Certainty

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In life the things that you do depend on the degree of certainty.

A few days back Salma mailed this image and asked me which company seems to have the best revenue split.

Revenue Split

The instinctive answer was to say – Microsoft. They seem to the most diversified. They are not dependent on any one stream of revenue for their survival. Facebook seems the most skewed; If anything was to disrupt advertising altogether, their business would be in turmoil.

Yesterday, I was reading Zero to One by Peter Theil and he made a very pertinent point in there. If you had the opportunity to do something that you knew would not fail, would you put all of your efforts behind it or would you diversify and pursue multiple opportunities. Most successes are a result of determined people acting with belief and putting all of their efforts behind it to make it a success.

He defined the category of people as:

  • Definitely Optimistic – Is certain of a great future and works towards it
  • Definitely Pessimistic – Is certain of failure waiting around the corner and is always bracing for it
  • Indefinitely Optimistic – Is unsure of the future but thinks it will all work out fine
  • Indefinitely Pessimistic – Is unsure of the future but thinks there is a surprise waiting around the corner

Now using this categorisation when you look at the above graphs, the one thing that becomes clear is Facebook is Definitely Optimistic – They are certain about their plans and they think they know what is about to come and are ready for it.

At the same time Microsoft is a clear example of confusion. Given that it is an American company I would say that they are Indefinitely Optimistic. The graph is a clear representation of the fact that they do not know which segment is going to be their cash cow. They are doing everything and  hoping something will go on to become big. At the same time they lack the conviction to say which one and focus more on it. If you make a graph for Microsoft of the early 2000’s, I am sure it would not resemble this. Windows and Office were the flag bearers for Microsoft and they put all of their efforts behind it.

Google and Amazon still have a high skew towards one of their revenue channels because they are Definite about it. Apple looks diversified but a large portion of their services revenue is all thanks to the iPhone that their users use every day. If you look at it from that perspective in all the three cases almost three quarters of their revenue comes from one thing that they do very well.

As a startup it is even more important not to diversify into too many revenue streams since it is very hard to be great at too many things. Be great at one thing and expand that revenue stream as rapidly as you can. You may undertake support activities but a majority of your income will come out of one or two things you do really well. This is also referred to as Pareto Principle – 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the cause. In business 80% of the income comes from 20% of the clients

Would you put all the wood behind one sharp arrow or many blunt ones?

Vision and its role in achieving success

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I travel a lot and I drive very often. I always try to reach the destination as fast as possible.

I use to think that the speed at which you drive is related to the width of the road. The wider road affords you a lot of room to make errors and therefore allowing you to drive faster.

As I drove on the narrow road to Hyderabad, I realise that speed has nothing to do with the width of the road, but is the function of how far you can see. The further you can see with certainty, the faster your able to proceed.

photo copy              photo

When you think of businesses, the same principle translates into an extremely clear vision behind which you are ready to put or commit all of your resources. If the vision for the business is extremely clear than, you have the ability to throw all your weight behind achieving the same. Not only that, you also have the added ability to push forward against all detractors, of which you may find many.

Apple did not come up with an idea of a tablet, but they were the first company who had a clear vision and the belief to commit to the vision. There were many other competitors who came up with the same form factor, but did not have the vision or the belief to pursue it. In fact the success of the iPad is just due to that belief, you can see the difference in the results achieved by Apple and a competitor like Microsoft, HP, Lenovo, et al.

Clarity of vision is by far the best gift that you can give to your business.