Chop Wood, Carry Water

My recent conversations with several of our portfolio companies have reminded me of a Zen maxim that goes something like this…

Before Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

At Founders Co-op we focus on ideas that come out of the gate fast – they typically ship product, engage customers and start generating revenue within the first 3 months of operations, and several have hit breakeven at (or shortly after) their 1-year anniversary.

But we also like ideas that have longer-term strategic potential within their markets. Not suprisingly, establishing a market-influencing position takes more than a year or two. And unlike the “easy” wins of the first year, taking a leading position tends to be harder work – more nuanced, more dependent on partners and with less linear progress toward the goal.

Several of our companies are now in or entering this second phase, and the founding teams are having to recalibrate their expectations about how quickly they can achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. These are great, often profitable businesses, so this isn’t a heavy task – once they get their heads around it the teams are motivated and energized by the challenge. But no matter how quickly they achieved the early milestones of market acceptance and financial stability, there’s more hard work to be done – chopping wood, carrying water – to carry their businesses to the next level.