Be the 100%

One of the big and mostly pleasant surprises of moving from a well-resourced law firm to a decently funded impact investment private equity fund was that I had unwittingly joined a startup.

It is unusual, I think, to describe an investment company as a startup but that’s what it was (per Ries): The fund was trying to deliver a new service — double bottom line investing on behalf of investors — in conditions of extreme uncertainty — no one really knows whether the service can be delivered; their investment focus was novel; their geographic markets were confounding.

While the fund had a strong team ethos, being as small as it was meant that discreet tasks and responsibilities would sometimes belong to a single person. And, sometimes that person was me. This was in major contrast to being an associate at a large law firm, a position that is often uncreatively and accurately compared to a cog in a machine.

Being solely responsible for down and dirty things like negotiating a lease, supervising an office buildout, setting up phones and IT systems, and obtaining work visas for new hires illustrated to me how far away 99% done is from 100% done. To be clear, 100% is not the same as perfect. In this context, 100% means that the job is done: The lease is signed. The phones are working. The visas are issued. Everyone appreciates effort but for some things you actually need to get to 1.0 and effort put into anything less is waste.