Of all the speakers at Everywhere Else Cincinnati, none embody the Everywhere Else mentality more than John T.Meyer, the Founder of Lemon.ly – a startup that builds awesome infographics. Meyer and Lemon.ly are based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the state’s largest city with a population just north of 159 thousand. “Everywhere Else” personified.
Meyer’s talk, entitled “Don’t be Everyone Else at Everywhere Else,” outlined a more internal, individualized approach to building a startup. Rather than focusing blindly on bettering and building the company itself, Meyer argued, an early-stage founder is better served by expending an equal amount of time and energy in bettering his or herself. Or, essentially, a founder should grow as a person to grow the company. Meyer went on to outline 7 points, in the form of quotes, that speak to this approach:
Execute on being you
Essentially, in the context of Meyer’s discussion, this means that a founder should play to his or her strengths. If you know sales, sell. If you code, code. Conversely, if you know marketing, don’t code, and so on. Play to your strengths.
When human judgement and big data intersect there are some funny things that happen.
– Nate Silver
While tracking big data and various metrics is a familiar undertaking for founders, Meyer brought this up in the context of individual, daily life; i.e. tracking the quantified self with a Fit Bit or some such device. It goes back to knowing and executing on yourself.
It is not enough to be busy. The question is: What are we busy about?
– Henry David Thoreau
Meyer argued that everyone is busy, but a founder must prioritize, and eliminate to the extent it is possible, lesser tasks and focus on the larger goals. A sort-of task triage if you will.
The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.
– Warren Buffett
This Buffet quote speaks to the Thoreau quote above. It is not enough to simply prioritize your tasks as a founder, you must learn which of those to reject. This is a very less = more approach.
Everyone has highs and lows that they have to learn from, but every morning I start off with a good head on my shoulders, saying to myself ‘it’s going to be a good day.’
– Lindsay Lohan
Meyer used this quote, jokingly, to argue for the use of an alarm clock, as opposed to setting an alarm on a phone. More-or-less, Meyers argued, once you come in contact with your cell phone, it instantly compartmentalizes your brain into ten or more different sections, and you are completely unable to focus on the task at hand. You would be better served to go “phoneless” for the first few minutes or hour of your day.
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
– Bill Cosby
This gets back to saying ‘no’ and focusing on what you are doing. It is important to focus on what you are building and make it really good at what it does. Don’t expand the problem you are solving into sub-problems. Fix it, fix it real good.
If you really want to know where your destiny lies, look at where you apply your time
– Mark Cuban
A fitting end to the talk. Look at what you love doing, and go do it.
Essentially, Meyers talk boiled down to combining two aspects that are usually presented as dichotomy; the self and the company. Rather than treating the two as sort-or exclusive of one another, both should grow in tandem. To grow as a company, it is important to grow as an individual.