"There’s no way around it, startups are hard. And it’s supposed to be that way. You are trying to do things that no one has ever done before. You are trying to disrupt markets and incumbents. You are trying to change consumer behavior. You are trying to move your employees out of their comfort zone.
You are going to make mistakes. You are going to fail. That’s all part of the startup life.
The critical bit is to make sure that your entire team knows and internalizes that startups are supposed to be hard. This is especially difficult when your company is flush with cash and in growth mode. How do you explain to your team that you’ve got $xx millions (or $xxx millions) in the bank but their job is supposed to be hard every day? How do you get your team to spend every dollar like it’s their last and to be obsessively paranoid of complacency?
By no means have I fully figured this one out yet. The natural default for me and for many CEOs is to try to inspire the team each day and focus on the wins, not the losses.
Here are some ways I’ve been trying to keep our team at Fab focused on the “it’s supposed to be hard” bit:
- Say it. Say it again. And again and again. In talk after talk I keep reiterating the phrase, “Startups are hard; they are supposed to be hard.” The point is to acknowledge and keep hammering home this thought as a tone-setter.
- Celebrate challenges as much as successes. In 2014 I’m instituting a monthly “what sucked this month” review. The point is not to get people down on the business but rather to make sure we stop regularly and really talk through the weaknesses in the business and then make sure we have proper resources focused on improvement.
- Make uncomfortable the new comfortable. Push people out of their comfort zone. Don’t allow group think to get in the way of pushing forward. Inertia is a company’s biggest enemy.
- Measure vs. plan — using the right metrics. It’s too easy when you are growing to just ignore the plan in the name of growth or to focus on the top line instead of the bottom line. It is critical to measure regularly vs. plan and to make sure you are keeping score on the metrics most critical to long-term viability and value creation.”