Your company vision is like a set of cards in your hand

Thanks to the Noun Project for the icons. Image assembled by Charlie.

Your company vision is like a set of cards in your hand

A useful metaphor for why controlled flexibility is important for a new company

The power of metaphors in helping you internalize the meanings of certain lessons and the ways in which you want to tackle your goals is something that’s often been discussed.

Following an interesting conversation with a co-founder of one of District 3’s graduated startups, e-panneur, a metaphor for how to deal with your new company’s vision arose.

Think of yourself as a player in a game of cards where you need to get four of the same number in your hand. What you know as your company’s internal raison d’être is the number that you’ve decided to collect four of, and for this game at today’s table, you’ve looked at what you’re dealt and spot an 8 in the hand so you decide it’s the 8’s. You need four 8’s to win.

As an early-stage company, it is often the case that you have to make trade-offs early on to achieve your ultimate goal. That’s fine, and it’s important to be flexible to a degree, because going back to our hypothetical card game, you can’t get all four 8’s if you don’t trade at all. While you have one 8 in the hand, you’re able to trade freely and easily with three other cards, and eventually you’ll have two 8’s in the hand, but to get there it’s important to keep in mind that you’ve decided to collect the 8’s in the first place, otherwise you might trade the last 8 in your hand, leaving you scrambling for a new number — a new company vision—to grab hold of mid-game.

Creating metaphors like this is not only a fun way to experiment with the right image needed to get you motivated about achieving your company goals, it’s also a powerful way to unite your team in understanding why they joined you in the first place. Everyone knows that miserable feeling of confusion when you’ve traded a bad card halfway through the game and a quick count reveals that it’s hard—or impossible to get back on track! It’s something we’ve all experienced with card games as kids.

Investors may persuade you to chase a trending idea for an extra $2 million, and you may readily give up that last 8 at the negotiation table for quick gains in cash but a lack of fulfilment with your company a few months down the line. This might even happen when other organisations approach you and offer you benefits of advertising and audience reach, but mar your image inadvertently because the audience they have doesn’t believe in exactly what you’re preaching.

Of course sometimes, your vision might be to collect the 8’s but a quick survey reveals that either someone else wants them too, or perhaps the 8’s aren’t in circulation anymore or, quite simply, the game ends before you collected them…

To that we cheekily say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, better luck next time, and at least you’ll die happy with an 8 in hand!

Just remember, if you’re on your 20th round and you’re still adamant about collecting the 8’s, either there’s too many people that want it, or there aren’t enough 8’s out there.

I think we broke the metaphor.