What I Have Learned In the First Few Founders RAW Conversations

I love entrepreneurship because it comes in all shapes, sizes, flavors and personalities.

As I am sure you know, we have started a new project recently, called Founders RAW.   It’s a video site where we showcase recorded conversations I have with other founders over a beer to get a better idea of their story as well as (hopefully) pull out lessons that other viewer will be able to apply to their life.

One of the perks of founding Founders RAW is the unique opportunity to be the one sitting down with these individuals and drive the conversation.  It’s an honor, and it’s quite fun.

It’s also very educational.  Here are just a few things I picked up after the first 6 Founders RAW conversations.

Entrepreneurial from an early age

Everyone I have sat down with has expressed how they were exposed to entrepreneurial ventures from a very early age.  This may have been through observing their parents operating their businesses, working paper routes during middle-school, creating their first “business” in their youth or somewhere in between.  The common thread I am already seeing is entrepreneurship is taught (or experiecned) very early.  So early, in fact, these people thought it was normal and was what they wanted to do when they “grew up”.

This is precisely what I was talking about when I wrote about Making Entrepreneurship An Infectious Cultural Disease.  If we’re taught from a young age to take responsibly for our business life and chart our own course, well that’s exactly what we end up doing.

Clueless at first

Like clockwork, when I talk to founders it’s bound to come out at some point.  “I was clueless at first.  We had no idea what we were doing and we just tried things to see what happened.”  It’s amazing how high of a pedestal we place founders of companies, thinking they know it all and are destined to succeed from day one.  Unfortunately it can’t be farther from the truth.  Founders are forced to quickly learn on the job.

If anything, we are VERY good actors.  We fool others into believing we know what we are doing.  And we continue to do that until we stumble into actually knowing what we are doing.  I believe this skill is a pre-requisite for a founder: the ability to convince yourself and others you know the next few steps to take towards success.  And then exercise that ability to go find and do what ends up being the next step before it’s too late.

It’s Hard Work!

Founding a company is hard work.  I hear it again and again each time I sit down with a new founder during Founders RAW conversations.  “It was tough man!”  “We worked really, really hard sometimes for many, many years.”  Anything extraordinary will require extra effort on the part of the founder, no exceptions, they tell me.

What’s really interesting is to ask them the next question “So given it was hard work, what makes you different than the other founders who are working just as hard?”   I don’t have a specific answer I can write about right now but I think that answer would be very interesting, specially coming from the horses mouth.

My guess: “I figured out a smarter way to work hard.”  Although everyone can work hard, the most successful people find ingenious ways to get things done quicker, faster, more efficient and with higher quality.  A railroad worker most definitely worked harder than a business man, but it was the business man who walked away from the day with more money, providing him more security.

Hear many, listen to few

An interesting nugget of wisdom has already been touched on in these early conversations.  It revolves around the idea that everyone wants to tell you what to do next and how to best build your company.  “Everyone has an opinion, just like everyone has an _________.”

The key is to hear and understand as many viewpoints as you can, but then parse out what applies to your situation and follow a few solid pieces of advice.  Be very picky on who you give your ear to, who listen to and what you read.

Hear a lot, listen to few.

This is huge!  If you don’t follow this advice you end up like a dog running around looking up every time it hears something and sniffing everything it sees.  This is a quick way to go nowhere, fast.

Man, it’s been quite an awesome few months and I look forward to many, many more beers with other great founders who are willing to open up to me and tell us their stories.

If you haven’t yet watched these first conversations, go check them out now > Founders RAW

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