Like many families, we decided to hunker down at home this holiday season. That gave me some much needed time to reflect on ’21 and recent years, both personally and professionally. I usually do this before I dive into my annual ritual of dreaming and planning for the year to come and beyond.
Part of my dreaming and planning includes creating more content for entrepreneurs in a way that is fun and easy. So here we go. This is my first post of many to come. I am working out my cadence and noticing that I like to write casually, as if we’re having a conversation. It feels like less pressure. For the blog, I like to write like I talk. So, let’s have a chat.
Last year, 2021, was as odd a year as I have ever seen in business. There was a lot to celebrate. There were some big wins personally and for PowerPlant and also some failures. Some companies are getting funded, scaling fast, and getting big outcomes. Others struggled or outright failed. I had a couple in this last category in ’21: two personal investments and one with Powerplant.
I started investing after selling ZICO in 2013. I was very eager. I co-founded PowerPlant in 2015 and made 40 investments across the first fund and personally. Across all three PowerPlant funds now, this is 70+ investments personally and professionally! There were a few big wins early on with some unicorns and an IPO. And of course, some losers. Right when I started to feel somewhat confident, things also got very nutty for me because I started to really think hard about how I process success vs. failure, and the meaning I give to each.
Investors like to talk about winners. Same for most entrepreneurs. Few if any talk about challenges, mistakes, or failures. And very few celebrate their wins. I didn’t want to talk about any of this either. Entrepreneurs feel like sharing wins is for corporations. Or we’re told. Entrepreneurs don’t share wins. It’s not in our DNA. Either we’re too busy or just don’t want to share.
What are we afraid of? Let’s own it! Let’s look at our successes and failures. In fact, let’s go all the way and share them. They’re just experiences. Sad at times? For sure. Painful? Costly? All of the above. But, they’re all just experiences. What do we do with them? What meaning do we give them? That’s what is on my mind lately.
I asked my daughters to help me create a little cemetery on our property. I did this to acknowledge and remember the dead. Some companies died. Some are zombies. But if I’m on the field, I’m going to lose part of the time. Right? Right! That’s part of being on the field.
Am I now on the blog field? Yes I am. Does it feel weird? Absolutely. Is this post or video going to be a failure? Perhaps. But I’m on the field and ready for the experience.
The PowerPlant team may tell me this first blog is too long so here is a punchlist for you to takeaway. I learned how to create a listicle from Buzzfeed. I hope you like it. I don’t even know if this is a listicle. I am going to ask one of our Associates.
1. Get comfortable with loss. Loss is a part of business, like life.
>Every culture mourns its dead (some in fascinating ways). Why not do so in business?
>Five stages of grief: Apply failures with your employees and partners and work through the emotional process.
2. See failure as part of the path to success:
>Ray Dalio examines this in his book which I highly recommend.
>What didn’t work? What didn’t go the way you wanted?
3. Intellectual AND emotional analysis is key:
>What was the thesis? What was the fantasy?
>Where were you emotionally? What was going on in your life? What were you afraid of or excited about?
4. Create a conscious culture:
>Support leaders and their teams to build trust.
>Take responsibility, commit to curiosity, and acknowledge feelings.
Everyone processes success and failure differently but nearly all entrepreneurs have true curiosity and the risk appetite to explore both. Successes and failures are just experiences. Live it out loud with no shame and no blame. There are always more rocks.