Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Godlike inspirational genius
I’ve watched a lot of businesses become successes, others … not so much. The successful ones have one thing in common. Is it purely the godlike inspirational genius of the founder? No, it’s having a really good 2ic.
Founders have the big idea and the drive to take it to the world. That needs an endless sales drive.
Not just the classic sales gig of getting people to buy the product. It’s the nonstop sales of persuading staff, suppliers, financiers and all the others to get onboard with the dream. If the founder can’t sell, that business will remain a corner store forever.
I’m stereotyping a bit here, but people who are great at sales aren’t as strong on the follow-up. Selling is hard work. Delivery is harder.
You can deliver up to a certain size, when you’re putting a personalized love letter into every package and every sales enquiry is a spine-tingling validation of you and your game-changing vision.
The overpromise/underdeliver cycle
Then, as things grow, things can slip a bit. Your belief is stronger than ever, but there’s so much to deal with and it’s easy to slip into an overpromise/underdeliver cycle. Not for every client, but there will be unevenness.
You’re still selling the picture you have in your mind: a glittering sky-castle with rainbows and champagne fountains. For some customers, the reality might be more of a caravan park near an open-cut mine.
You’ll have staff by this point, and they all pitch in to help you grow. You learn to delegate. But there is still only one of you. The true breakthrough moment is when you find someone you trust to handle 80% of stuff the way you would. Without having to talk to you.
When it happens, it’s pretty magical.
Sometimes your first employee becomes that 2ic, because they’ve been on the journey longest and they’ve spent the most time listening to the dream vision. But usually not. Mostly you’ll get a bit bigger, then someone will come along who’s smarter than the rest.
For our businesses, it was usually around the eight or ten staff stage. We touched on how to spot those future stars a couple of weeks ago.
Not everyone is the same as you
Your future 2ic is the one who is smart enough to understand the long-term mission, but also understands your weak points and complements them. They will not be the same as you. They will often get their achievement buzz out of things you don’t particularly enjoy.
If they agree with you every time, they are not the one.
This is hard for some founders and CEOs to understand, being massive egotists. They believe that everyone thinks the same as them. And that everyone is motivated by the same things.
For example, they think the 2ic must have equity, because hey isn’t everyone motivated by equity? Tech startup option schemes get so much media attention, because it’s the norm in that sector. Don’t assume it’s the case elsewhere, in industries where you’re not punting on exponential growth.
A lot of people are motivated by being paid well to do a good job, because it makes them proud to do that. That’s enough.
They might not aspire to do your job, not because they don’t like the authority, but because they like a road map. They might not be comfortable blazing trails into new territory.
That’s fine, they can take over your current job after you’ve mapped out that territory and want to move on to more interesting terrain. They’ve watched you do it and might even deliver better commercial results than you later on. Tim Cook at Apple springs to mind.
Something you see a lot is bosses falling head over heels in business love with a new recruit, who seems like the answer to all their prayers. Usually because they remind that boss so much of themselves. The confirmation bias is strong.
Maybe they’re the one. But give them a couple of years so they can be stress-tested by the random chaos of business life. That dream Alternative You can suddenly go rogue. You think: I thought I knew you, who is this monster?
I’ve watched that happen. The size of the fall is usually in direct proportion to how deeply you were in love with them in the honeymoon phase.
The two benefits of a good 2ic
There are two great things about having someone reliable under you. The obvious one is growth: it stops your lack of time being a handbrake on the business. It forces you to delegate better.
But also, having a credible 2ic sends a signal that you are a proper organisation with depth.
In the animal-signaling world of business, clients have a deep, subconscious desire for low risk. If you can introduce them to a competent 2ic who they can trust to act the same way as you, it’s reassuring. They know they can always turn to you if things go astray. They find it a comforting safety valve.
And at a certain point, it’s undignified for the founder to still be doing every meeting and followup item. It says: you’re not that successful. Some clients like that endless personal access to the founder.
Others want to see you be bigger. The clients who want that are usually the larger ones, with better budgets.
Ask yourself: if I’m still doing what I’m doing today in ten years, will it look tragic? You know the answer. Start planning before it’s too late.
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Why not buy this nice book?
Want to break free of a job that sucks and live life on your own terms? All that plus more entertainment than your average business book: Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths For Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change.
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