The Power of Assuming Success
An old-school Silicon Valley friend of mine once told me how he began his business with two friends in his kitchen in the early 90s. Before the trio had even committed to their product and direction, he got up without saying a word and walked to a printer in the living room. He returned with a list of public holidays and tacked it to the wall. “Ok guys,” he said, “If we’re going to build this company the vacation policy starts now.” Although a preposterous notion — that three guys working together in a kitchen should need a vacation policy — it was a show of confidence in the company’s potential scale from the very first moment. It was only a matter of time before they raised a large round of funding and hired a huge staff worthy of an official vacation policy. By treating the company’s large-scale success as inevitable, he guided all aspects of the company — from product development to marketing — in a bigger direction. As soon as the holidays were tacked to the wall they weren’t just three nerds in a kitchen, but founders of a quickly growing organization. It showed in every decision planned and executed after that.
Fellow early-stage entrepreneurs, I invite you to imagine that your company is already worth 20 times what it is today. Imagine that regardless of the barriers and heartaches you actually face building your business, your success is guaranteed. Missteps merely delay your meteoric rise. Ignore the baritone voice of reason lecturing you that the vast majority of small businesses and startups fail. Forgo your endless to-do list for five minutes. How does operating under the assumption of inevitable success affect your decision-making process? Does it allow you to think big, to commit, and to forgo stopgap measures?
The fear of failure clouds your judgment and can lead you to hedge your bets: you rent instead of investing in infrastructure, produce insufficient amounts of product, roll out campaigns without proper funding or hire too few employees. You aim low so you don’t fall far. Although there are strategic times when intentionally hedging makes sense, you are increasing the likelihood of diminished growth or even failure if you make half-attempts because you aren’t sure of your success. Often, the only way to facilitate growth is by assessing your options from the vantage point of inevitable success – never arrogantly, always confidently pushing for greatness.
Maintaining this attitude is especially hard in the very early stages when nothing is proven. It is far more common to pay lip service than to truly take it to heart. The next time you’re confronted with a monumental decision try to imagine, if only for a moment, that you aren’t concerned with failure, that you should do what’s right for the business long term. You’ve already committed to starting the business, so now is the time to believe in it most.