Edition 1 l 1st June 2021
You won’t meet too many people who have participated in a pentathlon. You’ll meet even fewer who have finished the race.
It’s the ultimate physical, mental, and moral test of a complete athlete. To win, you have to be the best at cross-country running, pistol shooting, swimming, horse-riding, and fencing. Athletes have to build strong fundamentals, master many techniques, put in consistent effort, and endure great psychological and emotional stress. The preparation and commitment required are unlike any other sport.
It’s hard to truly understand and appreciate the complexities of such a challenge unless you’ve participated in a pentathlon yourself…or taken on a challenge of comparable magnitude, such as founding and scaling a technology start-up.
Managing a team and building a culture takes stamina and conditioning to keep up the pace, not unlike cross-country running. A founder has to maintain laser-focus on their strategy despite the pressure of running a company, like pistol shooting. They have to maintain speed and strong momentum while using energy and resources conservatively, like a swimmer. They ride unfamiliar horses everyday, facing unique situations where only quick thinking and quicker learning helps them come out on top. They have to constantly re-calibrate their product and product strategy as the competition and the market make their moves, like a champion fencer parrying and riposting till there’s a chance to score a hit.
Getting things right in all areas is a steep challenge. No wonder entrepreneurs who have gained the love of customers and scaled their enterprise successfully are rare. These rare, winning entrepreneurs, just like winning athletes, display specific traits. Put together, these traits are what we call the ‘DNA of Scale’.
Pentathlon, with its core team composed of ‘founders turned funders’, understands and appreciates these traits in a way that only former entrepreneurs can.
Trait Number 1 – Comprehension
Part empathy, part in-depth study, a strong contender displays a deep understanding of the market and the pain-point. They’re able to identify gaps that no one else does, and fill them in ways other companies in the space can’t or haven’t thought of. Their product displays this deep thinking.
Trait Number 2 – Originality
They display innovation, resourcefulness, and resilience. Display, not claim. The path they’ve taken with their company, their career trajectories before they became entrepreneurs, even their academic tracks before they started a career…all display examples of their ability to make good choices and advance where others retreat, succeed where others fail. Their go-to-market strategy displays this creativity.
Trait Number 3 – Agility
They can strategize while executing. Draw the map and chart the course while sailing the ship. They understand that the race doesn’t just pause because you need a moment to collect your thoughts. The market keeps evolving and competitors are on their toes, so strategy cannot be static. The company lives and breathes, so leadership cannot be inconsistent. Their track-record displays the ability to keep multiple balls in the air.
Trait Number 4 – Relentlessness
A pentathlon isn’t won till you finish all five events. Strong contenders wait to celebrate. They use small victories to motivate themselves and push harder to the finish line. In their personal lives, their careers, and their companies, they display the willingness to sacrifice the easier reward in favour of the greater reward.
Trait Number 5 – Awareness
They know what they don’t know. They understand it’s impossible to have all the answers, so they don’t pretend they do. Instead, strong contenders focus on having a clear plan to arrive at the answers. They know where they’re weak, so they’re able to address those weaknesses. Conversations with them reveal an openness to recognise and admit ignorance and vulnerability.
Trait Number 6 – Dynamism
They’re drive and energy is infectious. They know they aren’t running the course alone. Employees, customers, investors, board members, and even the media need to buy into their incredible, fantastic (, and sometimes far-fetched) ideas. Strong contenders know how to captivate and compel an audience in their own unique way.
Trait Number 7 – Speed
They move fast. They understand that winning a race is simply a matter of covering more distance in less time than the competition. Their decision making, rate of progress, even their accomplishments between two meetings with us display their ability to generate and harness speed.
Pentathlon exists to identify those who possess these traits, this DNA of Scale, and help them reach their full potential. Our idea of partnering is to work with them, not just to meet them in the boardroom. To be their coaches, to be their sparring partners, to be on their speed-dials when they need to talk to someone…
…someone who has been exactly where they are, faced what they’re facing, and understands their perspective.