Seth Godin’s advice for me (and you?)

A couple of weeks ago 37signals mentioned they were having a fireside chat with Seth Godin and Mark Hurst. They asked for questions; I submitted one.

Today I was very happy to learn that mine was one of those chosen – and even happier that Seth gave a great, great answer:

A couple of reader questions:

John Koetsier, 22 Jan 07, for Seth: “I have a million startup ideas (ok, my potential biz list is about 20 ideas long) but limited time. What’s the best strategy: go deep on one idea, or try 3-4 simultaneously? Time is limited, obviously, money is as well. Rifle or shotgun: what would you do?”
I think this is a false dichotomy.
rifle implies all your eggs in one basket.
get it wrong and you go home.
shotgun implies that you throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks
half assed, in other words.
I think there’s a different approach.
what’s that?
We start by understanding that in any industry, there are dues to be paid, things to learn, people to know.
A base of code to be written, or concepts to understand.
If you go shotgun, you’ll resist that. You’ll flutter and flitter.
Always waiting in the supermarket line, switching lines,
never getting to the front.
So, I say, pay your dues. Concentrate your effort.
Good point.
At the same time, understand that you will never be right about fashion.
You’ll never get the story perfect.
And if all your eggs are in one basket, you’ll study too much
you’ll test too much
and you’ll be afraid to go go go
and so, build your platform
and be sure your platform leaves room for many riffs, many shots, many attempts to get it right.
At Yoyodyne, we changed our business plan COMPLETELY every four or five months.
Our core beliefs stayed, our software base stayed, our people stayed
but our business changed.
end of riff
if i can attempt an echo.. be tight on the foundation; be loose on what you build off it
yeah, like that.
i agree that context is so important – content may change, emerge, whatever
Sounds like you need to have a foundation, but one that can float as opposed to being anchored.
it’s the attitude, Matt. If your attitude is, “we built this foundation, we will continue to reinvest in it, AND we will always be willing to radically change our story and our deliverables” then I think you win.

Wow. Thanks for that great, great advice, Seth. That’s really, really helpful.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Wow, this is a really great answer!

    Sounds like, to re-re-re-paraphrase it, you can say the solution (business plan?) should first be to “know thyself”. From that foundation, or inner focus, you will derive your (or your organization’s) strength. What you build off it is the external focus, and could literally go anywhere as long as the foundation will support it.

    Seems like the process of building the foundation will naturally cause some of those possible business ideas to fall away, leaving the remainder to pursue. Am I reading that right? It sounds positively Biblical!

  • John –
    Great question for obvious reasons and great advise. If I were to look back at my life here at Agile over the past three years the “we built this foundation, we will continue to reinvest in it, AND we will always be willing to radically change our story and our deliverables” describes our existence and hence our name “Agile Media”. It was also very refreshing to here someone like Seth explain that at “Yoyodyne, we changed our business plan COMPLETELY every four or five months.” We at Agile are also guilty… and it has been a huge source of frustration for my employees because they are all not exposed to the type of information that we the leaders are… and I know it has caused them to question our leadership at times. But in the end we are responsible to deliver the vision and execute on the plan and as you know where we started out 3 years ago is very much different from where we have ended up today! However, our core principles or foundation has not changed just our deliverables and execution strategy. Our faithfulness is paying off and we are in the enviable position to capitalize on massive growth multiples. Oh $&!# we have limited capital… another question and story altogether! Congrats on having Seth choose your question, talk soon.