Two Lessons From House Of Cards That Helped Us Launch Our Startup

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Turn Over The Table - HOC

Did you think I’ve forgotten you?

Over the last few months, I’ve been heads down working on two new products. I’ve been going through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and have had both highs and lows. If anyone ever told you that entrepreneurship was easy; they lied. It’s a constant challenge and there’s a reason why most businesses fail within their first five years of operations.

If you’re familiar with the show, House of Cards, you’ll understand why I was a bit hesitant to suggest lessons for launching this companies could be taken from the likes of Frank Underwood. He’s ruthless, relentless and remorseless. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the success he envisions for himself and by whatever it takes, I truly mean that..

For me, there are many lessons to be taken from House of Cards that show what to do when going through a tough time and some that show what actions you should always aim to avoid. Like many things in life, I’m a believer that you can learn lessons from everything and anything. House of Cards is a show you can take lessons to apply to business, life, relationships and even starting a company.

Here are a few that I’ve been able to apply to my companies over the last few months…

1. Developing A Strong Core Team Is Key

Even Achilles Was Only - HOC

Frank Underwood recognizes the importance of surrounding himself with people he can trust and rely on. He’s committed to ensuring that those around him are beneficial to his career and his ability to achieve his goals. No matter what relationship you look at, Frank Underwood constantly makes an effort to strengthen his relationships with those around him. Whether you’re watching the first season or are up to date, the development of a strong team is consistent from one season to the next.

When you start a company, you’re driving a bus and it’s your job to ensure that the right people are around you. A lot of people assume that as the entrepreneur, it’s your job to tell everyone where the bus is going but in reality, the best entrepreneurs start with asking “who” and not “where”. This is a sentiment that is a key lesson from the book Good to Great from Jim Collins but also one that Frank Underwood embraces season after season.

In business, an organizations success isn’t dependent on its idea or product, it’s dependent on the team. It’s important to have a team that contributes to a common goal and has the right skillset to help you get across the finish line. Frank recognizes the value that different individuals and different specialties can bring to the table and is constantly ensuring that he’s only surrounding himself with right people. I’ve been striving to do exactly that with both Hustle & Grind.

For me, these are the core traits that are most important for the early team:

  1. Willing To Take Risk: I’m not talking about crazy risks, but those who are on the bus first need to be people who are willing to take risk on a leap of faith. When I approached a handful of folks to discuss helping out with the launch of H&G, those who jumped on board reviewed the risks but didn’t hesitate. Findlay as an example, he was in school but still saw this as an opportunity he was willing to take a risk on. For that, I’m grateful and excited to build this company..
  2. Self Motivated: Some people wake up looking for direction – some people wake up creating it. The people on the bus in an early stage startup really need to be able to creating their own path. You can’t hand hold someone through every step of a business in the early days. You need to have people around you that can do things on their own and take action towards a goal.
  3. Competitiveness:  I hate losing. If you’re going to be joining a team in the early stages, it’s important that you also hate losing. Not an argument. Not a debate. Just hate the idea of losing in business as a whole. Frank Underwood is relentless, ruthless and remorseless for this exact reason – he doesn’t like the idea of losing and refuses to do so.
  4. Team Centric Approach: It’s one of those things that Frank Underwood looks for in everyone around him. If you’re unable to look out for those around you and move forward together – you’re useless. As cliche as it may be, teamwork really does make the dream work.
  5. Street Smarts: Getting out and being willing to get your hands dirty is another piece of the puzzle for an early stage team. If you’re not willing to do everything and anything regardless of your title – get out of the way and let those who are take care of things.

2. Go After The Things You Really Want

Any Risk Falls On Me - HOC

Frank once said, “If we never did anything we shouldn’t do, we’d never feel good about doing the things we should.” One thing that Frank always does is go after what he wants. In fact, he goes after what he wants in every episode and strategically aligns himself with the people that will help him get there. He never loses sight of his end goal and is someone who can think with logic over emotion 9 times out of 10.

Over the last few months, I’ve slowly began to stop working with many of my consulting clients that require anything beyond the core competencies of my services business; Foundation. Rather than spending time doing things that aren’t my speciality (ie. website development, Adwords, Media, etc.) I’ve shifted my focus solely to clients that are looking for my core strategy & content marketing services. While this focus is scary – it’s a focus that will allow me to ensure my time is focused on doing work that I’m passionate about and become the best in one specific field.

Outside of professional success, I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of helping other unlock their full potential. If it wasn’t for the mentors, family members and organizations that helped me unlock my own potential – I have no idea where I’d be today. Because of that, I’ve always wanted to help unlock the potential within youth who aren’t as privileged due to their economic status, race or location. That’s why Hustle & Grind is giving 10% of all profits to an organization that does exactly that..

Finally, I’d be lying if I told you that the last couple years since quitting my job was extremely difficult. It was very financially rewarding and I had some definite highs and lows but I don’t feel I was being challenged to the level I should be. As such, launching and running two new startups is my way of pushing myself to increasing that uncomfort so I can learn and win. Some people might say, I’m biting off more than I can chew but I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity. And to those who think running multiple companies is a bad idea, I’m going  It’s going to be challenge but like Frank Underwood said, if you don’t like the way the table is set – flip the table.. 

What do you think? Any other tips you can take from House Of Cards & Frank Underwood?

(Photo Source: House of Cards, Facebook)

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