Extract from Chapter 1 of Realpolitik “Eight Essential Aspects Of Small Company Boards”
Essence 1 – The Top Priority Is Growth And A Good Board Helps You To Grow
Starting up is an act of creation that needs nourishing, it needs nurturing, it needs growth and feeding without which it will die. Regardless of which economic sector you are in, which country you are in, it all starts the same way. You have an idea. An idea about a product or service. An idea about a gap in the vast panoply of provisions already available. Naturally there are very few gaps in mature economies. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs create a gap in the market that never appeared to be there, or even create a market that didn’t exist before. Having had your idea you also need to have the desire to go out there and make it happen. And then the journey begins.
The inception of every company in the world, no matter how small or how large, was the same. At conception the fertilisation of a field of infinite potential occurs when a spark of light, a dawning of a new idea, enters. This is a very mysterious process – the prosaic descriptions of finding gaps in the market doesn’t even start to describe the moment of impulse. What is it in the human being that enables them to produce something that never existed before? After all, your idea didn’t exist before you had it and nor did your Company before you created it.
Based on my many conversations with real disruptors the Ancient Greek description of a visit from the Muse is a more accurate description than any MBA course’s “mark scheme” answer.
After the light enters your mind the next stage is turning it from a thought, from potentiality, into something real. At this point the Muses hand over to Prometheus.
The founder needs to bang rocks together to instantiate that Promethean spark and then use this to light a tiny fire on some dry tinder and then spread that fire.
The Startup phase is all about nurturing your newborn infant, that tiny spark, helping it to grow bigger and stronger and more robust. You need to surround that tiny spark, or sparks, as you keep banging the rocks together, with yet more tinder and combustible materials and take it from being something which will die if left unattended to a robust fire burning bright.
The founder needs to build a Company around him to help this fire spread. A vital part of this Company is the Board and a good SmallCo Board will, simply put, help that fire grow well and sustainably.
Incidentally, fire as a metaphor for business creation, growth and control links nicely into the observation of the relative environments for SmallCos in the US and in the UK. Many of you will have heard the observation that, if you have a small fire in the US, they will throw petrol on it to see if it can make a huge fire, whereas in the UK they will throw cold water on it to see if it can survive.
Either way, whether you are being doused with petrol or water, you need to manage the whole show.