I’m reading Peter Thiel‘s new book, Zero to One. Wow. He is truly a contrarian as most of his ideas fly in the face of doing business in any type of traditional way. Some would even say his ideas are scary. One overarching idea I’m noticing in the book is about his focus on building the future. He is dead set on investing in things now that have far reaching future-focused results. I’m glad he has made this his focus. This sums up the struggle in our profession – we do things for immediate results instead of investing in the future. Truly, creating a future-focused firm is hard for a number of reasons:
- You have to commit to a future that you think you can create. The future is not here yet. Peter Thiel believes the future will be here when we create it. Many people avoid thinking about the future, as it brings uncertainty and fear. What if we don’t like the future that we create?
- You may begin to create the wrong future. This scares many firm owners too. What if you start down the road of creating a future that turns out to be wrong?
- In our ever-changing world, we may not even have the tools we need right now to create the future we envision. That could be frustrating (and a reality I experienced when our firm was working to become totally virtual a few years ago). What if you start down a road, only to find a roadblock of missing resources in the future?
Like Peter Thiel, I believe in a future that is bright, big, and full of new things. I believe in a future that is not yet created. I know it’s scary to some, but the hope of being able to envision a future and actually create it gets me really excited! Here are some keen ideas from Thiel’s book that can help our profession become Future-Focused Firms:
1. “Today’s ‘best practices’ lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.” pg. 1, Preface Here we see Thiel’s daring optimism. When we, as a profession, begin to sell new things, and design new value that is not yet created, we will become the most important profession in the world. As it stands, we work on measuring, counting, and surveying each other into dead ends. We are simply ‘smelling each other’s rear ends.’ But the best paths are the ones not yet tried, the paths others are scared to travel down.
2. “How much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reactions to past mistakes? The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.” pg. 22, Ch. 2 Bold thinking is what our profession needs. If the only things we make are simply reactions to past mistakes, then we are destined to shape a future that looks much like what we have today. I don’t call that progress.
3. “Creating value is not enough – you also need to capture some of the value you create.” pg. 23, Ch. 3 This shocked me, but I agreed with it the moment I read it. Everyone wants to create value. But no one talks about capturing any of it. Our future-focused firms must create large amounts of profit for its owners. Some will call this greed, but I call it good stewardship. Strong, entrepreneurial organizations create jobs, add new value to their customers, and have resources to invest in changing lives. We must not only create value (which our profession struggles to do), but capture some of it too.
4. “If you want to create and capture lasting value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business.” pg. 25, Ch. 3 Peter Thiel is into making big bets and into building new and lasting companies. It takes courage to take on this journey. Firms need to do this. We have to stop being the same as everyone else. We must dominate our niches, operate in blue ocean strategies, and be so valuable that large profits are a result of our great work. Allowing our firms to remain commodities is tantamount to mismanagement of our profession, our clients, and our internal resources.
5. “Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past.” pg. 39, Ch. 4 Here, Thiel is talking about competition. He fundamentally disagrees with competition in that it forces us to look to the side instead of forward where new value exists. He explains why, but he says in a perfectly competitive environment, all of the profits of a profession are competed away as we all fight for the same dollars. Rather, we must focus on being an entity like no other. Looking at each other is going to be our downfall – it leads to lazy behavior believing there is nothing more we can do than tax, audit, accounting, and payroll. We have never been more wrong.
6. “For a company to be valuable it must grow and endure, but many entrepreneurs focus only on short-term growth. They have an excuse: growth is easy to measure, but durability isn’t.” pg. 47, Ch. 5 Durability is a necessary future-focused discipline. Few manage the durability of their enterprise. In all of the decisions that we make, we must begin asking if what we are building will last 5 years from now. Firms are near-sighted in their immaturity to ‘move to the cloud’ while the entrepreneurs have fully made that move years ago. There is so much more after ‘the cloud’ and the duability of strong, deep strategic moves are created new profits, setting new firms apart from anyone else, and changing the lives of clients willing to pay a lot of money for that privilege. We falsely focus only on what we can measure, and leave the future to ‘create itself,’ a reality that our profession is currently mired in.
I know some of these statements are strong, but it’s time we began taking hold of the future that is ours to create. Thriveal is committed to this new future. We are not going to wait on the future. We are going to create it. With divisions like the Thriveal Laboratory, the Thriveal Incubator, the Thriveal Academy, and the Thriveal Member Community we are strategically putting platforms into place to take our firm to the future. Are you coming?
Jason is the Founder of Thriveal and the Chief Innovative Officer of his CPA firm, Blumer & Associates. He is the co-host of the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for CPAs and creatives, his firm’s chosen niche. Jason loves to watch documentaries on just about anything. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and their three children. Stay connected with Jason by signing up at JasonBlumer.com.