Originally written for Hacker Noon on Medium.
Simple things to make a profound difference
There are few environments like that of a startup. Unfettered optimism, manic energy, a belief in something bigger than yourself, and more often than not, no fucking idea what’s coming next.
No matter the advisers or how prepared an entrepreneur believes they are, this is a learn as you process, and the successful groups are the ones who bend and twist, who learn and grow.
Staying rigid is a recipe for disaster.
Here are three quick thoughts, all of which seem to come up in every discussion I have with the founders of early-stage startups.
Stop only talking about features
As Simon Sinek says so often, it’s not what you do but why you do it inspires people.
Talking features doesn’t inspire. It checks boxes.
Don’t put customers on the defensive by telling them their current solution sucks, don’t bore them with an endless list of buzzwords.
Stop making this about you.
The best framework for fixing this comes from Andy Raskin, who pushes founders to focus their pitch around a “promised land,” that wondrous place users will exist in as you solve for their needs.
Start talking about your customers, their needs, how the landscape is changing and how you’re in this together.
I guarantee your pitch becomes more effective.
Go watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPYeCltXpxw
Go read this: https://medium.com/firm-narrative/pitch-like-moses-87540a85b236
Prepare yourself mentally to be uncomfortable
In a recent discussion with a founder around ways to prove their model to customers ( think consumer retail sales ), we came up with the cost-effective idea, relatively easy to make happen but a little outside of the conventional.
He pushed back, not wanting to ruffle any feathers.
Ruffle the fucking feathers! Do whatever you can to make your “thing” successful ( keep it legal, moral and don’t hurt anyone or anything. )
If you thought being an entrepreneur would keep you in your comfort zone, you should probably keep your day job.
This is not an excuse to go and blow a bunch of money on a stunt.
Stunts are for people who can’t come up with something meaningful.
Make every move count
I don’t know that I’ve ever met a founder who isn’t, at some point, paralyzed by a decision, so fearful they’ll make the wrong choice.
The concept of making every move count is accepting that you’re going to, at times, make the wrong choice, that you won’t always be correct.
When making decisions, keep your eyes and your mind open, ensure that even when you make mistakes, you learn and get better, or at the very least, you make some noise and / or grab attention.
Make the decision, move forward, accept they won’t all be right, do what you can to mitigate fallout and stay true to the vision. You’ll be alright.
One quick final note. Two fundamental truths about startups.
The stories we hear, the successes, rarely happened the way we’re told. Yet, sanitizing history to make things sound predetermined is a go-to favourite for marketing and PR experts and makes for a more convenient tale.
Every success, was for a time, a messy, stinkhole of rot. Founders fighting, failure imminent, purpose unclear. Only through hustle and determination, with some luck and helping hands, did anyone build a successful business.
Now go, build something and unleash your ideas.