Autopsies from 2017

Looking back on 2017, as we do every year (or so), we identify why failures happened and seek to do better in the future. For those of you who think we are talking about you - just because it sounds like you - we are not. We're talking about another business that had similar problems but didn't fare as well at the end of the day.

The biggest problems we encountered in 2017 (as in most years) were:

What we normally do about it

These are not new or novel challenges. They happen all the time. They happen to new entrepreneurs who haven't been there before and just had no idea of what it was all about, they happen to older folks running their own business as it expands, and they happen to old hands who have seen this movie before. Some days you just get tired of the grind and have to underperform for a while. And you pay the price when you do. And it is often worth it! However...

We create and use tools to help reduce the need to fail to succeed.

But in startups, resources tend to be thin, the people don't have a lot of personal or professional backup, and this is often a root cause of the failures.

As advisors and investors, if we only invest in and advise the high resource people and companies with lots of backup and expertise, we will end up (1) without many clients and (2) missing many of the really great opportunities.

So what we really need is professionals being paid to do the job well, but we cannot get them because of the lack of resources available. We can be more selective in our investments and miss big opportunities, or we can be less selective and get screwed. Risk and reward is what it is all about.

Our solution

Our solution is increased surveillance and attention as things get more important, and a disciplined approach to investing and operating. This starts with providing tools to help startups succeed, but that also provide access to information and a methodical approach to increasing maturity over time. Startups and other companies that won't take the discipline are ultimately likely to fail. Our experience is that they almost always do. And painfully so. Here are some examples:

In summary

People, including people who run businesses, are imperfect and subject to human failings. Businesses fail, and there are plenty of things that can go wrong along the way.

We believe that knowing how to survive to fight another day, having someone to talk to about things, and understanding the risks you take so you can decide when to take them how far makes it more likely for you to succeed and less painful to all if and when you fail.

Our goal is not perfection. It is being helpful in a human way. We use systems and lists and similar things to help us be systematic and not forget things, and we use these to help our clients increase the maturity of their operations and find solutions they might otherwise miss. But things fall apart, and failures happen.

The best we can hope for is to learn and help our clients learn from mistakes. Autopsies can help, but they can only go so far. We wish all of you a great year ahead, and hope you will learn from our mistakes.

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