I can still recall one of my performance reviews from 1994. My boss, the wonderful Graham Perkins (he had a great British accent by the way), gave me a fine review but had one major area for improvement that had a not insubstantial impact on my decision to start my first business. He said, "John, you've got to be more patient. Particularly with people around you." Those of you who know me (or Graham) can just imagine him saying that :)
I thought that was generally a useless critique/suggestion (surprise!). Businesses move too slowly. They move slowly because people aren't working hard and fast enough; decisions get bogged down. Part of the problem is that people are too patient. If we need to move more quickly, the obvious thing is to be less patient, to push for things to happen sooner. Faster. You can see what happened, right? I had a moment where I said, "Fine. You guys be patient. I'm going to go start a company and move faster." And that's largely been the story of my life since 1995 - starting companies, going fast, faster. Always pushing. Always wanting it tomorrow, not next week. Next month, rather than next quarter. Go go go!
Fundamentally, I think I just hate waiting. If I can see it, I want to realize it. Why wait? I think there is an importance to pushing, to not being patient. It truly is hard to bring something unrealized into the world. And as they say, time waits for no man, and certainly time is an enemy of a startup in many ways.
But, that said, I think there is something critically important about being patiently impatient as well. There are times when you need to bring others along. When someone else (often a 3rd party) needs to come to their own conclusions rather than just trust you or your data. When someone needs other pieces to fall in place before they're ready for what you're suggesting. Back in the late 90s, we were early with email and everyone was falling over themselves to get their web strategy figured out. But they came around, they saw what email could do. I just had to wait for them to see it too.
The same is true with innovation. You can be too early. You can push as hard as you want, you can push until the cows come home. Sometimes you're just pushing on an immovable object of licensees or consumers. And continued pushing gets you nothing. Except a painful headache.
So, this is where being patiently impatient comes into play. Wait a little while. Take your time with follow-ups. Sometimes the licensee's product roadmap will change, and your product will be front-and-center of their new business plan. Find elegant ways to stay in touch with people without becoming a pest. Make sure others can discover you, even if they're not on your first cut of who you think should license your product. Sometimes you'll be surprised who gets your vision -- happened to us recently. First time I've ever been in a meeting that started late and finished early and every goal/objective was met. Why? Because they totally got what we were thinking and doing. They saw the same vision, the same "tomorrow we can make happen today" if we work together. We set-up the follow-up meeting to go to the next stage and finished the meeting with the "gift of time".
It was absolutely a thing of beauty. We'd been chasing the meeting since early November, but a few things that were said in the the meeting suggested if we had gotten there just a week before, they wouldn't have been ready for us. We were patiently impatient in getting that meeting, and BOOM. Timing was just right. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and sometimes they're on a different timeline than you. That's OK. Hang in there.
[note to self, re-read this post every so often when you're impatient...]