By Charles Wachter, TV producer & founder of Hard Twenty
- Though Jamie Oliver is best known as a chef, it turns out he has some serious wisdom for startup founders.
- TV producer Charles Wachter -- who recently produced MTV’s “Fear Factor” reboot -- learned a 3 key lessons while living with Jamie.
- His favorite tip? Grow your business either “slow and low” or “high and hot.”
Jamie Oliver is no slouch when it comes to cooking.
I know this because I lived with the world-class chef while filming a series for ABC called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” Every night, I would pretend to start making dinner, knowing full well what would happen next: Jamie would come in and push me aside, cap on backwards and a devilish grin across his face. He’d proceed to cook a gourmet meal with whatever he could find in the kitchen as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
Over three months of filming by day and cooking at night, Jamie taught me the rules of improvising a dinner on the fly. And when I started my own business, I saw that his rules applied perfectly to the startup world, too.
Here are Jamie’s rules of dinner… and entrepreneurial dynamism.
1. The “right” ingredients are the weird ones.
“Right” and “wrong” ingredients weren’t really a thing for Jamie: His fridge was floor-to-ceiling stocked with weird stuff. For him, cooking was improvisation.
In both meals and business, people too often try to follow recipes for success. The lean startup movement has simplified businesses down to their core essence -- providing the most “basic recipe” to follow -- but Jamie says that the greatest discoveries often come from having an oddly-shaped pickle in your arsenal. So be weird. Break the rules. Greatness comes from it.
Just make sure not to throw everything in the pot. When blessed with variety, you have to be selective and fearless.
2. Work “slow and low” or “high and hot.”
If you suck at making vegetables, here’s a secret: You should cook them either very slowly on low heat for a long time (which releases the sugars) or very quickly on very high heat (which crisps them up).
Work anywhere in between, and your vegetables turn out as mush. Like your startup.
In business, you can grow “fast and hot,” pulling in resources at a lightning pace and leveraging up to the next level through sheer momentum. It is high-risk, just like cooking on a blazing stove. The result can be genius, or you can catch on fire, and the burn rate will ruin you.
The other option is to grow your business organically, slowly building up the foundation for your success and letting the natural strengths of your “ingredients” emerge slowly with time. There’s less risk, but this plan takes lots of time and patience in a world full of hungry people. You may never get to the top.
Every strategy in between is an entrepreneurial disaster. It’s overcooked mush. Don’t try it.
3. Stop reading cookbooks. They suck.
Stop reading business books. They are crutches. Business, like cooking, is an art as much a science. So learn the techniques, and make sure you know all the weird ingredients in your fridge that make your business unique. Then set your stove’s heat to “blazing hot” or “low and lovely.”
And don’t get stuck on medium. Yuck.