(I have this face 50% of the time running my startup…)
I found myself watching ‘The Lego Movie’ with my kids on the holidays and couldn’t help but notice some key similarities in the storyline with my experience founding my startup, BenchOn. Here are my 4 reasons why:
- Everything is Awesome! You know the song. The song your kids sing until you lose your sanity… To me, that is the anthem promoted by corporations to remind all of the workers how happy they are following the status quo. I can just see an HR Manager getting staff to sing that in the annual employee engagement seminar before they tick off the box saying that all employees love their job.
To get back to the story though, our hero, Emmett, tries everything he can to be happy in this status quo world yet no matter how hard he tries, he just doesn’t fit in. He does everything by the book but he just can’t make it work. He intuitively knows something is off about his world yet can’t quite put his finger on it. Until one day he stumbles onto something that breaks all of the rules and he can’t help but go down the rabbit hole to find out where it leads.
All entrepreneurs will be familiar with this in their lives. We do the right things, go to university, get a job yet we intuitively know there is something else out there for us. Then it hits us, the idea, the holy grail of ideas, the one thing that we have to have a go at otherwise we would never forgive ourselves – and so it begins.
- Building by instructions VS the Master Builders. In the Lego world that Emmett belongs to, everything is built using instructions (think Processes and Procedures). No deviations from the plan – it must be perfect (Bureaucracy doesn’t support agility or out of the box thinking. Even when they do set up another ‘Innovation Department’). This perfect world is constructed by our villain – the evil Lord Business (they are making this really easy for me!). But Emmett soon learns there is another way – The Master Builder way where you make it up as you go along and build something with nothing else but your imagination and hard work (Let’s call this the ‘Innovation Boom’).
It sounds easy enough – if you can think it, you can build it. And that is what many of us as entrepreneurs are trying to do. We have lived for so long in the comfort of our employer’s set processes and procedures where all we had to do was follow the bouncing ball, but with a startup, none of that exists! You make it up as you go along and with unlimited configurations and options, it can become extremely overwhelming to deal with (which Emmett found out very quickly). This can lead to conflict, anxiety, feeling lost or not feeling like you are good enough and it was as scary a realisation for me as it was for Emmett.
- Under constant attack by Big Business. Throughout the movie, Emmett is continually chased, harassed and attacked by Lord Business and his evil Business Bots (Side note: I thought the ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ character was the perfect example of an Executive Assistant – the gatekeeper to Lord Business who can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Ha!). Surely this point doesn’t need much explanation. As a startup, you are constantly looking for competitors and you are continually asked by investors what your plan is to stop other businesses doing what you do. It is a constant battle that plagues you most days and is one of the big reasons why you find yourself awake at 3 am. Unless Batman works for you…
- Surround yourself with a team who have done this before. Emmett survives the ordeal and achieves ultimate success because he found people along the journey with a variety of skills that helped him through his trials (Batman, Wyldfire, the Wizard etc). Without them, he would have failed or if he chose the wrong companions, he would have failed. He survived because he was mentored, trained, guided and supported by those that know the Master Builder life.
This too is an obvious comparison to the advisors, mentors and employees that you collect along the way. Choose wisely and use their experience at every opportunity. Choose superstars that believe what you believe and can open your eyes to things you may not have thought of. And trust them! Just because you didn’t think of it yourself, take the time to understand their advice and make your decisions based on all the facts.
Never fear though – if Emmett can do it, then there is hope for all of us! Trust your idea, trust your team, work hard and watch the credits roll after you have changed the world.
Written by: Tim Walmsley, CEO and Founder of BenchOn