The accidental Beatles
The Beatles are without question one of the most iconic bands of the 20th century. Pele is arguably the best player the game of soccer has ever seen. Richie McCaw is easily the most accomplished rugby captain in the history of the sport.
Each of these are examples of what can be attained when we diligently and judiciously apply ourselves to a single craft or discipline. We attain excellence and that breeds significance.
The question is whether each of the above set out to reach the pinnacle of their respective disciplines. Recently I attended a talk by the great Pele whilst visiting my team in London. Listening to Pele, it became clear that he didn’t set out to be the greatest player the game has ever seen. He simply enjoyed what they did and set out to do something nobody had ever done before. “I was obsessed with soccer, I used to sleep with a football in my hands” says Pele. This obsessive discipline is the answer.
In his book the Outliers, Malcom Gladwell references to the fact that the Beatles played for thousands of hours before their big break. They had a weekly stand-in show at a local pub and played to often rowdy and uncultured audience. But they played without abating and were disciplined in their pursuit of mastery of their genre of music.
Once again, an obsessive discipline for the craft.
So the truism here is simply this, entrepreneurs should be careful to focus on the big picture too much, too early. What is required is the ability to focus on building the business and remaining of service and relevance to your customers.
Big picture thinking is important and necessary. For entrepreneurs however, the trick is not to obsess over the big picture. Focus on the small details, the big picture tends to build itself. The big picture is after all a cumulative sum of small detailed bits combined together.
So what should the entrepreneur focus on? Simple remaining relevant. When you are running your business and crafting your value proposition in the never-ending onslaught of wily competitors you must keep your eye on the remaining relevant.
How do you know you are still relevant? You must fulfil two criteria:
Offer your customers products & services that are based on deep insights about the pain-points and the knowledge of their problems. All people transact to fulfil a certain need or ease a certain burden. Your job as the entrepreneur is to be ruthlessly close to what that need is and how that burden can be alleviated.
Ever heard the expression people don’t remember what you made them think only how you made them feel? It’s true too for entrepreneurs and business. Customers don’t remember what we sell only how we make them feel. If you make people feel that you are being authentic, honest and driven by a higher purpose then you will find them more likely to want to transact with and help you build your business.
The most overused example (and it is that for a good reason, it illustrates the point) is Facebook. So did Mark Zuckerberg set out to build the most influential media company in the world? No. He wanted to build a social platform for students of Harvard.
Aside: Facebook is a media business. They allow users to publish content. So they are the largest media publisher in the world and yet they don’t own content creation or production business. They simply give their users the platform.
If you are humble enough to know that you don’t know it all and that your customers have insights that would help you accelerate your rate of business growth, then you will shorten the learning curve and accelerate path to positive cash flows. Let the customers lead you.
The Beatles didn’t set out to be the greatest band of all time. Pele didn’t set out the best footballer in the history of the sport.
Greatness is not written on a business plan. It is often a well-constructed accident by the universe. If you focus on the small things, the opportunity greatness will show itself.