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When do these business leaders spend any time in their OWN businesses?

Jul 18, 2011 Business Daily

Timothy Post (@timothypost):
#tcdisrupt I’m beginning to think that “startups” are what entrepreneurs do when they’re NOT jetting to all the tech conferences each month.”

TWITTER (24 May 2011)

This column has been quoting and analyzing interesting stuff from books, journals, magazines and newspapers for years now. It’s time to move with the times and occasionally quote…tweets.

The little gem selected above from blogger Timothy Post caught my eye a couple of months ago. His sharp (and on Twitter, necessarily pithy) observation cuts to the bone. Modern entrepreneurs, when exactly do your attend to your own businesses? For you give the impression you do nothing but attend one techie conference after another…

The world of oldies, let us admit, has always been prone to this problem. I have railed on this page and elsewhere against business leaders who flit from one external jamboree to another. You will find them everywhere: sitting around waiting for presidents to arrive at Very Important Gatherings; shaking a hip with the young in a doomed attempt to look groovy; doling out cheques to orphans and refugees while looking pained and mournful; or just shooting the breeze and lining the throat with fellow idlers at endless cocktail jaunts.

When, I have often asked, do these CEOs do that very difficult thing of actually running their businesses?

Now, it pains me to observe this same trait manifesting itself in many a twenty- or thirty-something high-tech startup CEO. Having held high hopes for this new generation, I find myself wondering whether anyone is ever going to do this business thing properly.

Timothy Post is right: how do people running fledgling businesses that have yet to take off properly find the time to be at every conference, forum, launch, and networking event?

There is a misconception that these young people are feeding on. This is the belief that future business success is going to come principally from making connections. That in a hyper-connected world, your ability to plug yourself into the global buzz is what will make you relevant and important. That you must keep abreast of ever-changing technology by attending every conference. That success comes from the osmosis of being present amongst the movers and shakers at global jamborees.

Reality-check time, people. Business success still comes, as it has always done, from doing something different, meaningful and deep. That cannot be done playing with your iPad sitting in planes and stadia pretending to learn something from others; it requires you to be present at your business to make it robust enough to soar. It means working on the distinctiveness and meaningfulness of your product; on the spirit and joint endeavour of your people; and on giving your customers a service experience that others cannot match.

Last time I checked, that can’t be done while watching one presentation after another in yet another world-changing gathering of brilliant minds; it can’t be done while listening to a riveting speaker regale you with mind-blowing anecdotes; and it certainly can’t be done frittering away your entire day exchanging inanities with your fellow Tweeters.

Go and rub shoulders, by all means; but first have a top-notch business! Too many young techies are considering themselves global gurus after incubating one semi-original idea, or spawning a stream of half-baked businesses that come and go like fruit flies. Enduring success takes great practice; great application; great engagement. It always has. There is no option but to spend endless, tedious, repetitive hours on the same damn thing – product features, company culture, customer experience – until you make it amazing.

When you have created a great, sustained, world-beating business, I, too, will attend the conference where you tell us about it. But until then, some silent endeavour may be what is needed most.

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