Jim McKelvey, co- founder of Square, spoke at EE Tennessee today. Contradictory to the majority of the conference’s other speakers, McKelvey was adamant failure shouldn’t be an option.
McKelvey spoke about how startup culture is evangelized as sexy, even though the majority of startups tend to fail. So McKelvey made a list of the seven golden truths behind such sexy success:
• Seek Opportunities
• Ship Great Products
• Invent Something
• Work Fast
• Study Great Leaders
• Prioritize Tasks
• Be Bold
“I’m lying to you. I don’t believe in the golden truth,” McKelvey said. “I’m just messing with you. [We’re] being fed a lot of crap and platitudes at startup conferences.”
Instead, McKelvey offered seven alternative truths behind finding and achieving success with your company:
• Don’t Seek Opportunities. Solve Problems.
The most dangerous thing to pursue as an entrepreneur is opportunity, according to McKelvey. Instead, you should work towards solving a problem. What’s in the way of your success? An opportunity is an illusion, but a problem presents a tangible goal for your company to work towards. What can you solve for your company or your customers?
The common denominator with my success is that I’m always solving a problem. -McKelvey
• Don’t Worry About Shipping Great Products. Be Fast and Good Instead.
Don’t ship crap, but if your product is good, then it’s good enough to ship out fast. Your product doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to work. If it works, that’s really all your customer needs. Get your product out there and worry about softening the edges later.
We live in a “give it to me now” society. If you have a usable product, the faster you get it into the market, the faster you start creating a community of users for your brand.
Just because a product isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s not good. Speed trumps perfection. –McKelvey
• Don’t Invent Something. Assume Technology.
Invent when necessary, but don’t fixate on it. Technology shouldn’t get in the way of your success. Chances are the solution you’re thinking about inventing already exists, you’re just not looking hard enough for the product.
Don’t let technology get in the way of your success. Use what’s already there. -McKelvey
• Don’t Work Fast. Be Patient.
Timing is everything. You can be doing something right for five, ten, fifteen years, but think you’re doing it wrong because your timing is off. It’s your timing, finding the ability to be patient with your work and your method, that determines a successful result.
People work so fast, to the point where their product is ineffective. –McKelvey
• Don’t Study Great Leaders. Question Them and Everyone Else.
Just because it was wildly successful 10 years ago and made that person a thought leader doesn’t mean that idea will work today. Question the leaders. Question those methods. Questioning those methods encourages your ability to think creatively and find solutions that work today, even if they didn’t work yesterday.
Study the great leaders, but don’t always believe them. -McKelvey
• Don’t Prioritize Tasks. Make a Don’t Do List Instead.
Make a list of things you don’t want to do, that you don’t like, that depress you. Every time you add something to your task list, you’re deleting something else. Declutter your “priorities” and learn how to actually prioritize.
You can delegate other tasks and still have success, even if it’s not done “your way”—delegating frees up more time for you to focus on those real priorities.
Ignoring other opportunities creates more problems. Adding to your to-do list comes at an opportunity cost. –McKelvey
• Don’t Be Bold. Humbly Persevere.
Fear drives us. If you keep going, keep pushing through, you’ll eventually make it to the end.
If you have a fear of failure, then you have motivation to seek success. But evaluate the risks you take. Make smarter choices as you push through the speed bumps with your company.
There are no road maps. There are no experts. -McKelvey