Most startups fail, it is the reality of the startup game. Still, entrepreneurs play the game with amazing commitment and drive.
However, no matter how committed and driven you are, how innovative your product is, and how amazing your people are, there are three things that will kill your startup.
Each of these three things is a poison that your startup is helpless against, it will infect it, paralyze it, and eventually it will kill it!
1. Assholes Aboard:
An asshole is someone who is self-absorbed and only interested in their own thoughts, words, and actions. They are always: talking, complaining, quick to criticize, slow to take action, engaged in endless arguments, taking credit but never giving it, pissed off of something or someone, taking forever to get their point across, against anything they do not understand, giving excuses for not getting things done, and criticizing anything they do not agree with.
They are never engaged in a dialogue to reach a better outcome. They do not allow anyone to influence them. No matter how hard you try, they will end up doing things the way they've always done it.
Their growth and development are incremental and minimal. That is a killer for a startup that has to move super fast and develop an unfair advantage in a market that is shifting and transforming every day.
Even if you have one asshole on your team, you are doomed. Not only will they suck the life out of everything, they will also cause you to lose the people you need to succeed.
Put simply, if assholes are aboard your startup, it is going to sink. Identify them and kick them out.
2. Activity Addiction:
One of the biggest fatal mistakes you can make in a startup is to let the activity addiction destroy your productivity.
Activity addiction is when people get used to engaging, talking about and reporting activity instead of results.
Just like drug addiction, all it takes is a few unexamined conversations about activity to get hooked. More than developed businesses, startups are more likely to develop this phenomenon because in the early days there is nothing but activity and little tangible results. So it is very tempting for the team to trick themselves into reporting activities, instead of the hard facts about results achieved or missed.
So what is the problem with reporting activity? Isn’t activity the source of results? The simple answer is NO! a result is either achieved or not, it is quantifiable, measurable and it brings the company closer to its goals. An activity can lead to a result, or it can be a complete waste of time. That is why reporting activity is misleading, and reporting results is sobering, it brings awareness to actual real-time performance.
In your startup insist on clear, simple, results-driven language, no fluff, no BS, just facts.
3. Sales Obsession:
Great salespeople are a valuable asset for any company, their drive and motivation is infectious, and the positive impact of their success is unmistakable. However, a startup is a fragile thing, it is a creature still discovering itself, and figuring out its place in the world.
While generating sales for a startup is great, an obsession with sales is not, it can hurt innovation, cause confusion, and delay execution on strategy.
Salespeople want to sell; they have zero tolerance for early adopter products, products that are yet to be tested and validated in the market. They are not interested in exploring the market, getting to know the customer, learning and developing their skills. They just want to sell shit, any shit, they do not care. Why? Cause that is how they make their money.
Unless your sales team are believers in the vision and are ready to explore the market, open it up, test it, push the limits and go beyond its boundaries, they do not belong in your startup.
Choose salespeople that are open to learning and familiar with startup environments, find a way to compensate them for different categories of results, not just commission on sales. Build the company with them; get them involved in product development, value proposition design, and strategic planning.
Leading a startup to success is hard work, very hard work! So, make your job easier; get rid of all the assholes, focus on results, and execute on a strategy of constant and never-ending learning, innovation and growth.
Would love to hear from you, your ideas, feedback, experience, and questions on this topic and this article.
If you found value in this article, please like and share, you never know who else in your network may find it valuable :)