How a Children’s Book Helped Prepare Me for the Startup Life

July 23, 2015 Brian Birkett

HungryCaterpillar

As recently posted on LinkedIn By Brian Birkett

Go forth hungry caterpillars

Everyone knows the story from Eric Carle’s iconic children’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Even though it was first published in 1969, it still ranks as the No. 1 children’s counting book on Amazon.com. It now has been published in 40 languages. Our family’s copy shows the tell-tale signs that you would expect of a book that has been read every night to two young children over the past five years. The book is worn, tattered . . . and loved.

To recap the story, the small, hungry caterpillar is on a path to becoming a beautiful butterfly. But to do that, he must eat more and more. On the first day, he starts with just one apple. Each day, he is eating a little more than the day before. And by the last day, the caterpillar eats everything.

One night recently, I again was reading the book to my 3-year-old daughter. This time, though, she stopped me midway through the book with a really good question that made me stop and think.

“Daddy,” she asked, “why did he eat more and more every day?”

Here was my answer: “The caterpillar wants to be a beautiful butterfly, and to do that he needs to work very hard and do more and more every day to make that happen.”

What I realized is that the caterpillar can be a perfect metaphor for a startup — or any growth company, for that matter. Just like at a startup, there is no status quo for the caterpillar. It’s not good enough for him just to eat an apple a day. He needs to build on his previous day’s accomplishment — every day — if he wants to reach the pinnacle.

That goal is similar to the challenge facing my sales team and our company. We consistently are asked, quarter over quarter, to deliver more results and hit higher numbers. What we did to reach our goal the previous quarter was a fine accomplishment. But it won’t be enough to hit our new, more ambitious goal this current quarter. If we want our business to become the beautiful butterfly that we know is attainable, we can never stop thinking about how we can improve and take our company to that next level.

So, go forth hungry caterpillars!

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