This is a draft of a chapter of my new book. Your comments are welcome.
Doing a startup is like building a bicycle while you are riding it. Awkward, demanding, risky, exciting, fun and rewarding. Nothing else is like it. There is no school that teaches that.
(Chapter 1 continued)
As CEO of a new enterprise, it’s like being a sculptress with a large lump of clay. She starts with an idea of what the statue will become (a beautiful Venus de Milo). As she sculpts, she thinks, things happen, time opens doors for alterations and as the creative work continues, the original image is altered. In the end, the clay will be greatly altered. It may emerge looking more like a handsome David or angry Moses.
People upset your plan. Plans are executed by people. Startups need lots of new, unknown people. They have to be added quickly. If you don’t have enough people, growth will be slowed. That’s dangerous in the race to become king of a new mountain. It’s the number one reason startups do not meet their ambitious growth plans. Excellent people that fit the culture of your company are hard to find. Even harder to recruit. And even harder to retain during the rough and tumble of building a world-class new enterprise. Serial entrepreneurs are brilliant at recruiting and retaining the best. Their investors love them.
Investors upset your plan. They can lose faith during the inevitable hard times and stop financing your growth and quit. They run out of money and struggle to raise a new fund. They balk at participating in the next round of financing. “We won’t let “good money follow bad.” They demand more from your performance as chief executor than you can deliver. They want too low a price per share on the next round of financing. Their terms of the next deal are outrageous. Their partners kick them out and you get Joe, the stupid jerk, as a substitute. It happens. Often. Too often. Get prepared for it. It is likely to happen to your startup.
Customers upset your plan. Yes becomes no. Ten becomes one hundred. Next month become never. They appear to be the ideal target but turn out to be a detour and waste of time. Their purchasing cycle becomes a case of the creeping close. It adds months and becomes years. Competition lies to your customers. About you personally as well as your products. On and on it goes as you execute. Startup CEXs know how to deal with that. They are superb at it. They actually enjoy the ups and downs. It’s part of the execution ride. The ride of terror. The ride of your life. It is one reason you are doing this startup.
upset your plan. They can do the job but then they cannot. On time becomes late
and then never. Price quotes shift without warning. Sharply upward, of course.
Quality suffers. They leak proprietary information. They don’t execute well
your planned deliveries.
Have you noticed the pattern? The surprises are mostly negative. Bad news. Trouble. Like little children, startups get into a lot of trouble a lot of the time.