20 lessons in 20 years

Strategic Portfolio Management
Peter Kestenholz
Founder - Projectum

Ten years ago, I thought I knew enough to write a book.

Then, five years ago, I learned something completely different, and I thought, "NOW I can write the book!"

Today, Projectum as a company turns 20 years old and I could still write a book, but it would be different from ten years ago, five years ago, maybe even just a year ago.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is that I still don’t have time to write a book.

Instead, I’ve decided to deliver my wisdom in twenty miscellaneous lessons. Things I’ve learned by starting a business, running a business, and being human.

So, here are my 20 lessons learned in 20 years.

Perseverance matters more than talent

That would be the title of my book. Whenever I don’t know what to do, I do whatever I can to the best of my ability. A lot of people stop when the going gets difficult, but if you keep going and just do something, even if it’s the wrong thing, then at least you’ve learned something.

Consistency eats strategy for breakfast

A strategy is nice, but consistency is what builds trust and reliability among customers. Good long-term relationships are what keep people coming back. It keeps growth sustainable and gives you a safeplatform to develop.

You won’t always have a solution...

A business won’t always be successful. There will be times when there are problems you just don’t know how to fix. You have to trust that solutions will come.

...But a solution always comes

No matter how dire things have looked, there’s always been a solution.Sometimes, it requires patience, and other times, thinking outside the box, butthere is always a way to solve the problem, and usually, it will come.

Agility is always in

I was agile before agile made its way into companies. I never planned far enough ahead, which frustrated the bank quite a lot but meant that we were always able to grab opportunities when they came.

Sensible, not showy

It’s important to be sensible: we’re not the flashiest in the world but we’re sensible. We have interesting opportunities and a good salary, and it turns out that if you pair it with a great culture, you can attract the bestpeople.

Building a brand takes time

It requires showing up and being clear on who you are, over and over again. As companies grow, branding can be formalized more, but at its base, it’s about telling people who you are and keeping that story consistent.

Peter Kestenholz and Carsten S. Nilsson, 20 years after founding Projectum
Peter Kestenholz and Carsten S. Nilsson, 20 years after founding Projectum

Get a niche

I’m not crazy good. I’ve just been in this niche for 20 years, long enough to ride out the trends and get a deeper understanding of the field. That’s something people notice.

It takes 9 no’s to get a yes

In the beginning, I just called people, and I figured out it took about 9 no’s to get a yes. So, I didn’t have to take no’s personally– I just had to get nine no’s, and then I’d get my foot in the door on the tenth call – on average.

Passion is the shortcut to hard work

A lot of success takes hard work, but passion won’t make it feel like hard work.

Don’t go for likes; go for connection

It’s nice to be popular but real connection is more important. Take social media, for example. You might have to make ten posts before something gets big. But it might be one of the less successful posts that gets someone to call you. If you’re too discerning and want likes rather than connections, you’re not going to get those calls.

Share the wealth

At Projectum, we’ve always had a shared bonus model, even though everyone considered us crazy. However, it helps foster a sense of community. We truly are all part of Projectum’s success, soof course, everyone should be rewarded.

Values aren’t something you have, it’s something you do

4 values written down somewhere don’t change anything. It has to be visible in what you do. For example, the shared bonus model.

You have to rock the boat sometimes

There can be a tendency for everyone in the same business to agree and compete on the same playing field. Sometimes rocking the boat is what sets you apart.

Ride the wave or get hit by it

Ignoring change won't make it go away.

Innovation doesn’t happen on top of everything else

If you have a full-time job, that’s where you spend not just your time but your energy. You might be able to implement small changes but true, full scale innovation requires a step back so you can see the full picture and where to shake it up.

You don’t always need a solid business case

If you get just one good thing from what you do, it’s a success. This mindset is what allows you to grab opportunities and find unexpected possibilities. If you spend too long fleshing out a business case, the opportunity may pass you by.

Know other people’s strengths, not just your own

And put them into the spotlight not just to celebrate them but so they get the chance to be put to use where it makes the most sense.

When’s someone’s hired, they’re hired

I don’t believe in trial periods. You don’t get married to test the waters. If you’re in, you’re all in. It’s our fault if we hire the wrong people, not theirs.

Let someone who’s good at being boss be the boss

For years, I ran a business, and I loved it, but it was taxing because I cared too much about people and technology and not enough about business. Now, someone who loves running the business runs the business, and I get to do what I’m good at.

And the next 20 years?

While the lessons may seem obvious on paper, it’s a whole other thing to learn them in your own life.

It’s been 20 interesting years, and I can’t wait to see what lessons I’ll learn in the next 20 years. One thing’s for sure: they’ll look completely different in 20 years.

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Peter Kestenholz
Founder - Projectum

Peter Kestenholz is a successful entrepreneur and business leader with 20 years of experience from founding and growing the company Projectum. Peter is a recognized Microsoft MVP for 13 years straight, Fast Track Architect for the second year in a row the second year and a member of the Forbes Technology Council.

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