“We’re going to flip the industry upside down, and it’s a four hundred billion dollars industry” is what a friend of mine always likes to say when describing his startup. That’s awesome and I do think it’s a massive industry in need of change. But I’m wondering if having a grand vision is actually the right mindset when trying to build a grand company. I mean, Mark Zuckerberg just wanted to build a “directory of colleges”. Richard Branson just wanted to create a magazine for his friends. And Roy Raymond of Victoria’s Secret fame just wanted to buy his wife some lingerie. Look at their businesses now.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe thinking big is necessary but I find it dangerous as it encourages daydreaming. I can’t even remember how many times I pictured getting that email from Yuri Milner saying “Dude, I have the spreadsheet right here and we think you rock, here’s $100 mil on your terms. Game?”. Yes, it’s going to be a big company one day and yes, it is going to take over the world and yes, Warren Buffet will call but you’ll be too busy. Until then, however, how are you going to reach next quarter’s targets if you don’t know what customers need, um, today? And if you’re always focused on where you think the company should be in five years, chances are you have no clue what your clients need today. ‘Cause unless you get really lucky, your vision is probably very different from your customers’ real problems. And how can you know what problems clients have if you don’t focus on them rather than the big picture?
If there’s one person guilty of “thinking big” and too much daydreaming, that’s me. Until a little while ago, the headline of this blog said “Young entrepreneur, trying to change the world”. Not anymore. Not because I don’t want to create something that changes the world someday, but because I’ve learnt something over the past few years. It’s all about small wins. A great team. A great product. Great investors, great clients, great partners, great traction, great growth, great exit. Small steps, one at a time.