It’s Not If (But When) Your Startup Slides Sideways You’ll Find Your True Potential

Boy has it been a challenging couple of months.  The title of the post might be a bit misleading, suggesting my company is indeed going nowhere fast.  This is a wrong assumption.  It’s definitely going somewhere, we are growing 50% month over month and just posted record numbers again, but just as a car can slip and slide when it hits a patch of black ice so can a young startup.

It’s not if (but when) the sliding occurs the true leader will emerge.  Let me just tell you what happens in a typical startup.

A. People sit around and think about cool new ideas

B. Those people start prototyping and building a product

C. Once they realize they want to jump into this more intently, they find a few more people and form a team

D. At some point the group formally incorporates and makes the company official

E.  The people associated are listed as founders and as such, receive incentive to stick around via stock

F.  (Most founders) think they are the next Facebook and think their product will magically spread virally to millions of people

G. Then it doesn’t

H.  Then shit hits the fan and everyone finds out it’s actually tough to grow a business

I.  Only then will you finally find out what people are made of.

J.  Only then, when it’s actually work and things don’t come as easy, the pretenders will leave

K.  And only at this time the leader will emerge and help the company find it’s true path

Look, life is tough.  Things don’t always work out as planned.  But does that mean you just up and quit, to simply move on to the next thing that you think might magically make your dreams come true?

I don’t believe so.  I believe it takes Blood, Sweat, and Tears for anything materially positive and truly great to be created.  This has always been true but it’s even more so today.  Why?  Because it’s too damn easy to build a product and start a company today.   There has to be a distinction between the minor leagues and the major leagues; jumping straight to the majors just doesn’t happen often enough to be a believable story for your life.

What’s the minor leagues?  Hacking, dinking around and building crazy products.

What’s the major leagues?  Building a business and an organization around the product which adds value to our world.

If you ever wonder who’s the leader in a group, just light a bomb (figuratively) and throw it directly into the center of the team. Watch someone run and they are the weak link.  They are not the leader.  Whoever stays has leadership qualities within them.  And whoever stands up, starts taking hold of the situation and determines the path forward – well they are the true leader.

It’s funny, when everything is great and everyone’s slapping backs and high-fiving there’s almost no need for leaders.  Everything seems to move forward with little direction or effort.  But just wait till something happens.  Leaders find their calling and establish their potential when things start going sideways.

I think it’s amazing that leaders emerge during crisis.  I also think it’s fitting and believe it’s how the world should work.

But please do yourselves and your co-founders a favor next time you want to start a company.  Look each other in the eye and ask yourselves what kind of player you are?  Minor or major?  Weak link or leader type?  It will save quite a bit of time and grief on the others.

@jnickhughes

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