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Complexify, Passion, Obsession – Brad Feld Denver ScaleUp Summit

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Oct 29, 2018

ScaleUp Summit 2018“We suck Less!” Brad Feld

You wouldn’t believe this would be a great premise to build a software company around, yet it’s the precisely the kind of humor and perspective Brad Feld provided for the Denver ScaleUp Summit audience.

Brad and his partner had a software/technology company during the dot.com era.  There were plenty of opportunities as companies tried to catch the wave and exploit the dot.com surge.  He would constantly run into opportunities where the business had hired someone to help them with a solution, yet failed to deliver.

When prospects would ask Feld why they should trust him with their solution after they’d failed with others he empathized with their plight, and said, because, “We suck Less!”

The audience roared with laughter!Brad Feld - Do More Faster

Verne Harnish interviewed Brad, who now is a venture capitalist, which provided our audience with a number of nuggets.  Here are several I found most valuable to share.

Complexify the Business -- When you have something working and then you mess it up with something complex, Feld coined the term "complexify."  Leaders often don't realize when complexifying is happening. That is the value of an advisory board or a coach. Furthermore, complexify refers to when you make a mistake on top of a mistake. You’ve just added unnecessary complexity to your business. Have you added needless complexity to your job/business?

Obsession vs. Passion -- Feld feels passion is overrated.  People can fake their passion about a business, idea, etc. Feld looks to invest in leaders who are obsessive about their business. (All this ties directly to Morten Hansen’s Work Smart Principles #1 Do Less, Then Obsess, and #7 P Squared, Passion & Purpose) Are you just passionate about what you do, or are you truly obsessive?

MANAGE WHAT’S IN YOUR CONTROL  -- Exogenous. That’s the word Feld used to describe areas outside of your control. To manage things outside of your control is useless. Focus on what you can control.  Feld views things outside of his control as entertainment.  Where’s your focus? On what you can control? Do you waste a lot of needless energy on what you cannot control?

Market Timing -- Verne asked Brad how he did so well timing the market.  Brad rejected the question, responding it’s a fools errand to rely on market timing. If you do, you are going to be continually disappointed.  Instead he believes you need to have a premise, a purpose and focus for your decision-making.  Do you agonize about timing the market?  Do you second-guess yourself about when to  invest, or what you invest in due to the marketplace?  

INVESTMENT PREMISE (ONE THING) -- Feld’s investment group believes the interaction between humans and computers is going to continually increase. Thus, their investment decisions hinge on this premise. This is no different than crafting a One Thing focus for your year or quarter.  Laser-like focus, whether it’s your purpose, Your One Thing, or how and why you make decisions, provides the clarity to quickly decide.  Do you have a premise for your decision-making? Do you choose a One Thing focus annually and quarterly for your business?  Do you have a Winning Aspiration/Core Purpose for your business to help you make decisions?

40% RULE FOR GROWTH -- Brad shared a principle he blogged about The Rule of 40% For a Healthy SaaS Company. His belief is this rule is true for any business.  From the article, “The 40% rule is that your growth rate + your profit should add up to 40%. So, if you are growing at 20%, you should be generating a profit of 20%. If you are growing at 40%, you should be generating a 0% profit. If you are growing at 50%, you can lose 10%. If you are doing better than the 40% rule, that’s awesome.”  Based on my experience this rule offers forgiveness when your business is growing at an exponential rate.  No business can continue to lose 10% or more for a sustained period of time, no matter what your growth trajectory is. Growth Sucks Cash. A tool like “How Fast Can your Business Afford to Grow?” can keep you from plunging off the cliff.

My favorite Feld idea is the Obsession/Passion distinction. In today’s world, passion is important, however if you fail to be obsessed with your passion, chances are you will not have the necessary commitment and energy to bring your ideas to fruition.

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20 Mile MarchNext Blog – Work Smart Example - Morten Hansen’s Great At Work

In The 20 Mile March Discipline – Great by Choice, we shared Collins and Hansen’s ideas on the lessons learned from the quest to be the first to reach the South Pole. Marten Hansen’s Great at Work suggests another reason Ronald Amundsen team of 19 won the march to the pole.  Work Smart Example #1 Do Less, Then Obsess next blog.

Topics: ScaleUp Summit Denver, Brad Fell, 40% Rule for Growth, ScaleUp Summit Learning

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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