I used to be that guy. For a long time I wished I were older. Had some gray hair. I wanted to have longer tenure and more credentials on my resume. All my career I’ve been the youngest guy in the room. Obviously that’s changed as I’m in my 40’s now… but the lessons I continue to learn along the way frame how I think about experience, tenure, resumes and moving up through the ranks in any organization.
1. Know what you don’t know
This one is tricky mostly because you have to be very self-aware. No matter how much you think you know, there is always someone that sees something you don’t or a blind spot you didn’t anticipate. Knowing what you know and what you don’t is what I often refer to as "spidey sense". Looking back at nearly every situation I always in hindsight see things I didn’t at the time.
2. Be a market driven machine
Customers can be wrong. Technology can give a false sense of confidence. The market rules. This is the "why" I refer to in previous post. Answering a market need and clearly articulating why is the winning combination.
3. Get as close as you can to the revenue engine
People that don’t steer into revenue by nature aren’t company leaders. I learn more when on a sales call than at any other time during the day. For me, being close to the revenue is like oxygen in business.
4. Don’t get in your own way
This one was tough for me to learn. Luckily I had great mentors throughout my career and they coached me (and sometimes backhanded me) about staying out of my own way. This is another way of saying: "stop doing stupid shit".
5. Arm yourself with research
Knowing more is better, always. Its never ending and the only way to do it is to truly be interested in the subject. I can’t not know something. That isn’t the same thing as knowing everything, which is obviously impossible. Its more about constantly researching, learning, googling, wikipedia-ing, talking with people smarter than me, etc. etc. etc. Be obsessed with knowing more and learning more.
6. Be decisive and course-correct as necessary
Its impossible to be right about every decision. Its also not ok to always push things off until the answer is obvious. Make the decision and then course-correct as necessary. Forward momentum wins.
7. Partner well
To me this hits on multiple levels. I’ve never seen anything succeed that isn’t a partnership. Inside your company, outside the company, in building and leading an organization, even in my marraige, it all comes back to building a true, trusted and successful partnership between people. By partnering well you’re better and can do more than you ever could by yourself, besides its also way more fun to build something together.
A number of the people at Lijit are incredible talents. Many of them are the "youngest guys or gals in the room". I assume many of them are going to go out eventually and start, run and/or lead very successful orgnaizations. The points above are stuff I’ve learned and still working on to be better at. My hunch is many of them will do the same.