There Must Be a Business

Something that I’ve been meditating on deeply this year is how businesses really get put together and survive.

You see, there are about 10,000+ blog posts out there that will tell you, definitely, that if you only have these particular ingredients then it’ll all work out just fine. Most of those are just plain wrong.

This gets particularly bad when you have people who have the audacity to posit wisdom about how to start a startup or new venture should operate and run but who have never actually done it themselves.

It’s like a coach telling other people how to play basketball when they have never, themselves, played the game. Sure, you can tell them to face the right direction and make sure to throw the ball into the hole at the top of a pole, but, that’s not exactly helpful insight or advice. It’s akin to lying, to be honest.

I was recently reminded of this blog post by Chris Dixon:

You’ve either started a company or you haven’t.  ”Started” doesn’t mean joining as an early employee, or investing or advising or helping out.  It means starting with no money, no help, no one who believes in you (except perhaps your closest friends and family), and building an organization from a borrowed cubicle with credit card debt and nowhere to sleep except the office… …

The important distinction is whether you risked everything, put your life on the line, made commitments to investors, employees, customers and friends, and tried – against all the forces in the world that try to keep new ideas down – to make something new.

Consequently, there are far too many people who presume too much, who haven’t really started a company but who pretend that they have and who consequently pretend to give real advice based on what they’ve read, not what they’ve really experienced.

If the core systems are broken then no one gets to play.

A real startup has zero tolerance for drag, for anything that weighs it down, even if those things are good, honest people. This is hard medicine and if you can’t take it then you’re not cut out for it.

Again, not a bad thing but it’s just not enough. You see, if there isn’t a business then no one has room or time for the people that they eventually want to hire and grow and build with.

In other words, if the founders can’t make the startup work and can’t make real revenue then no one has any job and there isn’t a business to go and work for!

And this makes complete, logical, linear sense. If it wasn’t for the founders, the real startup creators, then all of their team would be working someplace else! All of the customers would be customers for other companies and all of the community would be spending their time elsewhere!

For a startup, after you’ve made the decision on the founders and founding team, it’s work before people, always. It’s not that you don’t treat each other with respect and dignity and regard each other highly; all that is table stakes.

But real founders know that if they can’t get this thing, this idea to actually work then everyone is out of job (including the founders).

And any distraction, drag, and decision-making dissonance reduce the chance of survival, which is horrendously low to begin with.

There must be a business so that great people can come and work for it. Anything before that is just an idea, just made up hyperbole and listicle must-haves that pseudo-founders make up for pageviews.

There’s too much of that going around already.

Also published on Medium.