I was reminded today of one of the great powers in the world of entrepreneurship. The founder superpower that can be used for good or evil.
Well, to be clear, not really evil. Unless you consider the wasting of time and money to be evil. Which I suppose I do. It’s often the killer of startups that had real potential.
I’m talking about the power of a founder to activate whole teams around initiatives based upon a simple suggestion of an idea. Merely whispering sentences that start with
“I wonder if we should try….”
“At some point, it would be great if we could…”
“Have we thought about…”
Here’s the problem. Employees want the company to be successful. They want to be part of the group that figures out the path to profitable growth. They want to please. They want to be a part of team ‘YES’, not team ‘let’s do the research and testing and see what happens’.
At the mere suggestion of an idea from the founder, many employees will leap at the chance to move the ball forward.
I’ve seen an off-hand comment from a founder in a staff meeting spin up teams of employees to work on a barely defined ‘project’. Even worse, it’s like a bad game of telephone, and that one offhand comment can turn into projects that aren’t even remotely close to what the founder had in mind at the time.
It’s amazing how much time and money is wasted in companies because of this superpower. And to be fair, this isn’t just a startup problem. This is a power that managers in companies of all sizes have.
But early stage companies have limited time and resources. It doesn’t take much to tip a startup off track, to the point where it’s difficult to get it back on track before the money runs out.
There are three ways to prevent this from happening to your company.
First, as a founder, appreciate that you have this power, and be careful!
Second, empower your leadership team to question your ideas, edicts, and priorities. If you’re surrounded by yes-people, your company is in trouble.
Third, ensure that every employee knows that new initiatives require a process of developing a plan and running it through an approval process before people just start working.
This all sounds obvious and simple. And honestly, it is. But far too often these simple rules aren’t followed, leading to the wasting of time and money that most startups just can’t afford.