Every now and again, I get to hear an entrepreneur's "Here's How I Made It" story. If life had a TiVo button that let you skip through the fine details, each story could be summed up very quickly as such:
(1) We were crazy kids with an idea...and everyone said it would never work!
(2) We were living off Ramen noodles and Timmy's credit cards...one of the co-founders bolted for Goldman with 1/3 of our equity...so make sure you vest!
(3) We miraculously got funding in the 11th hour (from an investor or an early client)
(4) Next thing we knew, we were being profiled in BusinessWeek
(5) Now I'm back to tell you that it's all about your values and your corporate culture
(6) Looking back, we charged too little for our service/product at first.
Item #6 makes me think of an Onion headline I just saw, "Winning Powerball numbers seem so obvious in retrospect."
Onion headlines are designed to make us laugh, whereas "Here's How I Made It" stories are meant to inspire. When I hear the guy who just rang the bell at the NASDAQ throw out item #6, though, I laugh.
If someone calls me and says, "I would like you to do [this] for our organization," I think I should do it for an agreed-upon price unless there's a clearly more lucrative alternative for that specific point in time.
The "agreed-upon price" might not be what I fantasize about on spreadsheets, but it's the here-and-now answer.
If the call ever comes in from State Street, GE, or Gillette, the conversation would probably go in a very different direction. And as much as I might fantasize about those calls, that's not who I just heard from.
Who I DID hear from, though, is someone who works for the town where many of the execs of the aforementioned firms live.
Terms were offered, and the answer was an unequivocal, "Yes."
Not because I'm undervaluing my time or my skills, but because I'm self-aware enough to know that it was the right answer to the question being answered.
So if I ever get invited back to the give the MBA glory talk someday, I'm not going anywhere near #6. I'm going to say, "For some products and services, you need to light the fire and then constrain it geographically. Inside that area, you need to nurture it and let others add new kindling and throw the easy combustibles on top for you. Sometimes, the way you do that is by scarfing a slice of Humble Pie that's nearly the size of the plate in front of you. From there, just focus on your month-to-month revenue growth, tiny as it might be at the time."
And should you ever find yourself in need of further inspiration: