Business Lessons from Star Fox 64

Business Lessons from Star Fox 64

If you have never played Starfox 64, let me tell you, in 1997 it was all the rage. Having control of a futuristic space plane on a 3-D terrain was pure joy.

There was one level which mimicked the Independence Day movie scene where an impenetrable alien ship would hover over and destroy world icon locations.

That time a computer virus saved humanity

This level was one of the top designed plays of all time. You had about 5 minutes to take out an alien ship and help save a planet, but there was a chance you may not succeed and if you didn’t, this was the outcome:

22 years later, I still remember the feeling of defeat while reading the words MISSION COMPLETE on the screen. The Star Fox team powered up their Arwings and made it on to the next level, leaving behind a planet that relied on them, that they let down.

2019 was really good for the company. I consider it our coming of age year. Our industry sponsorship gave us a strong name in our field, we signed an anchor customer that will allow us the means to expand to Europe, and we started building out our management team.

As this year comes to an end, I can’t shake the feeling that even if we make serious mistakes, Tim and I will still come out ahead, but the future of those that helped us build this company is not so firm.

Earlier this year we made a wrong hire and gave that hire broad decision making power. His forth day on the job he fired a very well liked employee. What seemed like a prudent business decision turned out to be a power grab as he then started marginalizing young leaders with ageist comments or demeaning advice from people getting actual work done.

During his first 2 weeks, nearly every day one staff member or another would reach out to Tim or myself. On day 15 he was fired.

A few days after the firing we had our second annual support retreat in DC. About 30 people gathered in a commercial kitchen as we cooked handmade pasta. Seeing so many people in the room gave me a feeling of worry. I thought to myself, “all these people…are part of my organization….eish….”

At the time we had about 40 people who depend on OpenWater, today that number is over 50 and continues to grow.

I recognized for the first time what a responsibility it is to run a company. I used to think of employment as a job, if you lose your job you find another one — but many employees helped build this company from nothing. People have become friends with one another. They have watched and helped each other grow.

I missed this context and I will consider it my biggest regret of 2019.

Perhaps this too is part of our coming-of-age.

Kunal, Tim, Zack and Bosco— Inc 5000

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