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Twenty’s a Good Place to Start

A Keynote Speech I actually stayed awake for…

Every great keynote speaker has their schtick. A quote to live by. A feat they overcame. A cautionary tale. Some offer advice. Others, a lesson on taking the high road. As someone who has attended a great many keynote speeches (here’s looking at you, journalism career), I can confidently say I’ve heard a little of every kind of speech.

Though I don’t believe I’m fully jaded by keynotes yet, I would say I’m skeptical when I sit down to another much-hyped speech. In my experience, most of the meat of a conference, expo, or symposium comes from the breakout sessions and networking conversations. So, when Fritz Lanman, CEO of ClassPass, took the stage recently at the Montana Innovate Symposium, my expectations were solidly “meh.”

ClassPass is the hot new company that allows you to buy one ticket to experience many gyms and boutique fitness studios. It’s your punch card to variety in your workout. Lanman was asked to speak at the symposium because of the ClassPass office located in Missoula that employs 215 people. The startup is a boon to the local economy and part of a larger tech company trend of flipping the “open” sign in locations throughout the Treasure State.

Lanman began his career in the hallowed halls of Microsoft as a Project Manager. He quickly climbed the ranks there and soon began pouring into other companies like Pinterest and Square as an angel investor. In 2016, Lanman took the driver’s seat at ClassPass and moved his family to Missoula for the gig.

Throughout his career, Lanman picked up not a single anecdote to live by, but a notebook full of advice. He distilled those lessons into 20 points to share with the Innovate Symposium.

Here is Lanman’s List.

  1. Don’t start a company to become rich.
  2. Be so good they can’t ignore you.
  3. Have realistic expectations
  4. Surround yourself with friends and family who get it and will give you a hall pass for the things you have to miss out on.
  5. Don’t give up until dead (or you’re out of money).
  6. Fail fast if you’re gonna fail.
  7. Experiment and test everything.
  8. Non decisions are decisions.
  9. Don’t make hard decisions without data.
  10. Fire people compassionately.
  11. When training, show, don’t tell.
  12. Celebrate your faceplants.
  13. Hire missionaries not mercenaries.
  14. Have operating principals you actually invoke.
  15. Don’t outsource unless you’ve done it yourself.
  16. Work ethic is a competitive advantage.
  17. Don’t raise money if you can avoid it.
  18. If you raise money, throw it at your biggest problem.
  19. Listen to advice, but don’t follow it blindly.
  20. Avoid layovers in the Denver Airport.

On many points, Lanman shared a backstory. Here are some of his nuggets: If you fire employees compassionately you earn the respect of the people who still work for you. If your mission is headed for failure, don’t drag your feet; your venture capital backers won’t let you anyhow. Operating principals are not a mission or vision statement on a wall, they are the culture of a company every day, in every decision and detail. When you feel like you’re not the smartest, most tenured, or richest person in the room, remember that hard work is a competitive advantage. And layovers in Denver. Avoid those at all cost or you might be spending the night in the mile-high city, Lanman bemoaned from experience.

Weeks after the Innovate Symposium, Lanman’s speech still resonates with me. Not for the one pillar on which he built his career, but because of the 20 lessons he learned along the way. Seldom is there a sole experience or value I feel I could, or should, base a keynote speech on (should anyone ever ask me to deliver one). But 20? That’s realistic. That’s proof we never stop learning, evolving, failing and re-starting. In matters of career and life, there are infinite lessons. Twenty is a good starting point.

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Written by Hannah Stiff

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