Posts tagged ‘success’

Resources Needed Are Often Overestimated

“You can often do with the limited resources you have…”

To get most goals accomplished, there are 3 key elements: time, energy and resources. For example, to open a small business, no one would argue that success doesn’t come overnight or deny the fact that it requires a lot of work from the founder(s). It doesn’t hurt either to have access to some resources, chief among them CASH but also people resources (not necessarily employees; these can be advisors or mentors specially the ones doing it for free in the early part of a business).  The same could be said of becoming an expert, a skilled artist or buying one’s first home.

We humans have a tendency to overvalue the resources necessary to achieve a goal.

Consider for example, the MessagePad by Apple and the Palm Pilot. It took $500M to develop the prototype for the MessagePad but only $3M for the Palm Pilot. Why did it take so much to develop the MessagePad compared to the Palm Pilot? (It think it may have something to do with Apple had that much money to spend).

                     

I think this tendency to “throw” as much money onto something happens way too often with government agencies, non-profit organizations, companies, entrepreneurs, CEOs, students and in fact with most of us including this author. How many times have you heard people complain that they could have succeeded if  they had more money or more connections?

The very fact that we see day in and day out start-ups with meager resources take over large companies that should have squashed them is a testament that time/energy  can overcome what we might call lack of resources. Think of companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Redbox, Apple, Microsoft…Each of these companies should have been eliminated by their better funded competitors: Google by Yahoo, Amazon by Barnes and Noble; Facebook by Google or any other established Internet company; Netflix by Blockbuster; Apple by Microsoft/IBM and Microsoft by IBM.

A sad consequence of this is that many worthwhile dreams die prematurely because of the illusion that resources are lacking. Energy (that we can call passion which in turns can fuel ingenuity and bring about hard work or time commitment) can often cure this little problem of so called “lack of resources”.  When the dreams don’t die prematurely, their achievement might come at too high of a price because we want to “borrow” the resources we don’t have. While I don’t have the stats to prove it, I have no doubt that many entrepreneurs could have built their companies by bootstrapping instead of having to borrow or take on Venture Capital money as early as they did. (Just because you can get the money doesn’t mean you need to get it; just because you have the money doesn’t mean you have to throw it at the problem).

Some questions that might be useful to ask when going after a goal that might require significant resources:

  • Have others achieved similar goals with limited or less resources than I have?
  • Can I copy their models?
  • Is it possible that I have more resources compared to others pursuing similar goals? Could that be a limiting factor (stymieing ingenuity for example)?
  • What existing resources that I have that may be unique that I could leverage? For example, if I don’t have the financial resources, could I leverage my social capital (connections)? What do I bring to the pursuit of this goal that’s unique to me or my organization?

March 12, 2012 at 7:34 am Leave a comment

Having a Greater Purpose

One core value of Zappos’ culture is having a greater purpose than just selling shoes: delivering happiness.

Zappos strives to deliver happiness not just to the clients who buy their products but to everyone. Today executives from all over the world come to Zappos headquarters to learn the company’s methods for delivering happiness to their employees. Workers spend most of their waking hours on the job, so there is no question that Zappos is fulfilling its purpose.

One of the reasons Zappos has been so successful is that people feel a need to belong to a group or to be part of a cause that is larger than them. I think it’s even ingrained in our DNA as humans to seek a higher purpose in life.

An example of that is a Zappos employee I met called Bonnie who told me that she is so committed to her employer that if all they had for her to do was to take a job as a janitor she would happily do it. I challenged her if she would still accept a less paying job in the event that she could take employment elsewhere and she insisted that she could not see how she would “abandon [her] family.” (These were literally her words).

Note that this heightened sense of purpose and belonging is not unique to Zappos. Southwest is celebrating their 40-year anniversary this year. In reading their magazine, they see their purpose as making domestic air travel affordable for as many people as possible.

This proves that in both business and personal life, wanting to make money is not a strategy.  It probably never is. Companies succeed by offering a service desired by the marketplace. What Zappos has shown us is that a company can have a purpose and an impact beyond the products it sells or services it provides.

Why am I so fascinated by companies like Zappos that see themselves as having a greater purpose in life? It’s because this goes well with my personal belief that our purpose in life is to serve and by serving, we receive no less than those we serve.

June 11, 2011 at 8:07 pm Leave a comment

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