Five Lessons I Learned About Scaling a Business With Reid Hoffman

Download Now: Free Business Plan Template
Alicia Collins
Alicia Collins


How great would it be if you had a panel of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders you could turn to whenever you needed help getting unstuck, or needed a daily dose of inspiration?

Fortunately, that's exactly what the new Masters of Scale Courses App offers — expert advice from some of the world's best and brightest minds, guided by Reid Hoffman.

The first course is all about The Mindset of Scale. Here's what I learned from the first two lessons.

→ Download Now: Free Business Plan Template

1. Ask "Why not?" and "What if?"

Start by asking two important questions — "Why not?" and "What if?" — whenever you encounter something that makes you feel a strong emotion.

For instance, think about the last time you experienced sticker shock or frustration over waiting in a long line. Those simple questions have sparked countless successful products and businesses — including Virgin Airlines. In his own words, here's Richard Branson:

"35 years ago, when we started [Virgin Airlines], the big carriers were dreadful. And on one of those flights coming to the Virgin Islands, I got bumped, which is a sort of typical thing that airlines did in those days."

Of course, being Richard Branson, he didn't pass the time by staring woefully at the departures board. Instead, he asked one of those powerful questions: What if? What if he didn't have to wait for the next flight? What if he created a flight of his own?

"So I hired a plane and filled it up with all the people who had been bumped and called it Virgin Airlines as a joke. And we arrived in the BVI, and during that flight, I just thought, 'Airlines do bump people, maybe I should ring up Boeing the next day.' Which I did, and asked if they had any secondhand 747s for sale."

As you can probably guess, they did, and Virgin Airways was born. Now, you may not be in the market for used 747 jets, but that doesn't mean these questions can't create similarly impactful results for you. So next time you find yourself feeling any powerful emotion, pause for a second, think about the situation, and ask yourself, "What if?"

2. Have an idea, act on it, and never look back.

Even though many people talk about the power of ideas, what the world actually rewards is action.

Generating ideas is often the easy part — and with the right mindset, it's a process that can become second nature. But, what separates daydreaming from living your dream is taking action.

Richard Branson has been an entrepreneur since he was 14 and launched his first business: a student magazine. After the magazine, he went on to found a record label, a video game publisher, and many other ventures — each one a product of taking action.

If you're like me, even just reading that list of accomplishments sounds daunting. To overcome that feeling, Reid Hoffman offers this helpful advice: "Next time you have an idea that you can't stop thinking about, act on it immediately."

After asking yourself "Why not?" or "What if?", identify the smallest or most immediate action you can do right now to act on your idea.

By starting small and taking action right away, you can avoid the dreaded "analysis paralysis" and start building momentum towards your goal instead.

3. Need a big idea? Get intentional about looking for one.

Before founding Spanx, Sarah Blakely was stuck in a dead-end job — making door-to-door fax machine sales were far from fulfilling. She knew she wasn't on the right path, but she just wasn't sure what that right path looked like.

After a challenging day, she decided to try something different. In her journal, she wrote down, "I want to invent a product that I can sell to millions of people that will make them feel good." According to Blakely, "This was something that I set an intention for; I had really asked the universe to give me an idea that I could bring to the world."

Blakely kept asking herself, "Is this my big idea?" until the answer was "Yes."

With her newfound intention, Blakely began finding the opportunities and ideas all around her. One night, after getting frustrated with her undergarment options, she cut the feet off of her pantyhose and discovered that her DIY solution was exactly what she was looking for — in more ways than one.

4. Fill knowledge gaps with the people around you.

After discovering her big idea for Spanx, Blakely faced a new challenge: How to build a business in an industry she knew almost nothing about. It wasn't an easy problem to solve, but Blakely wasn't about to let a lack of domain expertise get in her way.

Instead, she started digging deeper. In the words of Reid Hoffman, "She knew that to succeed, she had to be continually open to information and ideas — always in search of the insights and people who could help her turn her idea into a reality."

It's okay not to know everything about your business, as long as you get help from people who can fill in your knowledge gaps. You'll go faster and further with the help of other people.

Ask lots of questions to find your idea — and then keep asking them.

5. Find a place or time where you do your best thinking, and set aside time to be in that space.

Creating a successful business, launching a new product or campaign, or just keeping up with a highly demanding job all require a lot of decision-making. And good decision-making rests on a foundation of good thinking.

According to Hoffman, "Wherever, whenever and however, the point is this: an idea won't come looking for you, and it won't perfect itself. You have to put yourself in spaces and places and frames of mind, where you can find and shape the idea."

For more lessons about scale, download the Masters of Scale Courses app for 50% using the code HUBSPOT at Offer is valid through 5/15/21. 

Business Plan Template

Related Articles


2 Essential Templates For Starting Your Business


    Marketing software that helps you drive revenue, save time and resources, and measure and optimize your investments — all on one easy-to-use platform