Silicon Valley thrives on fractional teams. I speak from experience as one of those consultants. There are two fairly unique characteristics of the Valley, unique in that I’ve not found them to work exactly the same way in other communities:
- Knowledge is freely available. You don’t pay for what & how, you pay for talent – execution.
- Lean Startup can mislead entrepreneurs into thinking that it teaches you to bootstrap, do it yourself, stay lean. That couldn’t be further from the truth; what it’s trying to say, I believe, is don’t make mistakes, learn from others’ failures.
The first can be hard to grasp as your community almost certainly seems to trade knowledge freely. But does it really? You have meetups, small business association or SBDC classes, people are happy to support you… but that doesn’t go far enough. That isn’t transparency of information, that’s trading information.
There is a sense of “betterment” instilled in the Valley which creates a culture in which everyone endeavors to make everything better. There is no good nor great; everyone is constantly striving to create more value; not on behalf of Silicon Valley (not for their “community”) but holistically. No one has won, no one can retire (so to speak); we are constantly striving for everyone, everything, every technology, every business to improve upon what’s already there. Think about that in the context of where you live: Is the conventional conversation about the leading companies, how great they are? How to learn from them? Or is it what’s wrong with them, how to dothat better? It’s a subtle difference but it’s one that’s obvious when you see it. One, fosters employees who work for successful companies, because we’re supporting one another in closed knowledge ecosystems; the other fosters innovation as everyone is not just supporting one another but striving for greatness.
Take the idea of “knowledge” to the extreme. Not just how to, but should I, where, how, and when: where does investment come from? Who are the investors? How do I talk to them? Not just how does SEO work but what do I need to do to my site? Not just how to advertise on twitter but is social marketing right for my company?
All information is freely available because the culture, the consultants, don’t monetize on information because everyone is striving to make everything better, not build businesses. You hire consultants because they can do it more efficiently, effectively, and with a network of resources at their disposal that you simply don’t have. They’ll tell you everything you need to know to do it yourself; the question is, should you.
Hence my second point.
I didn’t mean to imply that Lean Startup is wrong, far from it; rather that it CAN mislead. There are more than enough articles about the downside of Lean principles, so I’ll simply encourage you to consider what Lean might be saying in it’s extreme (twisted) interpretation: don’t spend money – be Lean. (I’m going to reiterate this again as people jump on me when I point this out: I’m NOT saying that is a Lean principle, rather, it’s easy to misunderstand Lean to be encouraging that).
Consider the difference between failure and mistakes
- Mistakes. Generally considered to be “stupid.” Things that are easily avoided. How are they avoided? Mistakes happen because of ignorance, inexperience, haste, distraction.
- Failure. Certainly, failure can come from mistakes but failure, the kind of failure that is embraced and encouraged, comes from striving for something so great, you are likely to fail. 90% of startups fail; and that’s OKAY. That’s expected. If you are a startup entrepreneur and you haven’t failed, frankly, most people would question whether or not you are trying hard enough.
What you are striving for in building your team, is to eliminate mistakes and reduce the likelihood of failure.
How do you do that if you are only a team of 2? How efficiently can you do that if you are taking those Lean principles literally and developing your MVP, doing market validation, testing growth strategies, and building a company, all by yourself? How can you possibly do that if you only think of hiring people you can afford, full time?
The role of consultants, the expectation of a culture like Silicon Valley, is that you KNOW everything you need to know to be successful and as such, that you don’t make stupid mistakes. That you learn from the right people who can execute more efficiently than you, so that you can strive for failure.