Stay Alive. Then Thrive.

On the airplane this last week I had some much-desired time to dig into a good book. Sitting on my shelf since early May has been The Brothers Karamazov, a classic of Russian lit. (Thank you, DP!) Having read only excerpts in various philosophy courses in college, I was excited to re-open the story. Almost immediately, after meeting the ‘family’ in the book, I was reminded of classic Tolstoy novel, Anna Karenina. The book opens with a famous line, roughly translated from the original Russian as:

“All happy families are the same. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

It invoked to me how exciting it was to join in the Semi-Annual Planning Day ten days ago. Going through the ‘Risk Anticipation’ and ‘Trade-off Triangles’ activities really reminded me how important it is that we think ahead of all that can go wrong and do our best to avoid those pitfalls. Without carving time out to discuss these ideas, we’re dooming ourselves to overlook otherwise avoidable mistakes.

Young companies, as we all know very well, struggle daily to survive. We are fortunate compared to most companies that every single month we are not struggling to make payroll, though we’ve had those months too! Every day something could go wrong that knocks us completely off of our podium. A new law, an irate customer, a disgruntled Partner, an unforeseen real estate challenge, or anything at all can significantly de-rail the company. It’s a jungle out there!

Companies that simply ’stay alive for long enough’ are often the ones that make it to the amazing milestones. ‘Don’t Die!’ ‘Be a cockroach!’ ’Stay alive for five. Then thrive!’ are adages thrown around business circles. It’s the companies that somehow manage to not kill themselves that make the good kind of headlines.

"Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Everything really needs to go right for a company to succeed and break out of escape velocity. Young companies default to death.

Stay Alive. Then Thrive.