Two months ago at the Endeavor event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, David Frazee, a Partner at K&L Gates LLP., gave a riveting talk with incredible lessons for social entrepreneurs, start-ups, and high impact enterprises. Inspired by his talk, here are 16 lessons for anybody making a positive social and/or environmental impact with their business:
- Preserve the magic of the company | Your culture is everything. Don’t ever let is pass, fade, or get put on the backburner.
- Do not change the flashy models | Your model that makes you successful is your model. Don’t change it to try and get funding or publicity.
- Hire people who love start-ups | Big business is not a start-up, and people coming from big business, regardless of their CV’s, do not necessarily know how to make start-ups work.
- Be creative with your negotiations | Don’t take no for an answer if no is the wrong answer. Be persistent and innovative to get around hurdles.
- Tame gorillas with equity tranquilizer guns | A little equity changes you from a commodity to a partner. If you need to create a long-lasting, healthy relationship, consider adding equity in addition to monetary incentives.
- Remember your family and life | If it were easy, everybody would be rich. Start-ups require a ton of work. But start-ups come and go, families are forever. Don’t ever forget that.l
- Give correct incentives | Align incentives with company objectives, which must increase the overall value of the company, not only reward specific positions or departments.
- Have and understand the financial model | If you can’t monetize, you won’t have money. If you don’t understand your business model, it probably means you don’t have a business.
- Do not work for someone stupider than you | Self-explanatory. Work where you are appreciated, understood, and have the capacity to add value. The corollary is also true – work with people better than you. By extension, don’t always work people that agree with you.
- Avoid death from rapid growth | Don’t grow too fast without systems and processes to manage it
- Build good systems, but deliver product | Point #10 is important, but remember, the best processes are nothing if you can’t ship product. You must prepare for success.
- Never, ever, mention a corporate jet | Big spending is a leading indicator of stupidity. Lean and mean is the only sustainable approach for any social enterprise.
- Be promiscuous on innovation | Make it sexy to innovate, and never stop.
- Hire the best: Overpay. Fire the worst: Now. | The best people are worth every dollar and stock. The worst kill morale and hinder progress. It might be tough to stomach, but pay the right people more than what they are worth, and kill the cancer right away.
- Cherish great advisers and strategy | Strategy is not a free commodity. But whether you pay for it or get it for free, make sure to adopt it.
- Remember friends and invest in the community | Always give more than you take, and to teach is to learn twice. A lot of people with blood on their feet wore the path smooth for you. Make sure to do same for others.
“There is no limit to intellectual capital – we can always create. Whether you win or fail, you will do something extraordinary that will change your life.”