Time to Refresh

Mike Peña, Stanford University January 6, 2015

If you’re leading an entrepreneurial venture, the new year can be an ideal time for redefining and rejuvenating. In a startup’s early days, founders can code all night, talk to customers all day, while keeping a small and devoted team on track the rest of the time. But once a business grows and becomes more complex, those sleep-deprived entrepreneurs will have to let go of some of those responsibilities to focus full time on leading the company and charting its path forward.

In other words, it becomes a matter of redefining the leadership role. For the final Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders talk of 2014, Ben Horowitz, of the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, pointed to Google Co-Founder Larry Page as a poignant example of someone who simply cannot take on everyday technical tasks anymore.

“He cannot work on production products. It’s a full-time job – even for somebody who can do as many things as Larry,” said Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. “If Larry can’t do it, you can’t, either. I guarantee you.”

A new year can also be a great time to start seeing things with fresh eyes. As she discovered while researching for her book Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, leadership educator and author Liz Wiseman found that experience had the ironic effect of limiting people’s ability to see things clearly – because they often made assumptions based on previous experiences instead of being open to new data points, perspectives and possibilities.

The solution, Wiseman says, is to maintain a “rookie” mindset. But what if you’re a grizzled veteran in your field who has seen and done it all before? Here, Wiseman shares how a surfer-turned-CEO, French filmmaker and accomplished scholar all found ways to return to their rookie roots and reinvigorate themselves.

Once rejuvenated, however, it’s also important to maintain perspective. A new year and a new outlook may inspire you to begin the next chapter in your venture. The challenge of building on success, whether it’s refining a product or reinventing a business altogether, is one that few in the tech sector have pulled off at scale:

In the clip above, Lewis Cirne, founder and CEO of New Relic, shows cautious optimism that his software-analytics company will be able to pull it off. And yet, entrepreneurs have always been known to fixate on that next big thing. So, if the only alternative is complacency, is there really any other choice?