Co-founder of Behance, Scott Belsky, kept a notebook called “Essential Insights” handy during meetings and phone conversations with creative entrepreneurs. Whenever he’d hear something poignant, he’d jot it down, with the intention of putting it into practice in his business and personal life.
Flipping through the pages and realizing he’d collected 860+ insights, he started to organize them into categories (Endurance, Optimization, The Final Mile). Through this framework, his book The Messy Middle was born.
Here at Startupcamp, we often focus on how to start a business. You may have heard or read a lot about entrepreneurs selling their businesses. But what happens in between? How do entrepreneurs sustain their creative drive and their motivation to continue, even when things seem bleak?
Scott Belsky speaks to the silent struggle of entrepreneurship: the day-in, day-out battle of keeping your business alive and well. It’s a must-listen for any would-be entrepreneur. Listen now.
“The competitive advantage of most start-ups is sticking together long enough to figure it out.”
How many times have you seen a budding entrepreneur post on social media that they’re starting a business, and six months to a year later, the thought pops into your head: what happened to so-and-so and their startup?
When you’re working towards a long-term goal, Scott says, you’re suddenly at odds with the short-term rewards system on which the nine-to-five world operates: getting paid every two weeks, bonuses at the end of the year, perhaps a scheduled vacation or days off. People fool themselves into thinking a long-term goal can sustain them on a day-to-day basis, when that may not be the case.
The solution? You have to create your own short-term milestones and celebrate them, no matter how trivial they may seem. You have to create a culture where people show up, even if it’s an act of love.
“Great teams are made by developing a process or way of being that is constantly optimized.”
Optimizing the right aspect of your business is part of scaling—but how do you know what to optimize? Scott says it’s not about fixing what’s broken. Instead, if something works, improve it. Make it the best it can be before improving anything else.
It’s not just about A/B testing what color on a button drives the most conversions. It’s about A/B testing systems within your business, too.
“Part of the job of the entrepreneur is to accept the burden of constantly processing uncertainty.”
Even on his honeymoon in Thailand, part of Scott’s brain was back at his office, worrying about his team and the finances. He says that like a computer dedicating 20-30% of its RAM to maintaining the operating system, you too will have a portion of your brain always thinking about your business and worrying about its future.
Success corrupts, Scott says. When people start receiving attention, they stop paying attention. You can sustain your business only if you remain aware of the opportunities surrounding you.