You may have heard the adage that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. When it comes to the business of venture capital, it’s no exception.
However, there’s one caveat to this theory that is often overlooked: deliberateness. If you’re a firm believer that practice does, in fact, make perfect, yet your definition of practice is just mindlessly going through the motions, you’re wasting your time. To truly master a skill, you need not only significant training volume but also excellent quality. Quality training, in its essence, is more efficient training. Meaning there is less time needed to achieve the result desired. One surefire way to ensure that your training efforts are of high quality is to incorporate a serious amount of variety.
If you’re still with me, I’m going to show you how this can all tie into venture capital with two examples.
Running Pitch Meetings
There are a few things that go into running a good pitch meeting; the main one is asking good questions. When a general partner asks you how a meeting went, and you can’t answer some of her basic questions, it is utterly mortifying. I’d know, I’ve seen me do it.
The advice I’ll give here is twofold. You can’t learn how to run a pitch meeting well if you don’t try your hand at running them yourself. Also, you won’t learn how to run better meetings if you don’t observe how others do it. At Venture University, I make a point to not only hold meetings with our general partners there, Sky and Andrew, but also with many of my coworkers. I’ll often bring in people from other teams or sit in others’ meetings to observe the types of questions they ask and learn from that. Otherwise, I’m just sitting in the conference room day after day asking the same questions, not getting any better, and not learning anything.
Building and Analyzing Financial Models
This is a great example where volume training has a significant effect on your ability to master this technical skill. Yet, your ability to compare one company’s business model to another drastically enhances your ability to understand and ultimately create a model. If you’ve built a model for 50 restaurant companies, you’ll inherently know what standard metrics to expect and can see when something is out of whack. You’ve got to get your revolutions in.
The key takeaway here is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. My old high school rowing coach used to tell our team that “every day you have the option of getting better or worse.” Maybe that statement was profound, or maybe it just stuck with me because he was a 6’5″ German dude that scared the living daylights out of me.
Doing something familiar every day won’t help you grow as quickly as trying new approaches, and entertaining new ideas.