Stephen Hays

@stephenhays

NO EXCUSE! A Way of Life for Founders and Entrepreneurs

In my first year and a half as a venture investor I have learned a lot about the space and the incredible, innovative solutions, passionate entrepreneurs are bringing to market.

I have also noticed a stark contrast in the mentality of some founders versus others. While there are many ways to categorize founders, there is one criteria that matters a lot to me: The ability to demonstrate a “no excuse” attitude toward everything.

When I was in college (West Point), during the first summer of hazing and our first academic year, I was permitted four responses to those in command over me:

A “new cadet” practicing his 4th response!
  1. Yes, sir (or Ma’am)
  2. No, sir (or Ma’am)
  3. Sir/Ma’am, I do not understand
  4. No excuse, sir (or Ma’am)

99.9% of the time an upperclassman asked me a question, the right answer was number 4. No excuse. Here are some good examples:

“Why is it raining?” — Answer: “No Excuse, Sir”

“What is wrong with you, cadet?” — Answer: “No Excuse, Ma’am”

Let’s say, hypothetically, an upperclassman dumps a carton of milk on my head and says, “Why is there milk on the floor, cadet?” — My answer: “No Excuse, Sir.”

You get the idea. At some point during that first year of school I started to realize that I am responsible for everything in my presence in some way shape or form. Then I started to figure out that with proper planning, I could prevent a situation where I would have to use the “no excuse” response. That is a golden lesson and I’m grateful I learned it early in life.

Founders of startups need to embrace the “no excuse” mentality. I mean I get it, someone didn’t write you a check they said they would, or a customer left you for no good reason, your employees let you down, your dog ate your MRR, your computer crashed, there’s no talent here in town, we have to do ‘A’ before we can do ‘B’, blah, blah, blah. NO EXCUSE!

NO EXCUSE — just go execute. Take control of everything that is supposedly holding you back. Go dominate and kick the ass of anything that is in your way. Then learn to prevent anything from getting in your way before it even has the chance to do so.

NO EXCUSE, ever, not once, not even a little bit.

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