Jim Patterson | Crain's Los Angeles

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jim Patterson

Background:  

Eaze is an on-demand marketplace that offers safe, professional access to medical marijuana, delivered to wherever you are in 15 minutes or less. It's a technology-based layer that connects dispensaries and licensed medical professionals with users across California. Jim Patterson joined the eaze team in early 2016 after working closely with founder Keith McCarty at a previous company.

The Mistake:

Trying to build too big, too fast.

Earlier in my career, a lot of times we would conceive of something really cool. Then we would go off and spend six months building it and then we’d launch it. Then we would realize that we were a little off in our thinking. And we’d have to go back and retool. A lot of us realized, instead of building something really big and grand and launching it, it was actually better just to build really small things and then move incrementally.

As technologists, I think we feel like we have a vision of the future world. And you’re always thinking, “Well, I can see things are going in this direction.” And your instinct as an entrepreneur is to, as quickly as you can, jump to that end state. But what I’ve realized is sometimes you can move too fast. The most important thing is the order in which you do things matters a lot.

I’ve also learned those lessons in how you build a company itself. You want to be building your product and your company on top of layers that already exist. It’s really about refining the product and the organization as opposed to trying to build it from what you see in the vision. These things are very complex. It’s really less about building them and more about evolving them. That’s definitely a mindset I have now that I wasn’t really aware of until I saw the mistake that you can make if you try to build something too quick without evolving it along the way.

Your instinct as an entrepreneur is to, as quickly as you can, jump to that end state.

The Lesson:

It was the moment that we realized the entire company spent six months building this cool feature. We launched it, and the reaction wasn’t as good as we expected. We realized we had wasted so much time. And when you’re a small company, those mistakes can be mortal. Losing six months as a technology startup, that’s very critical. We were very lucky, given that the market gave us an opportunity to fix it. It took another 3-6 months to dig ourselves out of that hole that we created.

I tell employees to be bold. Specifically, don’t be afraid to be fired. One of the things I’ve noticed is a lot of people operate under fear. This fear of looking stupid or getting fired. It causes them not to act, they wait for permission. I tell people, if you believe something is the right thing to do, and you have the capability to do it, you should do it. And if you’re going to go in that direction, you have to be mostly right. I think there’s room for people to take risks and make mistakes. But I think the good people over time are the people who aren’t afraid of taking risks and turn out to be mostly right in the bets that they make.

Even early in my career I never cared about being fired or any of that. If I thought something was right, I would go ahead and just do it. Running a business is about how you deal with uncertain information. You’re never going to have all available information. The people who try to wait and gather all available information just tend not to act. So it’s really about, given all the information you had, would you have made that same decision all over again? That’s how I try to operate.

Eaze is on Twitter at @Eaze_Team.

Photo courtesy of Jim Patterson.

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