Sunday, February 24, 2013

Startups and Fire-building


I love fire.  I love building fires.  I always have and I always will.

My love for fire-building is directly related to my passion for starting new ventures,  envisioning possibilities and planning/executing the outcomes.

A Home Example
Last week, I began to build a fire in order to roast marshmallows for S'mores.  Two of my daughters and a bunch of neighborhood children descended on the fire pit and exclaimed, "Fire! Can we help build the fire?"  I agreed to let them help and I instructed them to grab some firewood from the pile behind my house.  I then proceeded to create a basic log cabin framework for the fire.  Before I could stop them, the children ran up and threw all of their wood into the fire pit.

I saw a teachable moment.

I shared with them how to build a fire.  In particular, I described how we needed to start with the small tinder and then build up the fire. In my mind, we needed to start with the end in mind.  The specific end was a bed of hot coals that would be ideal for roasting marshmallows for all ages.

As I was sharing with the children, I realized that I was describing any new start-up venture. 

Start-up Ventures
Every start-up venture requires a vision and a strategic plan that constantly keeps the end in mind.  In many ways, leading a start-up venture is like leading the creation of a fire.  A fire requires wood (physical resources), helpers (human resources), a vision of a blazing outcome, a strategic plan for executing to that vision and leadership to orchestrate the effort.

The temptation in many start-up ventures is to seek to create everything at once.  Like the enthusiastic children throwing all of the wood into my fire pit, the natural human tendency is to look for immediate results with or without an intentional plan.  

Leaders of successful start-up ventures, however, orchestrate the physical resources and human resources to work together to realize a vision through executing a strategic plan.  The strategic plans requires decision-making that is guided and controlled by the vision.  In the case of a fire, the strategic plan involves knowing what type of wood to add at each specific point as the fire increases.  As the correct type of wood is strategically added at the right moment, the vision is realized.
  • How do you strategically approach start-up ventures?
  • In what ways can you orchestrate your resources (physical and human) to realize a vision through a strategic plan?
  • How do you see and experience enthusiastic helpers throwing all of the wood into the fire pit at once and how can you help them think & act strategically?
If you have resources and enthusiastic helpers, then that can be a blessing and a challenge.  The blessing is that you have resources and helpers.  The challenge is that you have resources and helpers.  The difference between success and failure in a start-up venture is how well a leader orchestrates those resources and helpers to carry out a strategic plan in order to realize a vision.

I love leadership challenges like this one.  I love building fires...

Let's go build some fires...

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