A Pizza Mind for the Entrepreneur

You know you love pizza.

I was standing in line to get a slice of pizza when I was thinking this.

Nobody has to convince me to love pizza. That’s why I buy it. Nothing stands between me and buying a slice of pizza but my own wants, my own cash supply and, possibly, the length of time it might take me to grab a slice.

If I’m really drunk, I might wait all day, not knowing I am waiting. Dozing perhaps. But I digress.

The same thinking about wanting something you like, and knowing you like it, applies to technology services that you hire to get jobs done in your life.

So, why do people (founders and marketing teams) try to convince your ego to buy them? And why do they spend a lot of time trying to figure out social media in order to find new customers?

Maybe it’s because, like me, entrepreneurs make early mistakes in building up a product that they hope will support a company and that reflection on mistakes makes them push too hard to put that solution into people’s hands.

Mistakes are good. Not “cult of failure” mistakes, but those little mistakes that your ego convinces you that you need to make on your way to proving to your ego that you are making it.

Here are some of the mistakes I have made. They are still mistakes. I have not really corrected them. But I’m just putting them out there.

Mistakes, I’ve Made a Few

  1. Making my marketing a projection of my ego expectations: Real example. “BizSpark has a weekly live video stream that attracts 32,000 viewers.” Real example. Audience member at home thinks, “Who cares?” I wanted the metric of 32,000 viewers to resonate with my potential audience. The message that I really sent was, “I am so desperate to be successful that I want you to know it.” End result? 15 new viewers. Maybe. Basically, dont’ stand outside of a pizza house at three a.m. shouting about how many slices you are eating. It doesn’t matter to the other drunk people who are patiently waiting for their slices, slurring to each other about how “sick” that concert was.
  2. Letting fear drive me to be smaller than I wanted the product to be: Real example. I was going to launch a tech teaching program in China. I was worried that too many students would want to go. In fact, three times the number of people I expected to sign up did eventually sign up. But I put my own limits on the number, thinking I would not be able to handle that many people. In retrospect, big numbers on launch was a good sign, and I may have squandered growth for the sake of my sanity. I think things would have worked out in the end. Now I know not to hold back in the future. If I think I can eat a whole pie, I’m going to order it.
  3. Competing too early by over competing or competing at all: In the very beginning stages of launching something, I often look around at the city ecosystem or the nation where I am launching something and, for the stupidest of reasons (pride or vanity), I assume others are competing with me and so I must out-compete the competitors. Truth is, really, that in the early days of launching something, that’s not the priority. The earliest stages require focus and diligence and answering the customer wants. One must trade quiet and solitude and being largely forgotten or ignored as they work, in the first months and years of a product, and not raise one’s head to be noticed too often. There’s just no need to do so. Sadly, over-marketing and loudmouth blogging marketing are the norm, so the lure is there. It can quietly sing to you at night when you are sleepless and thinking nothing is happening. Trust me, things are happening, just not on your timeline. Underneath that cheesy slime is a lovely just right piece of dough just waiting to be savored.
  4. Speaking of which, Things that are meant to be happen, don’t try to make them happen: This probably sounds like horseshit to entrepreneurs, since “Get Shit Done” is the mantra many live by. But. For the first six months of launching a service, I depended on results from the customers who were using the service. But. Nothing. Happened. I thought for sure that I was a goner. I had lost. Then something peculiar began to happen. Where I thought there was maybe two people who loved it, it turned out there were almost four dozen. A good start for a mostly in-person service with no platform (yet) or any hours of operation other than M-F 3pm to 5pm. What I learned from this is that people will eat their pizza, when they are hungry, not when they are being asked to eat their pizza. Cool it, pancho!

I tried to make this a metaphor about pizza. It is, like most things in life, not at all correlated or aligned to the real narrative of entrepreneurship. Another lesson here might be, it takes a real talent and a real gift to be able to make something from nothing.

If at least you try.

If at least you focus on what you love and what you know how to do best.

If at least you wake up each morning putting yesterday afternoon behind you.

You’ll get your slice.

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