Risk, Change, Growth, and Goals

I was at StartCon 2016 in Sydney this past weekend and witnessed much excitement and entrepreneurial spirit that comes only from a gathering like this. But during the great talks and networking I began to feel like I was standing still compared to the journeys these newest entrepreneurs were on. Let me explain what I mean.

Sailing to America

I’m from the USA where 200 years ago people from Europe and Asia began leaving their family and friends to begin a new life in America. These people took only their most prized possessions, climbed onto small wooden ships and sailed off to their destiny. These ships were steered by the stars and the journey was perilous with no guarantee whatsoever that you’d live to see land again. Yet hundreds, then thousands of people made this journey. Most were driven by the prospect of a new and better life. They were taking a big risk, a risk that their families probably warned against. Yet these pilgrims still came. Think for a moment about the family and friends left behind. They almost certainly would never see their loved ones and friends again.

Sailing into the storm

There were some very good reasons people did not take the risky journey across the oceans. Some heard of storms and shipwrecks (the Dunbar in Australia for example). There were also the people already there who might not have been very welcoming. But these thoughts would not have stopped that small voice inside from saying, I wish I was going. I’m not entirely sure what those left behind were thinking but maybe some thought this: I’m missing out.

Today, we still find ourselves watching others taking chances, improving their situations, taking the initiative and think we’re missing out. When your good friend and workmate leaves the company, there’s a feeling of sadness but also a little envy as they moved on and you stayed put.

At StartCon 2016, Maggie Zhou of Alibaba spoke of the company’s origins.

Maggie Zhou of Alibaba

Maggie described Jack Ma giving the other 17 founders a choice: either stay in Beijing and triple your salary working for someone else or come with me to Hangzhou for a salary of 500 yuán, so little that you’ll need to live close because you won’t have enough money for a transport. A big risk for the young founders of Alibaba. But like the earlier travelers, their vision was strong and clear. The only thing holding them back would have been fear. The big change was moving cities, the big risk was security: job, money, and familiar surroundings. Alibaba started with only Jack Ma and 17 others sharing a vision. Today the vision remains constant and Alibaba is worth over $200 billion. Of course Alibaba is a success story but how successful would they have been without making changes, without taking risks, without trying?

We don’t take risks because we feel more comfortable doing so. The saying, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” comes to mind. But what’s the worse that could happen starting a business or adding a new process like Growth Hacking or adopting Agile? Of course it’s money but there’s also your perception of yourself and how others perceive you.

Sean Ellis - Growth Hacking

Sean Ellis spoke about Growth Hacking experimentation. Goal setting is critical in driving sustainable growth in your business so set goals and focus on the high leverage goals. In any business, new or established, to grow means to change.  These people aren’t saying change everything at once but to do lots of small experimental changes, 2-3 a week!  Each experiment is designed toward achieving your goals. Each experiment that is successful establishes your new baseline from which to make additional improvements. Every test leads to learning so every test is important. And if your experiment fails that’s good too because you learned. The outcome of these experiments is to learn.

The dozens of speakers at StartCon 2016 breathed life and hope into those who wish to grow, to be better, to achieve great things. These speakers talked about the risks of sitting still, the peril of not thinking differently, and tips on how to sidestep some of the more devastating shipwrecks. Growth and maintaining the status quo are incompatible. Sean Ellis spoke about goals to grow your business. He said everyone needed to know and understand the goals to achieve growth because everyone has a part to play.  Growth isn’t the exclusive domain of start-ups, growth also occurs internal to the organization. So whether your starting a new business, solving a problem your current customers have, or adopting change internally like Agile, find your vision, find your goal, develop and execute many small experiments to achieve that goal.