We’re the coach, not the athlete (#2)

I'm doing a small series on Heartcore Capital's foundational principles. The first was: "no fear, no greed."

The second is: "We're the coach, not the athlete."

I don't even remember who told me this. Could have been Fred Destin when I was an analyst/associate/principal at Atlas Venture, now Accomplice. I think it's one of those things on the apprenticeship path of venture capital that you pick up.

Image result for coach friday night lights

It seems like a cliche, but it's useful to always remember.

The point is: you're not the one out there on the track. You're not the one in the race. You didn't get up every morning at 4:30 to train for this. In the bacon-and-eggs breakfast analogy: they're the pig (committed); you're just the chicken (involved).

So you have to put the founders first. Above all, you have to respect that it's their journey. Their company. Their life.

The work is to help them realize their potential. It's not about you, how smart you are, how much better you would be at running the company (newsflash: you wouldn't be). It's solely about helping them be the best they can be.

The sports (or life) coaching analogy holds. Sometimes you can suggest trying other tactics. But mostly they need help working on the big picture (strategy), on their own mindset and habits, on their leadership skills. They need someone to hold them accountable. To suffer with them, but also to celebrate the wins. Founder-CEO is a hard and lonely job. If you're the one they can turn to when it gets tough, you're doing something right.

Line up these things and, as the old coach saying goes, "the score takes care of itself."