A couple months back I was sitting in a dorm chatting with Gabriel Stein, a friend I had met the day before who’s conversation I enjoyed more and more. We both went to attend Maverick Next, a summit for young entrepreneurs.
“What’d you think of today’s speakers?” He asked.
“Hmmm, they were okay, I feel like since they’re at such a higher level than me, I can’t really connect with what they’re saying, I also feel like they generalize, I mean, it’s interesting, but I can’t really apply their lessons to my own business”.
“True” he replied, “Context is so key. With the right context you’ll be able to draw meaning from what they're saying. Like Jason, when he kept emphasizing ‘hire the right people, especially lawyers, and look thoroughly through your contracts’ that may not mean much to you, but to him that was a million dollar lesson”.
We discussed the event some more, and he later asked me what problems I’m facing in business.
“I can’t seem to find a working sales funnel,” I told him. “Like we get sales and clients randomly, but its not because I initiated a marketing plan”.
He began telling me that business isn’t about figuring out the right marketing plan (something I already knew), but that it was about meeting supply and demand.
“As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to develop and master a skill to develop a product, or skills to deliver a service. Its about meeting supply and demand. There are certain people who want certain things, and certain people who want to do certain things, you provide the opportunity for those two people”.
I didn’t quite understand what he meant, and to this day I still don’t quite understand what he means from a practical standpoint, but I’m slowly figuring it out.
It was just these two concepts, we talked about, we had discussions on creating value, showing ROI, productivity. And toward the end of the conference I starting figuring out what he meant in all those topics.
“Yeah Gabriel, I think after today I’m starting to get what you mean” I told him, “But its annoying, because all these concepts that you’re telling me are swimming in my head, and I have to piece them together slowly after doing things in order to get context from experience”.
“Yeah, it is annoying isn’t it?” He said with whimsicle smile across his face, “Why do we have to circle around to get the answers? Why can’t we just understand it step-by-step? …haha but that’s what we want though isn’t it? We don’t want it to be laid out in front of us, we want to piece it together over the years."
I couldn’t help but immediately admit how true that statement was.
And I left the summit, with nothing immediately actionable, nothing really tangibly gained, and a lot of confusing concepts taking up my mental processing. But I felt a little wiser. Still, I couldn’t help but think of how much I listened to Gabriel. I pour a lot of time into books on business, productivity, habits. And here was Gabriel; a couple years younger than me, and knows more about business than me, has a bigger business than me, and a better grasp of habits and productivity.
I know age shouldn’t matter, but in college I really enjoyed giving advice to the underclassmen. And here, I felt the reverse. But good advice is good advice and while I feel humbled, I feel optimistic about finding more friends that are younger and smarter.
A few weeks ago I’ve been dealing with the struggles of almost every newly graduate or close to graduating: finding a job. To get a job means I have to provide value to the person who hires me and I’m insecure about that. I’m an accounting major, and I barely know anything technical about accounting that could apply in a firm. I’ve learned a little about business but I’m not nearly skilled enough compared to anyone in the industry. I have no technical skills compared to the engineers and computer science majors. What value can I provide?
I brought this issue to my friend Ken and he gave me one of the biggest insights of the year.
I was struggling with the same thing when I was searching for jobs, but I realized that employers know that we’re new graduates and that we don’t know anything. Adding value is for someone who’s already five years into the industry…we’re new graduates, college only proves that we’re capable of learning. And that’s what employers are looking for when they hire you: someone who they can teach to add value to their company. Coming from Haas (School of business at Berkeley), I saw this way too often that kids would bullshit to employers as if they’re already five years into the industry. “I can make decks and models of this or I can streamline that”, they end up sounding like tools. They don’t know anything just like the rest of us.
“Then why should employers pay us 40k—50k a year when we know nothing and can’t do anything?” I asked.
Very good question by a regular reader of the site who just joined a new company. Some excerpts -
Do you have any sources to recommend regarding the topic of Small-scale Team or Project Management? The background on my request is simply that I work for a large, very disorganized company that grew from a small "mom & pop" to a competitive industry leader in a 'short' time period (10 years or so). The management has not followed the change with the kind of organizational structure that large companies require for effeciency and they abhore 1) change 2) young people initiating change 3) publish initiatives for change with deadlines, and blame the 'young people' when they aren't completed, meanwhile they sabotage all efforts to work on them.
Now, I am no expert on creating the type of organizational structure we need here, but I witness its absence as a massive failure each and every day in my own department and all of the others as well. My team consists of 3 members, 2 analysists and 1 "manager". Our manager is inept. We have had projects for the last 4 years (prior to my hire) outstanding, which if successful could have significant positive impact on finacials, performance, effeciency, communication... I could go on. Our manager belives that such projects are superfuluois and openly harasses us when we work on them (despite the wild success of the first one...which he attributed not to hard work but to "magic"- literally, he said it must have been magic and denied any part we had in achieving the goal).