Simple business lessons from Cinco de Mayo, mint juleps and chinese food
Eric Ries defines a startup as “a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty”. Here at AgilityFeat, we experience this definition every day. In addition to delivering a new service (in our case, a world class, boutique software company), we work in a distributed manner. With teammates in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the US, company coordination, planning and management can be a challenge. One of the ways that the leadership of the company stays on the same page is regular face to face meetings, every two months or so. This past weekend, we met in Boston (my base of operations) to reflect and strategize (and watch a little horse racing too). Here’s a summary of three important and (tangentially) related learnings;
Cinco de Mayo or “take time to look back”
One of the most valuable activities of the weekend was a thorough review of all of our projects and the learnings from each. In addition to the power that comes with looking back on how far you’ve come (like celebrating a holiday), there are lessons to be learned for the road that lies ahead. We spent a half-day examining our projects in an open, free-wheeling format that is only possible when you shut off the distractions. Meeting face to face for these types of discussions is critical to achieve the type of insights that can move your business forward.
Mint juleps or focus on your strengths
During our review of the past few months, we realized that we had learned a great deal about what we’re best at as a company. Several themes of successful engagements for us bubbled up and we realized a few things that we’re not great at doing. Our key insight was that we wanted to focus on our strengths as a company and we developed a few new experiments and operational changes that we would have never understood if we hadn’t locked ourselves away for a few hours.
So what does this have to do with mint juleps? Well, I love bourbon. It may be a stretch to call that a “strength” but I do love it. It’s always a treat for me to polish up the julep cups (even better when someone else does it) to watch the Kentucky Derby. This is my annual chance to get people excited about bourbon and I’ve learned how to make a great mint julep (mainly because it’s not that hard and I’ve had plenty of practice). So, after spending the day looking back on the business, I invited David and Arin to join me in “focusing on my strength”.
Have fun trying new things or a tico and two gringos go for dim sum
After the derby, we decided to go out for dim sum. Even though I live very close to Chinatown, I had never gone to a dim sum place. At David’s suggestion, we walked over to the restaurant only to find that the chef was long gone and that there was a wedding going on in full tilt. Undeterred, we sat down and ordered what we could from the limited menu. In addition to learning to do your research (who knew that dim sum was only available during the day), we all had a blast trying new dishes and crashing the wedding. The point of the story is to illustrate that trying new things won’t always go as planned. But if you open yourself up to the experience, you can have some fun while learning along the way.