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Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website by Matt Blumberg

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

HAVE YOU LEARNED YOUR LESSON?

Everything is a potential opportunity to learn a lesson and apply it to your business: from the story of fig wasps in a popular evolutionary biology text (see Chapter 9), to an anecdote about dancing, drawing five-year-olds (see Chapter 11). Important as those are, you still have to formalize procedures for learning valuable lessons from the outside (benchmarking) and from within (postmortems, or after-action reviews). As always, you can be haphazard, or you can follow a few simple best practices, like the ones I outline below.

THE VALUE (AND LIMITATIONS) OF BENCHMARKING

In the past few years, my team and I have executed a ton of external benchmarking projects—comparing our processes and performance to those of our competitors or partners. Each of these projects has different leaders inside Return Path doing both systematic and ad hoc phone calls and meetings with peer companies (and companies we aspire to be like) to understand how we compare to them in terms of specific metrics, practices and structures. It's some combination of the former management consultant in me rearing its head and me just trying to make sure that we stay ahead of the curve as we rapidly scale our business.

Why go through exercises like these? One answer is that you don't want to reinvent the wheel. If a noncompetitive, comparable company has solved a problem or done some good, creative thinking, then I say “plagiarize with pride”—especially if you're sharing ...

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