Five Frogs on a Log

I gave a lecture on “Profitable Exiting” at the 30th Annual Venture Capital Institute in Atlanta on Tuesday. This is the major professional education event for the venture capital industry, co-sponsored by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies (NASBIC).

I had never been to a VCI event and didn’t really know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised – I sat through several high quality lectures from very credible folks – aimed at an audience of 180 or so VCs. Most of the attendees were younger and/or relatively new to the venture business, although there were a number of corporate VCs in the audience also. The VCI event was extremely well organized and the content was substantial – covering a wide range of issues faced by VC firms and entrepreneurs. I was pleased to be involved in what I thought was successful event that definitely helps educate new VCs on the business they are in.

The speaker before me was Lewis Jaffe who is known for rescuing PictureTel as it was going down the tubes. Lewis gave a fun speech about how to turn around a company and used what he did at PictureTel as an extensive example to support his approach. In addition to being content-rich, Lewis’ speech was clever and engaging as he presented much of his management theory in simple, accessible, and entertaining ways.

One of his slides started out as a question. “If there are five frogs on a log and four decide to jump off, how many frogs remain on the log.” Of course – the instinctive answer of “one” is wrong. Five frogs actually remain on the log, as deciding to jump and jumping are different things.

In an entrepreneurial context, intentionality is important, but results are what really matter. Lewis reinforced this in a memorable way – as the point he was making is “just because you decide, doesn’t mean you do.” He stressed that one of the main problems he sees early in his tenure as CEO of a company that is failing is paralysis – everyone has ideas about what to do, but no one is willing or able to do them.

Remember – just because a frog decides to jump, doesn’t mean he will. Be careful not to confuse intentionality with results in your business (or your life.)