Whether it’s Apple, Facebook, Twitter or Uber, all entrepreneurs look at companies that are super successful and wonder what they do differently. It bewilders us to see how they skyrocketed from a humble startup to phenomenal success. How do they not hit roadblocks? Why don’t they have problems to get through? What special talent helps them do everything right?
Well, they don’t do everything right. They just excel at things that matter the most.
A quick dive into the history of any top company will reveal the mess they went through to reach the pinnacle. Apple saw the famous ‘Steve sacking’ episode; Facebook had an ugly falling out of the founders; Twitter was a game of musical chairs for the CEO; Uber has made many mistakes with their international launches — and more recently, with their executives making inappropriate statements. And these are just some examples out of the many companies out there that went through troubles.
So what made these companies a runaway success? It’s the way they worked past their limitations and were able to create game changing products or services. They had a sufficiently great product that they were able to overcome a lot of their mistakes.
Let me explain this with a perfect example — Steve Jobs. Today, we see people emulate everything he did, trying to shape themselves into the person that he was. But while an amazing visionary, Steve Jobs was not perfect. In the early days, he did not treat his team with the right level of respect. He was not a people’s person and made mistakes with how he managed his employees.
Now, it would be wrong to assume that the way he treated employees contributed to his success. Truth is, what made Steve Jobs legendary was his vision and innovation, not his behavior with his team. If anything, people were more accepting of the latter because of his technical genius.
Yet another great way to explain the point is sports. Take a match of tennis, for example. Player X beats player Y in five sets. Match reports come out and it’s full of praises for the winner, highlighting how he was considerably better. They will talk about the training, the hard work, and the strategy as all being key reasons for their success. However, if you had seen the match, you would know that it was just a couple of key points that tilted the match. The real reason he won was because he made the right decisions on the most critical points — the break points and the set points. And that’s pretty much how success stories for most companies go.
This shows that we must take care not to confuse the noise from the signal. Mark Zuckerberg did an amazing job at building out Facebook because of his clear focus on growth of their Monthly Active Users. Even with all of Facebook’s success he was not perfect and made mistakes — he failed both times he tried competing with Snapchat.
There is no denying that we should be inspired by these innovators and their companies. But at the same time, we shouldn’t try to blindly copy every action that they do. There is a good lesson to be learned from every story; it’s important to recognize what the big decisions were that really moved the needle and learn from them.
Randy Rayess is the co-founder of VenturePact, a marketplace that connects companies to prescreened software development firms; he previously worked in private equity at SilverLake Partners and in machine learning. You can reach out to him at @randyrayess or on linkedin.
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