How to stop VCs’ best practices becoming damaging cookie-cutter solutions

One of the advantages of having great VCs on your board is that they recommend best practices — what’s working — from their other successful portfolio companies.

But managing a company may be no different from managing people. If one of the two factors that determine individuals’ success is Do you get to do what you are best at every day?, then perhaps the key to the success of your company is Are you focusing on what you’re best at? Your company has unique culture, abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and will win in its own way. And trying to mimic what’s made other companies successful can be particularly damaging if it means spending your time on what you don’t enjoy and aren’t good at.

I recently chatted with a VC who said Seeking Alpha would top out at a two or three hundred million dollar valuation, but would never be worth a billion dollars or more. When I asked why, he said “Because you don’t do any buzz-generating PR, and if you were committed to massive success you’d move to New York.”

But being great at PR and doing meetings in NYC are not what we’re uniquely good at. (Much of a company’s DNA comes from its founder, and I’m an introvert.) We’ve built the largest buy-side research platform, with millions of readers and subscribers and massive brand recognition among investors, without doing any PR and without being in New York. It’s not our way.

It’s fine to take from what’s working elsewhere, but you have to filter and adapt it to your own unique DNA.

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