The following post is a re-blog from a friend of mine and a brilliant human being. Feel free to check out more of his thoughts and experiences at http://www.jamesgreaves.com. This particular post rang true for me in my entrepreneurial travels and observations about what can make entrepreneurship hard. Enjoy!
Why YOU Are the Reason Your Startup Will Fail
Being an entrepreneur is, in my humble view, among the toughest things to do in the world. It stretches you in every possible way: your emotions, your belief in yourself and your self identity, your mental health, your relationships with your family and friends, your intellectual capacity, and your finances. It can consume you.
If that’s not enough, as an entrepreneur you also have to face up to the reality that if your startup fails, it will fail because of you.
Let me say that again in case you missed it. The only reason your startup will not be successful is YOU.
“But,” I hear you ask, “how can that be true, when entrepreneurship is such a risky business, with so many unknowns. Can you really be held responsible for your funding runway (or lack thereof), market conditions, consumer appetite, timing, team strength, natural disasters, acts of God, war, new entrants into the market and government intervention?”
Yes. That’s your job. Deal with it.
The problem is that we fill our lives with excuses, like “I need capital to scale this,” and “the market isn’t ready.” Platitudes that mask our own poor behavior and put the blame on others. When you can move away from excuses you can be completely honest with yourself. When you are honest with yourself, you can make proper decisions and free yourself to act in a way that will ensure success.
You heard that right too, there are ways you can act to ENSURE success in your startup. After all, a startup, at it’s core is not that complicated:
- Create a service or product
- Sell your service or product to customers (your market)
- Sustain competitive advantage (continue to drive your market by competing on cost, quality, or time)
The only questions you really need to ask yourself are: Is this a product that I can actually make, and make better/faster/cheaper than someone else? And, does this product meet actual customer needs; will they pay me for it?
If you can’t get started, then you are trying to sell something you can’t build, or something the market doesn’t want. If you can’t scale then you failed to manage properly, including hiring the people or engaging the partners you need to mitigate your weaknesses and plan accordingly.
If you do any of the above wrong, you likely fall into at least one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Entrepreneurship, self-defeating behaviors that directly affect your ability to do business. If you are the perpetrator of any of these mindsets you will almost certainly fail. I have seen all of these sins (individually or in groups) take down countless promising startups full of bright, hardworking people. They are those who let their inner selves derail their dreams.
The Seven Sins
- Arrogance: You don’t listen to your customers and you build something nobody wants, or you become disconnected with your customers and you piss them off. You think you are so smart have all the answers you need inside your own head.
- Lust: You get so caught up building something you want, you don’t build what you need to. You have dream to revolutionize something, and you want to do it your way on your terms. You miss the opportunities before you because you are only interested in building what’s in your brain.
- Pride: You celebrate too early and lose focus on your business. You get distracted or fritter away your capital on nice offices, non-core products, or similar nonsense well before your nascent empire is formed.
- Misdirection: You focus all your attention on the wrong things or miss the key areas you should be focusing on. There’s so many resources available to make decisions properly, but you don’t take the time to research the scientific patterns of behavior that have made other entrepreneurs successful. You’re too caught up in the myth that the best startups are risky enterprises run by mavericks, and you run off helter-skelter like a madman.
- Impatience: Fueled by tales of trail-blazing heroes, you force the issue by painting yourself into a corner. You spend money where it’s not needed or quit your job before your startup can support you. You believe that increased pain in the short term will somehow increase your chances of success.
- Blindness: You allow external circumstances to catch up with you and make excuses that aren’t true. You say your market isn’t ready when really you are selling a ridiculous product. You say you don’t have the funds to scale when you haven’t taken the effort to prove the concept to the market, investors or potential partners. Your external scapegoating is only masking the truth from yourself.
- Lack of Confidence: You are scared of failure, which is ironic because you act in ways that make you fail. You don’t engage your personal networks, you don’t reach out for help, you don’t fully commit to building the product you need to, or you are too timid to reach out to your customers. You fail act, or you act partially, leading to disaster.
The truth is, if you want to run a startup you can, and you can be wildly successful. But it may not be the startup you have in mind. You have to listen to your market. You have to build something you can do better than anyone else. To do either of these you have to overcome yourself, learn to listen, be patient, focus on the right things, be measured in your appetites, and be confident in the right things.
Startups are hard, but these Seven Sins are not an excuse not to try. They a challenge to try harder. But we must all try better, smarter, with more honesty and a more open mind. Once we do that, we can always find a way to succeed.