Part of a Series. For prior segments, go to my blog.
STARTUP MANAGERS ARE DIFFERENT
Startup mangers are different.
Managers are people who get work accomplished through other people.
Startup managers have added complexities: they must get especially difficult things done very fast by (mostly) strangers while riding an unpredictable roller coaster.
All managers in a new enterprise have a very challenging job, often seemingly impossible. I greatly admire them.
Startup Managers Have Guts
Often early product efforts fail and the startup leader decides to make a radical change (pivot) into a vastly different market or business. That’s not someone’s fault, it just happens. Often.
Proprietary technology may fail to deliver the power its founders were confident they could deliver. I’ve been there when the touted founder technologist delivered a disappointing ten percent speed improvement rather than the ten-fold increase that he was confident of achieving. A lot of people were disappointed. He was not fired. That’s how risks are taken and results are accepted in startup land. No one responded with outrage, instead the company stakeholders wished the outcome would have been better, accepted the company’s decision to move into a fresh market and got to work executing the new business plan.
Other times customers’ responses to a product launch can be very disappointing, bored by a startup’s first product. I’ve seen a founder stunned into inaction by shock and depression after months of futilely flogging his beloved new product that turned out to be a dud. His staff had no managers who were experienced with startups that had hit the wall of product failure. Digging out of that deep emotional hole took nearly a year for that guy and his managers.
And a competitor may get too far ahead. Here is a real example that I experienced:
I was there when the founder of a very respected high tech startup was gobbling up market share with a product that wowed everyone who saw it. Competition was intense in a fresh market expected to be huge. Unfortunately, the able founder CEO watched an early competitor (with a product acknowledged by many as inferior) use clever marketing to emerge as the sales leader in the new market and reach its initial public offering first. With the sizable IPO cash, the competing CEO attacked our smaller startup with a nasty blast of patent violation claims.
Our intellectual property lawyers deemed them as bogus and were confident we would win a patent fight. The board of directors met during intense sessions and finally the company’s investors threw in the towel. They did not want to finance three years of legal fights. They sold the business to the larger company and walked away with a loss on their investment. The pivot move in this case was sale of the business instead of a patent fight costing millions, taking years, with no certain outcome.
Gutsy pivots can be amazingly successful. Renting inflatable air mattresses pivoted into Airbnb. Arranging rides for college students going on vacation pivoted into Lyft. Startup managers have guts.
When a pivot is required, experienced startup builders are able to roll with the ups and downs, are not crushed by preceding failure. They see, decide, pivot and get going, fast, along the fresh trail. Those startup plan executioners will continue to deliver results after the pivot has been made. Every startup needs them.
Often early product efforts fail and the company makes a radical change (pivot) into a vastly different market or business. That’s not someone’s fault, it just happens. Often.
End of "Guts." Next time I’ll talk about “Brilliant Startup Recruiting”
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!