From ileadfarmers to Talkd — it has been an extraordinary journey of 9 years. Significant achievements, innovative projects, some major challenges, and few pitfalls — all of these have taught us something significant. Over the years we have differentiated ourselves as an agency and honed our idea generation and design thinking skills rather than a bunch of people just churning the wheel day by day. Now, having started another set of 365 days, I think it’s time to look back at what went well and what did not and let others on a similar path as ours know the same.
What you should do to better your startup journey? Telling what to do, the steps you should take — it’s easier said than being done. I would rather share the ‘Don’ts’ and urge you to refrain from making mistakes that Startups are usually tempted to make. This blog series, straight from our learning curve, explores the absolute ‘No No’s’ in your startup journey — starting with the first mistake of wrong empowerment.
Start With The Wrong Stars
In your startup days, empowering the wrong people is like giving a flaming torch to a child. It’s the surest way of burning your startup to the ground instead of illuminating the way ahead. And in most cases it’s the employees who join from day 1 who end up so — from the startup torchbearer to the unintentional arsonist. Unfortunately, you tend to forge an emotional attachment instead of assessing their long-run capabilities, their credentials, and their passion for sharing your vision. Hence in the name of this “early-days” bond, your association continues.
Invisible wall between “entrepreneur” and “early joiner”
There is an obvious yet invisible line between you as an “entrepreneur” and an “early joiner”. As an entrepreneur you are motivated and you expect your team to reflect the same level of motivation, hoping that they pour their heart and soul into the vision you strive to realize.
Unfortunately, you look at it from your point of view — believing 100% motivation and knowledge transfer will do the job. You fail to account for the capability of your employees to understand your vision and take the responsibility to drive the same.
Don’t call the shots based on comfort
In a professional environment, don’t get into the trap of your comfort zone in terms of relationships, especially with employees who are nicer to you. A startup environment acts more like a close-knit family than a structured hierarchy. So, you might have a group of 5–10 people you are comfortable working with.
You are motivated and trust their capability to run the show across teams. Unfortunately, motivation and trust are futile with people failing to keep up with the rapidly progressing and ever-demanding startup life. Don’t bank on comfort, it won’t make your startup journey comfortable.
An eye-opening exercise
A startup grows exponentially every night which means employees need to grow exponentially every 2 hours. This is something tough to map yet it must be done/incorporated in the startup DNA. You should regularly do an employee SWOT and asses their capabilities vs their output. Trust me when I say this exercise is an eye-opener.
Most of the people who you think are comfortable in your startup environment will turn out to be inadequate. What’s more — they will frown and complain once you start pointing out the errors in their work. Their resistance to change and incapability to grow will result in them distrusting you for your efforts to show the reality.
Don’t trap yourself with sheep in the wolfskin. Look for capable individuals who are passionate and can handle the challenging environment of a startup. However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t empower people. Respect your team, be a professional with them, and in parallel do a SWOT of them for leadership roles and critical projects. Empower the right people and eventually, they will enable the realization of your startup becoming an established enterprise.