Last year I joined the acquisition and collection committee for the Museum for Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. As a result, I have been exposed to many different artistic styles, periods, and creators. The entire experience has led me to wonder, “what makes one piece of art better than another?” I eventually came to a conclusion after hours upon hours after considering countless pieces, genres, and artists. The conclusion: one genre isn’t necessarily better or worse than the next but there are artists within each genre that are clearly better than the others.
That is when I had a “light bulb” moment. Entrepreneurs function in a very similar way. Every entrepreneur, like an artist, has their own style, strategy, and preferred method of doing things. Most successful entrepreneurs and CEO’s develop their genre and subsequent style to reflect their beliefs and strategies based on their environmental influences and the era they are active in. In a way, someone’s business patterns, style, and habits can wind up mimicking the creation of art.
For example, I have a very specific style I never deviate from. I live and die by successful cash flow models. I want to create positive cash flow immediately and have zero tolerance or patience for a business that goes deep into a hole burning cash with the hope of eventually gaining enough market share to become profitable from a cash basis. I start businesses that are cash cows and profitable within the first few months of starting them. If I can’t do that, I simply won’t spend even 1 minute on the business. In contrast, Jeff Bezos has popularized a venture debt-model with Amazon. Amazon stayed in the red for OVER A DECADE before recording any cash profits. He and I have completely different styles and outlooks on how to build a successful company. He is the wealthiest person in the world right now so it obviously worked extremely well for him, but it’s an ENTIRELY different strategy and style from my own. During the first decade plus, Amazon had to constantly raise capital to cover the daily, monthly, yearly cash losses it always incurred. I firmly do not believe in businesses that rely too long on raising capital to cover their losses. Each time you do that, investors that take their pound of flesh with each check and the longer this is done, the harder it is to raise capital from outside investors or institutions. For every one business success like Amazon there are thousands that fail and go bankrupt. Every business that cash flows without living on the venture capital/debt life support succeeds but I digress... The point is both business outlooks and subsequent strategies are unique but each exemplifies a very specific style from the company’s leadership team.
Equally important to note is that most all styles can respectively work independently but applying two different strategies at the same time in the same company will certainly end in failure. You simply cannot have Picasso and Van Gogh both paint on the same canvas at the same time and expect to create a masterpiece. It is the same with creating and running a business. While one style does not ensure success, you have to be crystal clear on what style you are applying to build your business and you have to completely own it. I have seen trouble time and time again from both CEO’s and entrepreneurs when they get too heavily influenced by other styles and toggle between multiple styles, never really owning one entirely. It would be like Picasso starting a painting then half way through having Van Gogh step in to finish. Just doesn’t work! Same with operating a business. Know what type of painter you are and do not let any other style of painter on the canvas.