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创业公司比较优势法则

Jeff Bussgang 2011年08月03日

将宏观经济学理论用于创业环境。

    我想我能比自己的助理打字更快(她可能会不同意,并且向我提出挑战)。但是,如果让助理替我去参加董事会会议,而我则呆在办公室里打字,我想,我的创业者们恐怕会不太高兴。

    因此,尽管在绝对意义上我可能比助理打字更快,但我的本职工作是作为一个风险投资家,将绝大多数时间用于和创业者共事,这才是更重要的,是我相对于她来说更擅长的事。

    这个简单的例子来自于大卫•李嘉图发现的一条经济学定律,即所谓的“比较优势法则”,它总能让我着迷。这条定律是说,一个国家与另一个国家相比是否在绝对意义上更善于生产某种商品并不重要。真正重要的是,一个国家与另一个国家相比,是否在生产某种商品上比生产其他类型的商品更有优势,从而决定其其资源投向。

    不幸的是,我发现太多创始人忽视了这条法则的衍生理论——创业公司比较优势法则。我并非大卫•李嘉图,但是在我看来,如果创业者们遵循这条法则,他们企业的收益将与从自由贸易中获得的收益相当。

    创始人们都是天赋出众、多才多艺的专业人士。因此,他们会把大量时间投入去做那些他们可能比组织中其他人肯定要更擅长的事,但如此一来,相对来说,他们在自己特别适合的其他各类事情上就会表现得相对逊色。

    我曾与一位天赋极高的创始人/首席执行官共事。我认为他实际上能比其每一位直接下属更好地完成他们的职能。但是,如果他亲力亲为,把全部时间投入营运项目管理或策略性销售活动,他就没有时间去做相对其团队成员来说唯有他最擅长的事了。

    在一家快速发展的创业公司中,创始人必须对如何利用时间非常谨慎并富有策略。创始人总是抱怨自己分身乏术,手头的工作积压如山,并得努力弄清应如何优先分配自己的精力。

    我想提请创业者们注意的是,在其他各种事项之上,有两大领域是创始人不应假手他人的:这就是产品和员工。与产品相关的活动包括发展与客户的密切关系(研究“客户的声音”),设计产品特性,思考产品战略以及设置优先事项。与员工相关的活动则包括人员聘用,打造企业文化,培训和辅导等。

    如果创始人们发现自己把大量时间投入到与产品或员工无关的事项上时,他们就违反了比较优势法则。他们需要重新思考一下,是否在错误的领域进行了授权,以至于自己无法(适当地)全心投入更合适的领域。

    我记得有一次读到过,在微软公司(Microsoft)发展初期,比尔•盖茨和斯蒂夫•鲍尔默会每个月互相检查各自的日程安排,并相互给出建议,对方应在哪些领域投入时间。这一理念一直让我难以忘怀,因此我的合伙人和我也努力定期这么做。

    尝试以下这种练习:每到周末,回顾你在自己的创业公司上投入的时间,列出其中最重要的6-8个领域(比如,产品,员工,项目管理,营运,营销,销售,投资者关系,以及其他)。学着像律师一样,每到周末就通过给这些范畴逐个“开出账单”来回顾自己所花的时间。当你退后一步并分析自己实际上花了多少时间(相对于你以为自己所花的时间)时,你可能会发现自己能做出适当的调整,更好地安排时间。

    遵循创业企业比较优势法则可能没法让你获得诺贝尔经济学奖,但它能帮你在创业时更有效地运用自己的时间。

    杰弗里•布斯纲是风险投资公司Flybridge Capital Partners公司的一般合伙人。可从Twitter @bussgang了解他的动态。

    译者:清远

    I think I can type faster than my assistant (although she might object, and challenge me to a type-off). But, if my assistant were to sit in on my board meetings while I stayed back in the office and typed, I'm not sure my entrepreneurs would be too happy.

    Thus, despite the fact that I may be a faster typer than her on an absolute basis, it's way more important for my job as a VC that I maximize my time working with entrepreneurs, something I am comparatively better at than she is.

    This simple example is derived from an economic law discovered by David Ricardo that has always fascinated me, called the Law of Comparative Advantage. It says that it does not matter whether a nation is better at producing a particular good on an absolute basis as compared to another nation. What matters is whether a nation is comparatively better at producing a particular good as compared to other goods it can devote its resources to producing relative to another country.

    Unfortunately, I see too many founders ignoring the entrepreneurial corollary to this law, the Start-Up Law of Comparative Advantage. I'm no David Ricardo, but it seems to me that if entrepreneurs followed this "la"", the gains to their start-ups would be akin to the gains attributed to free trade.

    Founders are typically gifted, multi-talented, versatile professionals. As such, they get sucked into spending time doing things that they may be better at than the others in their organization on an absolute basis, but that, comparatively speaking, they are worse at in relation to the handful of things that they are uniquely suited for.

    I work with one founder/CEO who is so talented, I think he literally could perform the job function of each of his direct reports better than they could. But if he spent all his time doing operational project management or tactical sales activities, he wouldn't be able to spend time on the things that only he uniquely can do relative to his teammates.

    In a fast-growing start-up, a founder needs to be very protective and strategic with how they spend their time. Founders are always complaining that they are spread too thin, are overwhelmed with the job at hand, and struggle to figure out how they should be prioritizing their efforts.

    I would submit that, above else, there are two areas a founder should not delegate: Product and people. Product-related activities include developing customer intimacy (studying the "voice of the customer"), designing features, thinking through product strategy and setting priorities. People-related activities include hiring, setting the culture, coaching and mentoring.

    If founders finds themselves spending the bulk of their time on issues not related to product or people issues, they are violating the Law of Comparative Advantage. They need to rethink whether they're delegating in the wrong areas, and not being (appropriately) obsessively hands-on in the right areas.

    I remember reading once that in Microsoft's early days, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer would review each other's calendars on a monthly basis and give feedback to each other on where they should be spending their time. That concept has always stuck with me, and my partners and I endeavor to do the same periodically.

    Try the following exercise: At the end of the week, write down the top 6-8 categories of time spent on your start-up (e.g., product, people, project management, operations, marketing, sales, investor relations, miscellaneous). Like a lawyer, track your hours at the end of the week by "billing" each of these buckets. When you step back and analyze how much time you are actually spending (as opposed to how much time you think you are spending), you may find you can make appropriate adjustments to better deploy your time.

    Adhering to the Start-Up Law of Comparative Advantage may not earn you the Nobel Prize in Economics, but it will help you direct your time more productively when starting your company.

    Jeffrey Bussgang is general partner at venture capital firm Flybridge Capital Partners. You can follow him on Twitter @bussgang

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