by • December 4, 2013 • FoundersComments (13)2446

Why he is there and I am here

A few weeks ago, In Costa Rica, I talked to a guy whose company did 7 million revenue its first year. Now, a couple years on, he and his cofounders are taking a 5 million dividend apiece and it’s growing fast.

I wanted to know why he can pull that off and I can’t. He’s 42; I’m 29. I asked what changed for him in the last 12 years. Was he always this good? Did he get lucky? Make the right connections? Is it the inevitable result of doing hard work?

The first thing he said was this:

Yeah, I was always this good. So were my cofounders.

I was a bit discouraged. I trust in myself to learn, but if the edge was there from day 1, then he could have a compounding advantage I’ll never catch up to. He continued:

Lots of people are, though. But it’s wasted.

Go on…

I was also doing lots of stuff I wasn’t good at. The only thing I changed in the last 12 years is that I stopped doing those bits.

That was it. For him, at least. So he designed a company and team that allowed him (and his partners) to spend close to 100% of their time doing what they’re very best at. Raw talent is wasted if it’s busy doing the wrong stuff.

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13 Responses to Why he is there and I am here

  1. Aga says:

    Hi Rob! This is a great little post and such a powerful message! I can totally relate! We all have specific talents and things we are good at. Leveraging them is what can make or break us! Thanks for sharing!

  2. John Locke says:

    The goal should always be to delegate tasks to others and focus on the core things that you have to do. It is easy to get bogged down doing every small thing that could potentially be done by someone else. Becoming the person you want to be is difficult at times, because the ground is always shifting under your feet. God luck on the third company and Godspeed.

    • robfitz says:

      Thanks, John — I’ve been making an active effort and so far it seems to be paying off. It’s one of those things I always “knew” but never really activated on, you know?

  3. Amer Grgic says:

    Hi Rob,

    I think this is kind of a double-edged sword, you need to try out other things to see if you have a strength. I think that after you find out what you’re really good at, you can have a focus and develop that strength even more.

    But, good article nontheless!

    • robfitz says:

      A wonderful caveat — you’re right. I sucked at sales for years, but it’s one of my most valuable skills now that I’ve been forced to learn it. Not sure how to balance that… Maybe it’s like Brant Cooper’s rule of spending 70% of your time on the top thing, 20% on the second one, and 10% doing whatever comes across your desk?

      • Amer Grgic says:

        That’s probably a good start. But in the very beginning if you start then you should probably do “the usual” like start to get an interest for certain things.

        I know my thing is computers and that’s what I’m good at (and went to school for), I could try and craft a desk in real life but I would probably make a horrible desk.

        I think that when you already know what you’re good at, try and be the best you can at it, and spend a bit of your time on something else (like you said, sales etc). The 70%/20%/10% rule is probably a good one but hard to manage, how do you know that you’ve really spent 20% of your time on something?

  4. J says:

    I would argue it’s not so much about doing only things you know, but rather about doing what keeps your motivation up. Never doing things you are not familiar with will work in the short-term but in the long run we have to learn whatever the market currently demands in our field. That said, it’s probably a good idea to keep the ratio of doing things known to doing things not known at a healthy level.

  5. da99 says:

    Just out of curiosity, what industry does the guy’s company compete in? (Healthcare, consumer tangible product, smartphone apps, games, etc)

    Also, how many hours per day do they work? It’s a good lesson, but stories like these usually leave out the costs: years of losses (vs revenue), experience/edu (eg law degree, eng. degree), problems with investors, legal costs, etc.

    • robfitz says:

      It’s a software agency. They are intense and I get the impression they work hard, but each seem to be doing stuff they enjoy (e.g. the guy I talked to is semi-permanently traveling and getting people excited about the future). The team is up to several hundred now and the margins were ridiculous. He said they bootstrapped it and profit margins are from 50-90%.

  6. sisili says:

    Are you saying that criticism shouldn’t be employed when contemplating* an idea?