Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kevin Compton's 5 Rules for Success

I recently attended a small luncheon where Kevin Compton was speaking and sharing his insights on success. He framed his discussion within five rules that have helped him towards his path in becoming one of the top venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and co-owner of the San Jose Sharks. Kevin was a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for seventeen years, which some consider the most successful venture capital firm. Some of their investments include Compaq, AOL, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, Juniper Networks, Intuit,, and Google. KPCB's companies employee over 300,000 people, have annual sales in excess of $100 billion.

Kevin serves on the board of a eight public, private and non-profit entities, which include Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS) and VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN). Prior to joining KPCB, he was Vice President and General Manager of the Network Systems Team at Businessland (now Siemens). While in this role, the company's sales increased from under $70 million to over $1.4 billion, and the company was recognized as the number one supplier in worldwide Local Area Networks for three straight years.

He began his talk with the "Golden Rule" and cited Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

For Kevin, he explained this was important and effective in all negotiations he was involved in. The "Golden Rule" allowed him to never have a bad experience because his objective was to treat the people on the other side of the table as he would have wanted from them. Of course, they might be vicious and aggressive, but Kevin said he kept it all in perspective and stuck with the "Golden Rule."

His second rule was to always have a sense of urgency. He learned from one of his mentors not to waste time, but just to do it. If it's on your list, why keep it on there if you could do it now? He also discussed how having lists are a good thing because to become successful you need to be doing things and if you don't have things to do then you will not become successful. So having long "To Do" lists are a good thing.

His third rule was to keep on trying. Another way to phrase this, which he didn't state, is do not to be afraid of failure. He gave a football analogy of the '72 Miami Dolphins. They were the only perfect team in NFL history, but do people remember them as well as the great football dynasties? No. People remember and have a close affinity to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco Forty-Niners or Greenbay Packers. These teams lost and won in numerous Superbowls. It's better to just try rather than only trying when you know you won't fail or waiting until everything is right. Not a great analogy, but a good message.

I liked how he referred to his written biography as being incomplete. It tells maybe 5% of his career, which of course highlights his successes, but most of what's left off are his failures which drove him to success.

His fourth rule was to think big. He had a great story about one of his players on the San Jose Sharks, who's name I forgot, who came from a small town in Ottawa. This player wrote down when he was in junior high that his dream is to play professional hockey for the San Jose Sharks, and against numerous odds that Kevin described he achieved his dream. So think big and dream big.

Kevin's last rule was to think small, and to ask yourself, "Am I doing the little things right?" In his opinion, the top 5% of NHL players are all the same in terms of talent, but the difference is in the little things. The slightest increased shot accuracy, conditioning, etc. make the difference between being a top player and hall of fame quality.

He recommended to think of those small things in life and work. The small thank you note, a cup of water for someone in thirst, or a helping hand when needed.

Obviously, I cannot convey the energy and tone Kevin Compton projected, but he was at worst impactful and at best inspirational.

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