connections with is frequently as important for the valuation of your company as is your
technology. For successful companies in the Silicon Valley, the mindset is not about fighting over who
will get the "bigger slice of the pie," but rather how to make the whole pie bigger through synergistic
relationships and cooperation. Like the Internet, the key to success is connectivity. Successful
entrepreneurs are able to say, "This my future, can you contribute?" and then ask, "What is your
vision so I can contribute?"
In summary, a successful entrepreneur must have the behavioral skills to define and express a clear
vision, identify the people and the path through which that vision can be put into action, and constantly
seek and respond to feedback. These multiple roles of an entrepreneur are probably best reflected in
the comment, made about Walt Disney (a quintessential entrepreneur in his own right) by one of his
co-workers, that "there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler."
Reaching success involves the coordination of these three perspectives: dreamer, realist and critic. The
dreamer is necessary to form new ideas and goals. The realist is necessary to transform ideas into
concrete expressions. The critic is necessary as a filter and as a stimulus for refinement.
As David Guo points out, "An entrepreneur has to be an eternal optimist, but also a pragmatist.
The optimist says, "I can always do this," but the pragmatist says, "If I don't do this by a certain time,
I'll miss the window, so I'd better move on."The entrepreneur must also heed the critic, and welcome
feedback. Respecting the critic also means to "learn from mistakes of others, not just yourself."Most
people have strengths in one area: dreamer, realist or critic. The tools and methods of Success Factor
ModelingTMcan be applied to develop all three abilities and ensure that they are used in a balanced
way, and to incorporate all of the perspectives relevant to success as an emerging growth company.
While it is not possible to guarantee success in the dynamic environment of emerging growth
technology companies, there are critical success factors that can ensure new start-ups will be prepared
to take the best advantage of the opportunities which arise for them. The Success Factor ModelingTM
process provides a significant edge for new companies to reach their highest potential.
It has been said that, "Luck is the meeting of preparation and opportunity."Thomas Jefferson, for
instance, claimed that he had been "a very lucky man"; but also noted how remarkable it was that the
harder he worked, the "luckier" he got. The implication of Jefferson's comment is that you cannot
make yourself be lucky, but you can put yourself in positions where you are more likely to find
opportunities. New pathways open up when you stay in action. Opportunities arise when you are in
communication with other people. Many entrepreneurs relate how one day they'll have a terrible
meeting and feel like giving up. The next day they'll run into someone on the street who knows
someone else who is exactly the person they needed in order to make all of their plans come together.
Leadership and Success Factor Modeling-Page 6