Last week I went to talk by founder Mike Lynch founder of Autonomy, a very successful software business that got acquired by Hewlett Packard last year. Since that acquisition, Mike has been involved in all kinds of battles with HP and its CEO Meg Whitman.
Luckily that’s not what this talk focused on. Instead, Mike shared some of the key lessons he has learned over the years:
- Focus – Mike explained that ultimately all businesses need to focus on one single thing: sales. Businesses need to set their own agendas and not just be responsive. Even on a personal level, Mike mentioned how he tends to pick 5 things each day that are really important and which he needs to focus on.
- The myth of doing things ‘properly’ – It was interesting to hear Mike effectively killing the idea that there is such a thing as doing things ‘properly’; you do something, you learn and you improve. However, there’s no such thing about doing things ‘properly’.
- Be flexible, things never go according to plan – Mike pointed out that the original business plan almost never survives, especially in a fast-pace environment like the technology sector. It was refreshing to hear Mike talk about the need to be flexible, especially when you get things wrong; admit you got it wrong, change things and move forward.
- Hedging – I guess in a similar vein to Mike’s previous point about being flexible, he also suggested to hedge your bets. His argument is that with so much market uncertainty, it’s a good thing to be able to spread your (product) bets.
- Do not start unless you have an unfair advantage – In his talk, Mike used the analogy of “taking a gun to a knife fight” meaning that there’s only a point in taking on the competition if you have some form of unfair competitive advantage or unique value.
- Create your own game – A point that sounds fairly obvious but isn’t; “don’t define what you do in terms of what the competition does.” Mike thus stressed the importance of creating your own game and your own unique value proposition.
- Vision is everything – When Mike started talking about the importance of having a vision, I almost wanted to give him a hug. Whether it’s having a vision on a company-level or on a product-level, Mike explained how important it is to have a vision, a mission to change the world and how this can influence the products you build. He mentioned how technical people in particular “hate to see an inferior product win.”
Main learning point: I found it really helpful and inspiring to listen to Mike Lynch’s overview of his lessons learned. The honesty with which he talked about not always getting ‘it’ right and the need to be flexible, I found very refreshing and inspiring. Definitely a great person learn from!