Employees Not So Different From Entrepreneurs October 4, 2005Posted by theexpert in Business.
Don Dodge, former VP of Product Development at (the old) Napster, wrote, “Napster – the inside story and lessons for entrepreneurs.” He listed some of the lessons he learned from the whole Napster ordeal, including:
Never get too far ahead of the market. Creating new markets, new business models, and value propositions is very difficult and takes lots of time and money. Pioneers are usually unsuccessful, the fast followers make most of the money.
Never start a business focused on solving a big company’s problem. They don’t know they have a problem…and they are probably right. That is how they got to be so big in the first place. The record labels didn’t know they had a digital distribution problem and were not interested in our solution to it.
These remind me of my early experiences as a full-time employee of a large organization. Part of my job included putting out fires, and I felt like I was fighting the same fires over and over again. I also felt like I could identify The Source of all the fires, but every attempt at getting the organization to address The Source was rebuffed. The Source, I was told, was not something that could be reasonably dealt with, and putting out the same fire repeatedly was understood to be a cost of doing business.
I understand that they have since changed their mind and have been working on addressing The Source for more than a year now. Now, it’s quite possible that my approach to initiating change was a bad one; it was early in my career and I was unfamiliar with organizational behavior. It’s also possible that I was ahead of my time or the organization didn’t know it had a problem. I suspect it was a combination of all those things. One thing I’m more sure of is that employees and entrepreneurs face some similar challenges when it comes to making progress with large (and maybe small, as well) organizations. To employees of large organizations trying to initiate change from within, it would probably behoove you to listen to VCs and entrepreneurs talk about the lessons they have learned. They are sure to be relevant.