One of my pet peeves is reading an article, posted via mainstream media or social media, promising to give me the secrets to success. Being passionate about startups and loving to start new ventures I read everything going in the startup space and in the last week have wasted minutes on wonderful startup advice (I am being sarcastic, utter crap) such as:

“Successful startups have considered why they are doing what they are doing and the change they want to see in the world” and

“If your customers believe in your startup mission they will warm to you”

What do these statements mean in real life? and these are just two, I honestly can’t be bothered retracing my steps to find other equally meaningless offers of advice for startups on how to be successful but hope you get the gist. Equally there are a number of business mentors in the market offering the same secrets to success for a fee or equity in your business. Many of these mentors have never started, executed and experienced a successful exit business wise but they claim to know how it’s done (note for a fee).

The cold harsh reality is taking an idea and executing on it is hard work. Executing takes focus and time, most overnight successes were years in the planning and many were iteration 2, 3 or 4 of an initial idea – with iterations 1-3 failing. Yes there are the occasional ideas that snowball but for the most part a series of pivots, hours of hard work and many great minds have culminated in a successful business.

One of my favourite questions is asking people who are successful what their secret sauce is. The honestly successful ones provide humble and realistic answers – like hard work and focus. The ones who are bragging – we meet loads of small businesses who brag they have 20+ staff when they don’t for instance – usually try and answer that question with some jargon or wisdom that make no sense.

Another of my more sport like questions is challenging the assertions of these business mentors – asking them where they have done this before, to provide specific examples of their startup successes and failures, most fob this off with rhetoric and more hollow quotes like those above.

There are processes, methodologies and frameworks needed to establish successful operating models but those in themselves aren’t the secret sauce.

Today I read a great blog “Reality Distortion Field” by Rowan Simpson, which encapsulates one dimension of my concern for startups – the great quote here (thanks Shane for highlighting this) is “Realise that the person promising you a short cut is probably trying to sell you something”. 

Sadly this is more of a rant than a sharing blog. If you are a startup be wary of the promises of secrets to success, seek advice, talk to everyone you can but remember to apply a filter that ensures you realise hard work and focus are still the key ingredients to execution on a great idea. Happy sharing, Vic.