Leadership

Prime Future 56: A right time for everything, the builder’s version

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There is a right time for everything.

There is a time to be born and a time to die.

There is a time to plant and a time to pull up plants. 

There is a time to look for something and a time to stop looking for it.

….

I love the Ecclesiastes framework of life. That everything is seasonal, dynamic, contextual.

I’ve been thinking about how much good advice we have access to…articles, books, podcasts, people. So much advice about what to do and so much of it good, but often conflicting. (E.g. wake up at 3:30 am bc hustle wins but also get 9.2 hours of sleep bc the well rested win. Good advice, but conflicting.)

There’s even more good but conflicting advice offered on building a startup, a product, a career, or…anything.

Perhaps the highest value muscle to build is discernment…knowing when to do, more than what to do.

If I were to rewrite the Ecclesiastes framework for people building & creating, it would look something like this…

There is a right time for everything.

A time to be highly strategic and a time to throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

A time to expand optionality and a time to hyper commit.

A time to ignore to the skeptics and a time to listen carefully.

A time to meticulously plan and a time to just👏🏽get👏🏽started👏🏽.

A time to seek outside input and a time to trust your gut.

A time to seek out new people with fresh eyes and a time to sit at the proverbial feet of wise old industry owls.

A time to focus on growth and a time to focus on profitability.

A time to expand your circle and a time to link up with the few & hang on tight.

A time to generously schedule intro calls and a time to ruthlessly guard your calendar.

A time to raise outside capital and a time to bootstrap.

A time to talk to every single sales leads and a time to relentlessly qualify leads.

A time to optimize for short term results and a time to optimize for the long term.

A time to reject process and a time to make smart process your secret weapon.

A time to speak truth to power and a time to be diplomatic.

A time to burn the ships and a time to hedge your bet.

…I could go on, mainly because I write this from a place of choosing incorrectly on all of these, and realizing it only with the benefit of hindsight. I like to think there are ways to build the discernment muscle other than just screwing up but maybe that’s it, that’s how the learning becomes real and practical and personal.

The challenge is that most outside advice comes from a place of survivorship bias, with strong hints of ‘here’s what worked for me so here’s what you should do’. But of course there are a gajillion factors that influence the right step at any given time. Situational context, trajectory, people, capabilities, personalities, resources, starting point, and end game, just to name a few.

I’m increasingly convinced that discernment is one of those intangible super powers that mega effective leaders and builders have cultivated. #goals

P.S. There’s even a time to switch publishing day from Saturday to a weekday. This newsletter is still once a week. What day do you like to receive newsletters?


Wisdom of the crowd

Following last week’s discussion on the tricky dynamics for processors of being competitor focused or customer focused (and what happens when words mismatch reality), ag economist Eric Micheels shared some academic research looking at the same dynamics for beef producers. I hate when academic work gets disconnected from the real world…this is not that. Here are some poignant highlights:

  • “Learning faster than one’s rivals may be the only way to achieve sustained competitive advantage in highly competitive markets, such as beef production.”
  • “As the competitive landscape in agriculture changes from a purely commodity-based sector to one where firms attempt to differentiate their offerings through different production practices, improved channel relationships, or alternative marketing strategies, factors other than size and experience may become increasingly important.”  (say it ain’t so)
  • “Managerial heuristics based on prior experience generated under different environmental conditions might not optimize performance in the current environment.” Translation: the rules of thumb that got you here won’t get you there.
  • “Organizational learning significantly contributes to innovativeness while we also find that greater managerial experience leads to decreased organizational learning.” Translation: sometimes experience is an asset, sometimes it’s a liability.
  • “Those firms who are able to become aware of changing market conditions and are able to develop solutions to meet increasingly stringent consumer and buyer requirements may be better positioned to change with the market and to be successful during the development of new marketing and production channels.” Translation: Tired of being a price taker? Build a moat. (link)

Relevant Reads

(1) For a peek at where the whole ‘carbon thing’ might be evolving with food companies, check out this announcement from Panera: low carbon cool food meals. Love it or hate it – this fits with the conversation about ‘Climate + Ag: what gets measured gets monetized’. Note the idea of what % of your daily recommended carbon footprint should be allocated to each meal. Will that become mainstream’ish?

(2) This article by Shane Thomas of Upstream Ag Insight, ‘Technology Quotients and Resourcefulness: Catalysts for Agribusiness Success’ is fantastic. Here’s a snippet:

In knowledge work you can pull on two main levers to accomplish better outcomes:

  • More effective – be more creative, have a superior tactic or strategy that lead to better outcomes (eg: sales, cost reductions etc)
  • More efficient – accomplish more with less effort (eg: reach more customers with less resources)

In ag we like to talk about working hard and hours worked, but in knowledge work the emphasis should be on outcomes and results; this means the emphasis shouldn’t be on hours worked, but outcomes achieved.

This brings us to resourcefulness as a skillset. Part of being resourceful stems from having a growth mindset.

And then he jumps into the best part, the idea of “Technology Quotient” & implications. (link)


Prime Future is a weekly newsletter that allows me to learn out loud. I’m on the Merck Animal Health Ventures team. Prime Future represents my personal views only.

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Technology only has a fighting chance in agriculture when it definitively improves producer outcomes🤑 and/or consumer outcomes😃. Tech for the sake of tech is a road to nowhere.

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Unpopular opinion: DAOs are just blockchains all dressed up & looking for something to do on a Friday night.

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Constitution DAO is probably the most public example, recently formed to purchase a copy of the US Constitution that was going up for auction. The group raised ~$40M which wasn’t quite enough to snag the prize, so the DAO was dissolved.

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