You learn how to ride a bike, when you are young, by doing it. If you ever taught a child how to, you probably did not spend much time sitting around explaining. You just went and did it. My brother and I always share a joke about one of his newspaper route clients, an old lady, who would give him advice. She told him once: “Don’t ever jump into a pool until you know how to swim”.

During grad school for my MBA, I signed up for a Phys Ed class. It was completely optional, out of a whim. One of my housemates and I thought it would be cool to learn how to sail. None of our previous engineering training with hours devoted to learn about how to calculate the resulting force out of multiple ones acting on an object could have helped us figure how tight to hold the ropes and how much to let the jib and the mainsail take wind to be able to glide in a direction opposite to where the wind was blowing from, and not flip the boat into the frigid early Spring waters of San Francisco Bay. What a concept, reigning in the forces of nature that would drag you in a direction if you let things be, and using them to do the opposite of what would normally occur by actively harnessing them. Coming back from those half day lessons we would be completely and absolutely beat. These were some of the biggest workouts ever that I can recall, especially if you flipped in the fifty-degree water, bobbing up and down with a four-foot keel pointing straight up, and had to flip back around with no outside help. This is really when we would get technical and devise a strategy with our physics training, considering our body mass, to flip back up and stop the boat’s momentum at 180 degrees. We had our frustrating share of 360’s – not fun. The only way to learn how to do any of this, is by doing it.

I went to a workshop last week from one of the top Amazon marketplace sellers, a South Florida company. Only 4% of marketplace sellers have revenues over $6M per year. Only 3% surpass $10M. This is the league where this company competes and thrives. There’s different strategies that people pursue as marketplace sellers. Wholesale arbitrage, branded products, private labeling, were some of the topics discussed. One of the presenters started selling on Amazon when it launched, while still in High School. He said to the couple dozen attendees that if he had one piece of advice to give it would be to choose a product to sell that you could source at a price where the economics would make sense, buy a half dozen, list it, and try it out. At the end you may not make any money, or lose a few bucks, but you would learn a lot more by just doing it and going through the mistakes.

Last night as we held an information session for applicants for our upcoming cohort 6 of the Startup NOW accelerator, somebody asked what would happen if they find out the business idea they want to pursue is not a good one, because the product or service gets no interest from customers. We responded the same way we always do. You will have tried and learned something. You will not have spent a lot of money and effort pursuing a bad idea. You would have learned the process. The earlier in the process you find out you have a potential failure, the more time you will have to rectify course and pursue a variation of the idea or a totally new one.

In summary, do not pay heed to the old lady. Jump in the pool, and don’t be scared if the water is 50 degrees. You already know what you know, and the rest you will learn. Inaction and a shallow draft will keep you close to shore, forever.

Our View from the Top – March 12, 2019