Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

WHO, Not What, Why, When, Where, or How


question-mark-faceThroughout the week, every week, I encounter entrepreneurs who are in between companies or for one reason or another looking for the next adventure. They’ve either sold a company, or closed one down, or were on a team and decided to leave.

Entrepreneurs are an impatient species. We don’t like to sit around and ponder the universe. We don’t do well in quiet times.  We always need the next hit.  I’ve been through this myself, and the absolute best advice that I received, literally changed my life.

This advice came in the form of a thought-provoking question. The question is very simple.

WHO do you want to work with? Not what, why, when, or where. Just WHO.

Selecting the co-founder, team, investors, partners, etc. is really and truly all that matters. Your decision is more simple than you realize.  Ask any successful entrepreneur.

- Ideas (What) – This will change a dozen times in the first year.

- Why – Your why, at this point, is because you are an entrepreneur. You can’t deny who you are. You build things, grow things, sell things.  You need to be on a team that fits with who you are.

- When – You always have more runway than you think. There’s no hurry. Slow down, wait for the perfect fit.

- Where – Geography is irrelevant these days.

- How – Let’s be honest. True entrepreneurs don’t care about the how in much anything they do. :)

The saying “hire slow, and fire fast” is infinitely more true when it comes to selecting a co-founder and team for your next venture. The slower the better. Selecting the right WHO is the biggest factor in setting your next trajectory.



Category: Gumption
  • BarrettBrooks says:

    Really good stuff here, Johnson. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been in between companies so take my comments for what they’re worth with that in mind.

    I agree about the focus on the who. However, I would add that it’s equally, if not more, important to focus on who you want to serve/help with your next project. At any given time the tasks at hand might suck, but if the people you’re building for are people you care about, it makes it infinitely more bearable.

    To add to that, focusing on who you’re serving can help you identify which of the people you’d like to work with you should prioritize. By sharing a focus on a certain demographic or psychographic slice of the population, you can align much easier with someone you’re excited to work alongside.

    For example, I just got done working on a project in NYC with an author I’ve admired for a long time. Yes, it wa important to me to get to work with him and learn from him, but I was also very passionate about the target group of users. I can’t say I would have had the same enthusiasm for the project without that alignment.

    September 10, 2013 at 10:41 pm
    • Johnson Cook says:

      Absolutely Brooks. This is perhaps why I would be terrible at certain professions (ahem, let’s go with Finance and Law for now). I want to enjoy the people I’m investing my time in… not just my co-founders, but my customers, my prospects, my employees, my investors, my mentors, and even my competitors.

      WHO is absolutely 360 degree question.

      September 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm

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