Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rough sailing

All organisms die, and most companies do too. It’s perhaps the morbid of morbid realities. When you’re living, death is a surreal perpetual state. When you’re dying, the process is painful, painted with retrospectives and what-ifs. The latter is especially true for on-their-last-rope companies and the teams chartering their evolution.

I’m fortunate to be intimate with and work with a few dozen companies, several of which -- and one in particular -- are navigating risky and rough waters. (As you may recall from a previous post, Greed > Fear = $, risk is derived from the Italian word risco, an expression used by sailors to express the chances of ending up on the rocks.) All companies – at one time or another or more – sail tough seas. It’s part of the game.

With the said company, the signals are sobering: internal mumbling and back-talking, close-the-cube job searching, employees bailing, and myriad confessions venting in. For the first time in my life, I feel like the Pope. Negativity and pessimism happen, but they can fester from a benign to malignant state.

Companies die for one (or more) of many reasons: They run out of cash, their product/service offering does not resonate (deliver enough differential value) in the marketplace, their business models are flawed, they execute poorly. More succinctly – as we discussed in a post last week – it comes down to three things: the team, the product and the market. This company has a solid team delivering a differential and cool product in a great (and growing) market. It doesn’t add up, but business is far from algorithmic. And, like life, business is not fair.

But it’s not too late. The company has wind in its sail (money in the bank), a team with solid sea legs, and a vessel that can outrace its brethren. Here’s hoping they steer away from the rocks and stay afloat.

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