Steve Blank is probably best known for his books about starting a business, The Startup Owner’s Manual and Both books are based in his wide experience with starting successful businesses—he has founded 8 different companies—four have gone public—since his arrival in Silicon Valley in 1978.
In the 1990s, Mr. Blank created the customer development methodology which takes a scientific approach to improving products through better understanding customer needs. Today this methodology has been popularized in books like The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Nail It Then Scale It by Nathan Furr.
Steve Blank has taught entrepreneurship at Stanford’s Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley and Columbia, and last year was recognized by The Harvard Business Review as one of 12 Masters of Innovation. With three books, a blog, and a long teaching career, Mr. Blank has said a lot of things that will inspire small business owners. Here’s a taste:
“The company that consistently makes and implements decisions rapidly gains a tremendous, often decisive, competitive advantage.”
“I said ‘There are 500 people in this room. The good news is, in ten years, there’s two of you who are going to make $100 million dollars. The rest of you, you might as well have been working at Wal-Mart for how much you’re going to make.’ And everybody laughs. And I said, ‘No, no, that’s not the joke. The joke is all of you are looking at the other guys feeling sorry for those poor son-of-a-bitches.’”
“What matters is having forward momentum and a tight fact-based data/metrics feedback loop to help you quickly recognize and reverse any incorrect decisions. That’s why startups are agile. By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.”
“…some small segment of founders are truly artists—they see something no one else does. These entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change ‘what is’ and turn it into ‘what can be.’ These founders create new ideas and new markets by pushing the boundaries. This concept of creating something that few others see—and the reality distortion field necessary to recruit the team to build it—is at the heart of what these founders do.”
“In a startup, no business plan survives first contact with customers.”
“A startup is not about executing a series of knowns. Most startups are facing a series of unknowns—unknown customer segments, unknown customer needs, unknown product feature set, etc.”
“For truly visionary founders ‘seeing things that could be’ means more than just a standalone product—it means a world transformed.”
“A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
“Business plans are the tool existing companies use for execution. They are the wrong tool to search for a business model.”
“Startups are painful, stressful and at times demoralizing. You need to be a true believer in the vision of what you are doing. You need to passionate about it and love what you’re doing. If you don’t, there is no way you can sustain the hours, stress and disappointment. There’s no way you’re going to be able to convince investors, customers and most importantly recruit a world-class team if you not building something you think is going to change the world.”
“If the opportunity is so large, and the barriers to starting up so low, why haven’t the number of scalable startups exploded exponentially? What’s holding us back? While it’s easier than ever to draw an idea on the back of the napkin, build a prototype or create a small business on the side, it’s still hard to quit your day job and commit ‘all in.’”
“Revolutions are not obvious when they happen. When James Watt started the industrial revolution with the steam engine in 1775 no one said, ‘Today, everything changes.’ When Karl Benz drove around Mannheim in 1885, no one said, ‘There will be 500 million of these driving around in a century.’ And certainly in 1958 when Noyce and Kilby invented the integrated circuit, the idea of a quintillion (10 to the 18th power) transistors being produced each year seemed ludicrous.”