By Howard Tullman
Recently I spoke on business basics at the Chicago Startup Summit. The central idea was to ask how we can change businesses for the greater good, either by creating businesses that specifically focus on doing good or by helping existing businesses think about—and implement—cost-effective and innovative ways in which their business can address broader social concerns. The goal is a double bottom line—profit and public good.
I was talking about bedrock basics, while super-smart people were talking about concepts and ideas that sounded a lot more like rocket science. I usually focus on what I regard as the five main requirements for success in business and, of course, in life: passion, preparation, perspiration, perseverance and principles (or values). The Summit offered an opportunity to broaden the conversation to ten commands.
It’s amazing how little these fundamentals vary. Some have been foundational for almost half a century.
1 – You Get What You Work for, Not What You Wish For
Hard work always wins. In the real world, effort trumps talent. Hope is not a strategy. We may not outsmart them all, but we’ll certainly outwork them.
2 – Keep Raising the Bar
Constant iteration is the key. You get better by getting better. Successive approximation beats postponed perfection. There’s no finish line—ever.
3 – Shoot for the Stars
Always ask for the best seat in the house. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always “no”.
4 – Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Feasibility will compromise you soon enough. Don’t allow yourself to be defined by the limitations of other people. Fueling your fears is a waste of imagination.
5 – Keep Moving Forward
Excellence is always anchored in perseverance. A “No” is only a “No” for now. Over every hill is another hill. The only easy day was yesterday.
6 – Start Now with What You Have
Waiting doesn’t necessarily get you to a better answer. The time will never be “just right.” Elaboration in planning is a form of pollution. A good plan executed today beats a perfect plan next week. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Only the winners decide what the war crimes were.
7 – Nobody Said Life Was Fair
In the world of startups, there are no rewards or punishments, there are only consequences. Some win, some lose, but those who don’t constantly change will die for sure. There’s no such thing as a good excuse. Make smart mistakes and don’t repeat them.
8 – Never Play the Blame Game
People who blame their circumstances for their situation will never change things for the better. The ones who succeed look for the conditions they need to succeed and—if they can’t find them—they make them. When you continually blame others, you give up your power to make things better.
9 – Sometimes the Baby is Just Ugly
Time is the scarcest resource. Opportunity costs are everything. If you’re digging yourself into a hole, the first order of business is to stop digging. Don’t be reluctant to change your mind. Don’t try to do things cheaply that you shouldn’t be doing at all. Be stubborn on vision; flexible on details.
10 – Make Something that Makes a Difference
Focus on making a difference and making a life rather than just trying to make a living.
Howard Tullman is the father of 1871, the great Chicago incubator.
Contact Howard at 1871@tullman
This article is an excerpt from a larger piece.
Portrait and Image of Moses & 10 Commandments courtesy Getty Images, Howard Tullman.
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