Seeing as I’m becoming more experienced with this whole web business thing, I started to think about the role experience plays in success in business. Then I remembered writing a post about this several years back. It took some searching but I dug it up. This post from 10/4/2006 was mostly about sports, but I did tie it back to business:
[I watched a video with] venture capitalist and author Guy Kawasaki where he discusses his opinion that the “best candidates for a successful start-up are young engineers with no business experience.” It’s so true – think Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell. How much business experience did Cuban have when he started Micro Solutions? Bill Gates when he dropped out of college and started pitching Windows to companies? Michael Dell when he was sitting in his dorm room assembling PC’s?
There’s a double edge sword with experience when it comes to business – it’s great to have seen things before because it helps you the next time the same thing happens, but it also tends to narrow your focus and cause you to write things off too early BECAUSE of your past experiences. Your world view becomes molded and even warped into something so narrow that you lose perception of the fact that there are MANY different paths to success, and that no two entrepreneurs will travel the same path to greatness.
I pretty much still agree with that almost four years later.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Experience obviously makes a difference. I can get a web venture up and running faster/better than the average guy off the street can. All of the years of programming and SEO work are an advantage. But that doesn’t mean that because of that advantage someone with no experience or no money can’t create a more successful web venture than I can.
I think that experience is an advantage so long as you don’t overvalue your experience and think that your experience entitles you to future successes. The moment you think that your experience gives you a free pass from hard work, or that you write off someone else because they don’t have your experience, is the moment that your experience starts to work against you.
That’s when some kid in a dorm room comes out of nowhere and takes out your business.
The irony in all this – and the reason why this has been on my mind – is that I started out as that kid, but I’m not any more. I’m an adult with a growing, profitable business, and I realize that this is the point when some people let their guard down. Who knows, maybe right now there’s some college kid sitting out there looking at Detailed Image or SportsLizard or LockerPulse and saying “they suck at that, I can do better because…” There is no way to prevent that. In fact, that’s a good thing. That’s the beauty of capitalism. As long as we keep working hard and keep a focus on what our customers want, we naturally will want to keep growing and improving, and we naturally won’t overlook new forms of competition.
And provided we do that, I feel like our experience can only be an advantage.