Whether you’re a big, established company or a small fresh start-up, learning is an utterly important agent, not only for growth but also for survival. The only difference whether you’re a big company or a start-up makes is that, if you’re a start-up, it is especially so.
From the little I know on start-up learning from my experience are two things. One is that learning is another unfair game for start-ups, because the opportunities for learning for start-ups are much more limited than that for established company. It is for the difference in the sizes of their holdings. Simple: the more money you have, the more and better teachers, who are often called a consultant like one, you can hire. And we, consultants, normally charge some fees, and some ridiculously stiff fees, for such learning events. However, what we do on the podium in such events many seem trivial from time to time, because what we normally get to talk about is only little as A did B and got successful, and C did D yet not so successful.
But, right there comes two. And this could be crucial for the survival of a start-up. While what we deliver through such events, like I’ve already said, may seem trivial, what you could get maybe isn’t. And, no, I’m not trying to be defensive of the fees we charge. So hear me. I promise I’ll keep it simple.
With what we deliver, what you could get is, of course, to be successful. By the stories that we deliver, you could get the ideas on the right and fastest way to success. Good thing, right? But better, and more important, is that you can actually save time, you would otherwise have wasted on the learning curve, stacking up a file of your own mistakes.
Some say mistakes are great teachers. Yes, they are. But wouldn’t they be just greater if they’re somebody else’s?
Since I was one of start-ups myself, I maybe am one of those who best understand that the rooms for mistakes for start-ups are very limited. If you take one rotten choice and keep walking on it for several months, just to say, “ok, this wasn’t a good idea” at the end of it, it could literally be “it.” And that’s the real values that you could get from one single might-seem-trivial learning opportunity: multiply your monthly expenses by the number of the months you could waste on a mistake.
Real Values of One Learning Opportunity (Dollar Values) =
[($Avg. Monthly Expenses) X (#Months You Might Otherwise Waste)]
Now, to strategic part. When I started my company, there was little start-ups movement, and certainly not for the industry I’m in. But now it’s changed. Sadly, my industry’s still cold-shouldered; however there are many learning opportunities available for start-ups now, especially if you’re in IT. You could mingle with your fellow entrepreneurs, which is perfectly fine. You’ll get to share your experience and certainly will get some benefit. But if you’re more strategic, you might as well seek opportunities to learn from the ones who’ve been there done that, so you won’t have to burn your precious cash for avoidable mistakes. Find someone of this category and have as frequent a meeting as possible and get what they would have done in your position. If you can’t get a hold of this, attending a proper conference with multiple speakers, ideally a mix of entrepreneur, investors, and consultants, on the right theme could be the next best option. You’ll get to learn from their own experiences in various aspects and fields of business at one time, and if you’re aggressive and get lucky, you’ll even end up having one of them or two as your mentor. Participating in an expo or a start-up competition could be an equally desirable option, for it will be your opportunity to get priceless direct feedbacks on how to improve your chances to survive from your potential investors with hands-on experience. Their money is just secondary; survival first. I understand you might be reluctant to these types of learning opportunities because many of them usually don’t come free. In this case, carefully consider the host and the attendees, and calculate possible values you could get, by the formula I’ve just suggested above, and compare it to the price, before you let the opportunity pass you by. Being thrifty is absolutely necessary, but strategic thinking sometimes requires making the right investments and getting the most out of it. Think about why some would willingly pay many of hundreds of thousands dollars for just one dinner with Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. As a pupil in strategy, that’s how I see it whether a meeting or a conference, and I take learning very seriously, so maybe should you.