Are you a golf fan?
The most prestigious golf tournament in the world is held in Scotland every year; it is called British Open or, colloquially, The Open.
It is the oldest of the four major championships in tournament golf and played across a links course (coastal sand dunes). The ferocious winds and undulating terrain require extreme levels of skill. It is considered the finest test in professional golf.
Why is this important?
In July 2015 the final round of The Open was played on the historic old course of St. Andrews and subsequently won by 39 year old Zach Johnson for a prize purse of a little under £1.2 million.
However, Johnson had finished his round earlier than the other golfers which included South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen, the American Jordan Spieth and the Australians Marc Leishman and Jason Day.
With a final score of 15 shots under par he had to wait patiently on the other golfers finishing several holes before he would know whether he had won or lost the oldest golf trophy in history.
Of course, there was a looming third option.
One, or all of the golfers may tie with Zach Johnson and the game would go to a play off consisting of replaying the same 4 holes until a clear winner emerged. If no winner emerged the play off would be repeated until someone did win.
Zach Johnson, potentially, had another full day of golf in front of him.
What would you do in such a situation?
To frame this conundrum the final holes of the St. Andrews Old Course are in full view from several grandstands, hotels and vantage points.
Most individuals would have watched the final holes with bated breath.
Instead, Johnson retired to the practice range, out of sight, until called forward with the news of whether he had won or lost.
A runner would deliver him a message letting him know whether he would have to fight for his share of a £6 million prize fund and, more importantly, his name engraved into the history book of golf.
The camera watched him casually hitting practice drive after practice drive and chip after chip as the crucial shots being played by Oosthuizen, Day, Spieth and Lieshman were played out on the course itself.
Except Johnson was doing something else.
Something other than practising. Something crucial.
He was staying warm, and in sport, warmth is the ultimate preparation for victory.
Why is this important to entrepreneurs?
In 2013, I was returning from the IP Expo conference, held in London. The conference had been a success and my own talk was well received but our start-up had received some bad news.
A supplier had pulled out of our service arrangement putting the product in jeopardy. I was with my co-founder at the time and we were just jumping onto the Tube (London Subway) to head back to the co-working space.
My co-founder was Operations Director whilst I handled product, marketing and investment. I remember trying to maintain positivity; we have failed and we need to learn from it, it’s just a setback, lean startup etc
Suddenly I had a tap on the shoulder and two well-dressed gentlemen were standing there. They were both early to late fifties.
“Gee” they said in a thick American accent.
“That sounds like tech startup talk. Would you guys happen to know the way to Farringdon?”
I blinked in surprise.
“Sure. We are going back to Farringdon. We have an office in the Innovation Warehouse.”
The individual stuck out his hand;
“Hi, I am Will Bunker, the founder of (what eventually became) Match.com and this is my investment partner Lee McNutt. He served in the Reagan administration. We are part of Silicon Valley Growth Syndicate. How long till Farringdon?”
“A few mins” I replied, shaking his hand enthusiastically.
“Great. Then you can pitch me. Right here. Let’s do it.
And I did. I elevator pitched my startup idea right there in the crowded swaying Subway car.
Will scratched his chin.
How much you fellas need?
That sounds doable. Here is my card, maybe get you boys out to Dallas. They would love this in the USA.
Unfortunately our startup died prior to reaching the investment stage, for reasons I will cover in another post. We never did get to go to Dallas but the point was that I knew our product inside and out. I could pitch it anywhere under any conditions.
I was comfortable and in my element.
I knew the potential market and the initial target market. I knew the unique selling point and the differentiator between other industry products.
I knew the elevator pitch and I knew what I needed.
In sporting terms, I was warm. I stayed warm always.
Today, in my career, I am comfortable discussing the finer points of the Agile Manifesto, Scrum or delivery management. I stay warm. I rarely watch other players as the compete.
Are you staying warm in your career? Have you refreshed your investment deck or training materials? Are you networking enough to take your platform or product to the next level? Do all of your employees know your company mission statement?
Are you so warm that you can pitch an investor should you ever find yourselves standing next to them on a crowded subway car?