3 Bites of Wisdom from Barksdale

My friend, and founder, Amy Lang, has about as well-rounded a portfolio of experience as any startup-type could hope for. Having begun her career in recruiting at Arthur Andersen, Amy was a pre-IPO staffer at Netscape, then worked at Oracle, and later went to Yahoo! where she refined her expertise in marketing.
What’s nice about her case is that it confirms a concept Found|READ has promoted since its inception: The lessons Amy learned at these anchor tech companies have valuable application far beyond Silicon Valley — especially those she gleaned from that silver-tongued Mississipian, Jim Barksdale, the former CEO of Netscape.
Amy walked away from tech in 2004 to follow her dream of running a boutique health club in San Francisco, Pacific Heights Health Club, which takes a holistic approach to physical fitness, emphasizing community and education as much as reps or Pilates. (She keeps me in my jeans.)
I like hearing Amy share stories about what she learned from Barksdale and Larry Ellison. It’s fun to see such knowledge play out in her strategies for business development, like her partnership with an alternative health care center in the neighborhood, or her guest-hosted evening cooking classes. (Cooking classes at a gym!)
Not every plan has worked out. Amy speaks candidly about the mistakes too, which prompts the topic of today’s post.
Barksdale was well-known for his hoaky management witicisms. After he left Netscape in 1999, and just before the company was subsumed by AOL (it had paid $4.2 billion for Netscape in Nov. 1998), each of Netscape’s outgoing staffers received a copy of a book entitled, The Main Thing, that was dedicated to Barksdale. “It was as a gift at the ‘farewell to Netscape’ party,” recalls Amy.
It’s called The Main Thing, because Barksdale was always harping on his staff that “the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”
Amy says she still refers to the little tome, often. Since you can’t buy it, she agreed to share some of its contents with us.
One bit I like Barksdale called his “Three Rules.” (He had many such “definitive” lists.) This one has to to do with recognizing a mistake, dealing with it, and then letting it go. None of us is as good at this as we need to be.
So without further ado, and courtesy of Amy Lang, we give you:

Jim Barksdale’s 3 Rules of Business.

* The first rule is, if you see a snake, don’t call committees, don’t call your buddies, don’t get a meeting together; just kill the snake.
* The second rule is, don’t go back and play with dead snakes. We haven’t got time to go back and revisit decisions.
* The third rule is, all opportunities start out looking like snakes. So look at problems as opportunities.

So what’s your main thing? Whatever it is, make it your mantra. Concentrate. And don’t play with your dead snakes.
Stay tuned for more Barksdale-isms in the days ahead.