自从奥萨马•本•拉登被击毙以来，全世界对海豹突击队（Navy SEALs）的兴趣与日俱增。我承认，我自己对他们也非常着迷。雷迪金融集团（Ready Financial）是我的投资组合中的一家公司，其CEO 威尔•图穆迪便是一位退役的海豹突击队员（服役期1990 – 1995）。好心的威尔向我介绍了他的一位战友——布兰登•罗杰斯（服役期1990 - 2000）。不久前，布兰登为包括我在内的、来自美国纽约市科技行业的20位CEO及公司创始人讲述了海豹突击队的故事——在他们执行作战任务背后的训练、计划制定和运作情况；并且，他还为企业家们给出了几条相关经验。从海豹突击队退役后，布兰登先后加入了哈佛商学院（HBS）和麦肯锡咨询公司（McKinsey），之后与他人共同创办了自己的对冲基金，丰富的阅历让他的观点不但有趣，而且具有多面性。
在聚会结束时，对于那些为国家服务的勇士，还有培养出如此始终如一、如此卓越的“产品”的机制，所有人都非常感激。布兰登也是海豹突击队基金会 （Navy SEALs Foundation）的联合创始人。该基金会是一家非营利性组织。并非每次行动都像几周前在巴基斯坦那么顺利，如果海豹突击队员们因执行任务出现闪失，该基金会将帮助照顾他们的家属。这让我很受鼓舞，宴会一结束，我便为该基金会捐款。这里有更多相关内容。
本文作者杰弗里•巴斯冈是风险投资公司飞桥资本合伙公司（Flybridge Capital Partners）的一般合伙人。
There has been a surge in interest with the world of the Navy SEALs since the Osama bin Laden action, and I confess to being caught up in it myself. One of my portfolio company CEOs, Will Tumulty of Ready Financial, is a former SEAL (1990-1995). Will was kind enough to introduce me to a SEAL classmate of his, Brendan Rogers (SEAL 1990-2000), who joined me and 20 NYC CEOs/founders from the tech scene last night to talk about the SEALs -- the training, the planning and the operations behind their combat operations -- as well as drawing out some relevant lessons for entrepreneurs. Brendan went on to HBS and McKinsey after the SEALs and then co-founded his own hedge fund, so he had an interesting, multi-faceted perspective.
The discussion was wide-ranging and entertaining. The five key lessons Brendan highlighted were as follows:
1. What's hard is good.SEALs go through an intensive 6 month training program called Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S). The program is designed to test a candidate's physical and mental limits. Traditionally, by the time of SEAL graduation, the attrition rate is as high as 70%. SEALs quickly learn that the punishment and pain of training hardens their minds and bodies and adapt to embrace the tough environs. Brendan pointed out that start-up executives who go through hard times should learn to relish them, recognizing that the hard times will toughen the team and train them properly for "battle."
2. 80% training, 20% execution.When SEALs are not on acutal combat deployments, they are spending the vast majority of their time training for a number of different types of missions. In contrast, at startups, executives typically spend 100% of their time executing and 0% of their time training. Brendan emphasized the importance of training and practice in all areas - employee onboarding, management practices, etc. He commented on the importance of training for unexpected situations. The simultaneous shooting of three Somali pirates at sea as part of a hostage rescue two years ago was an example of the kind of outcome possible when SEALs prepare for all conditions. The CEOs in the room had wide eyes and were certainly thinking hard about their training regimens and scenario planning after that example.
3. Every seat counts.Brendan pointed out the price of settling for mediocrity, even in a big organization. Every SEAL needs to know with 100% confidence that the man behind them will be able to save their life and get them out of a bad situation The CEOs in the room were asked if they could say the same about their management teams and if those management teams, in turn, could say that about their lieutenants. One CEO objected that he had 1,000 employees in his company and couldn't possibly hire all "A's."
Brendan replied by citing the example of D-Day. Eisenhower planned D-Day with a small number of subordinates who he turned to and said, "Select 12 men underneath you who can trust with your life to execute this mission. " Each of those men did the same. And so on and so on. That cascading effect resulted in the successful employment and combat engagement of over 2 million troops throughout Europe. The lesson? Don't let a large organization be an excuse for mediocrity.
4. Everyone is expendable.The SEALs are trained in a nearly identical manner and no one SEAL is indispensible to the unit or the mission. The nature of combat is that anyone can be lost at any time. Entrepreneurial companies have a harder time executing on this philosophy since there are specialists and superstars, but Brendan's message was to make sure contingency plans were thought through for any set of personnel circumstances.
5. You never know the measure of a person until they are tested.As mentioned earlier, the SEALs training program weeds out 70% of participants. Brendn conveyed that the people he thought would never drop out did while others proved to be more resilient and tougher than imagined. Until your people are really tested (see "what is hard is good"), you can never be sure who will step up and who will falter. One sure sign, based on pattern recognition, is that those that talk tough and are full of bluster are predictably those that are the first to blanch in the face of adversity. Quiet strength and determination in a start-up are invaluable. When you see it in your people, bottle it.
Everyone left with a great appreciation for those brave men who serve our country so ably, and the system behind it that produces such a consistent, excellent "product." Brendan is also the co-founder of the Navy SEALs Foundation, a non-profit that helps take care of the families of SEALs when things don't go as smoothly as they did in Pakistan a few weeks ago. I was inspired to make a donation to the organization immediately after the dinner. You can read more about them here.
One final humorous note: Brendaen observed that the spouses of Navy SEALs are as tough as nails themselves and impossible to impress. They still make their spouses take out the garbage, do the dishes and change diapers -- no matter how impressive their accomplishments in the field of battle is. I suspect many start-up executives have similar, appropriately humbling marital arrangements...
Jeffrey Bussgang is general partner at venture capital firm Flybridge Capital Partners.