Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment

by jeffhilimire on August 16, 2013

Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment

I heard Mark Suster use this quote in a talk recently and I just love it. Especially now, as I reflect on Wednesday’s sale of Engauge and the journey that I’ve been on for the past 15 years (10 years with Spunlogic, then 5 years with Engauge after they acquired us).

In the startup world there is an expression that says, “fail often and fail fast”. What it implies is that successful entrepreneurs are not scared of failure, but rather they realize that it’s the only way that they are going to be successful. You have to try new things, see if they work, and if they don’t you need to quickly course correct and try the next thing. In fact, its my belief that the one way to ensure failure is not to try…and fail.

This quote, “good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment”, reminds me of the many mistakes that we made along the way building Spunlogic and merging/growing Engauge. But with each mistake made there was new wisdom gained.

An example.

When we were selling Spunlogic, the process took us from mid-summer of 2007 until March 26, 2008. And as you can imagine we were thoroughly distracted during that period. We had experienced tremendous growth up until that point, doubling our business for four straight years (which is presumably the main reason many companies wanted to acquire us).

But we were distracted from business development during the acquisition process. And then after we sold, we were distracted with the merger. And wouldn’t you know, we didn’t see nearly the growth we were projecting in 2008 because of it. Yes, we can blame it on 2008 being the beginning of the recession and I’m sure I used that line in many a board meeting explaining our lack of growth, but I now know that the distraction hurt our growth the most.

So this time around, when were in the process of selling Engauge, we made sure to stay focused on business development and growth. In some ways we even ramped it up to ensure we kept winning new business. Without that experience from 2008 we might have been distracted again and jeopardized the Engauge sale.

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