I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about starting a company…But if you’re a man and you’re reading this site, there’s a good chance you have a beard—or you’ve at least thought about growing one.
Beards and startups…Why do I bring up these two seemingly unrelated enterprises?
The truth is they have more in common than you think. You can actually learn a lot about running a startup from growing a beard…and vice versa.
Here are 5 important things growing a beard and running a startup have in common:
1. Sometimes It’s Healthy to Be Polarizing
Not everyone likes beards. That’s a truism. So by starting your beard you can be guaranteed some people are going to say “Why did you a grow a beard? You looked so good shaven!” But you also know that the other 50% of people are going to love that beard. And in order to make them happy, you have to disappoint the non beard-lovers. In the startup world, unless your brand is safe and boring, some people are going to like it and other people are going to hate it. The lesson here is: if you’re doing anything worth doing, you’re not going to please everyone. The sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be.
2. Starting is Key
As with a startup, you can’t just begin your beard at a fully grown stage. Even the gents from ZZ Top had to suffer through the awkward scraggle phase. You’ve got to start with a basic prototype, or a “minimum viable product” (MVP), as it’s called in the startup world. That MVP may be wimpy and mangy at first. But to eventually grow it into a full and epically beautiful beard, you can’t skip that first step. Often you may need to have a few shitty beards before you have a good one. Not only does your facial hair learn how to grow better each time, you also learn some things along the way. Like how to take better care of it. You learn what tools are really essential. You learn what products can keep it healthy and shiny. And you learn what people around you like (or don’t like). But ultimately, no amount of planning or preparation changes the fact that you just need to START.
3. Good Things Take Constant Tending
A beard on autopilot is just as dangerous as a startup on autopilot. Hairs going everywhere. Patchy spots. Lack of balance. Homeless guys pointing at you in horror (“Geez buddy! Have some basic grooming standards…”). Your beard and your startup require constant evaluation, trimming, and guidance. Whether it’s your beard or your business, if you’re avoiding dealing with it, you have to ask yourself why. Am I afraid to look at what’s really going on because maybe I won’t like what I see? I can promise you that sometimes, you will NOT like what you see. But it gets easier if you can build a regular habit of constant evaluation. A daily or weekly check-in helps make sure everything is growing healthily—and that you avoid any issues before they get out of control.
4. You Can Pay for Help, But It’s Not Always the Best Investment
I’ve always been amazed how in the startup world, no matter what your challenge or task, there’s always somebody willing to sell you a solution for exactly that problem. Is it always a good investment? Unless you’ve got unlimited resources, you have to decide carefully. This also applies to your beard. You could easily spend a significant amount getting your beard trimmed by a barber each week. Or you can get the right tools and products to do it yourself. Just like with your startup, there’s no right answer. You have to decide the best use of your time and money. In my case, I’m cheap, and I enjoy the ritual of grooming my beard myself. Other people may feel like paying just for relaxation of someone else pampering them.
5. You Have to “Get Out of the Building”
As wise as it might seem to toil away in your little startup ivory tower hatching brilliant marketing schemes, startup guru Steve Blank says you have to get real-life perspective. Get out on the frontlines and actually talk to your customers. It’s the same with your beard. You can’t just sit in your apartment watching Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley all day waiting to grow the perfect beard. Don’t go all Howard Hughes on us. Yes, sweatpants are comfortable, but you’re starting to scare the cat. Get out there and show off your beard, whatever stage it’s at! You might just get some valuable advice. If George Lucas would have done that 20 years ago, someone could have told him he was trimming his beard way too high. No one actually believes his jaw line starts up there…
So, as you can see, sometimes great wisdom can be found in strange places.
Growing a beard can teach you a lot about running a startup…and there’s plenty of knowledge you can gain about beards from starting a business.
Whether you’re just starting out with a patch of scraggly facial hair waiting to see what happens or you’re launching the next big app (or both), I hope you found these tips valuable.
About The Author
Kyle Ingham is the founder of The Distilled Man, where he helps everyday guys become better men. He currently has both a startup and a beard, and he lives in San Francisco with his wife. Grab a free copy of his ebook, 48-Hour Gentleman: Your One-Weekend Plan to More Confidence, Poise, and Manly Know-How.