Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Entrepreneurship Mantra: I'll Find Out

This morning I attended an event on CEO / board relations at Pillsbury Winthrop. The event had its highs and lows, but one comment from Teros CEO Bob Walters really stood out. He mentioned that when he was in the naval academy the phrase "I don't know" was banned from the dorms. If a cadet was ever asked a question to which they did not know the answer, the only appropriate response was "I'll find out." Teros was recently acquired by Citrix and in retrospect, its no wonder that Bob was so successful; if he didn't know the answer to something he went and found it out, which is the essence of entrepreneurship.

Working at a startup inherently puts people out of their comfort zones because every role is cross-functional. Engineers sit in on sales calls and marketing guys read Joel On Software. Not having an answer is common place because startups fundamentally challenge people to succeed in roles they aren't necessarily used to. Furthermore, startups are addressing problems where solutions either don't exist or aren't satisfactory. Before you have time to worry about not knowing all of the answers, you've run out of capital, missed a milestone or failed to deliver to a customer. Go find out.

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