Being a founder is like being a school child again. You have to put your hand up a lot, ask a load of questions, then do the work to get to the next chapter. It can be scary putting yourself in this position, but it’s a must. If you’re a know it all then you’ll be reluctant to learn and keep moving forward.
Who you approach when looking for help is crucial. Startups are fragile. And the earlier you are in the process the more fragile it is. Having just an idea, a little thought in your mind that you think could be a big deal is the most fragile position of all. Your idea is unique, special and clearly means something to you if you’ve even thought about pursuing it. You’ve probably spent hours thinking about it. It takes a lot of courage to then take the leap and start executing it.
In my experience there are generally three types of people you will encounter on your journey. It’s important to know who you are dealing with in any given situation as some people will be your number one fan, while others will be hoping you fail from the outset and may even go out of their way to sabotage you (there always seems to be one saboteur in any organisation/sub-organisation whose life’s purpose seems to be to hold you back at any cost).
These people don’t really care about what you’re doing, but kind of just point you in the correct direction. Things get done, although not in a super enthusiastic way. These people are actually the easiest to deal with when you just need to get something done.
For example when I was first getting started I needed to find out about how the local health services here procure different products. I was introduced to one of the members on the local health board who deals with this stuff and he talked me through it all.
We still keep in touch with each other and meet up occasionally. He’s indifferent, but will likely buy the product for all the local services in the region if I can show him some more data. But at the same time, if I disappear off of the face of the planet he probably wouldn’t even notice.
These types of people are the best people to speak to when you’re at the ideation stage. If you just want to bounce some ideas around and get some validation then these are your go to guys and gals. The next two categories of people tend to either disregard what you have to say or have a false positive bias towards you.
You may already know some indifferent people. They are the people who you might have had lunch with a couple of times or have bumped into when out with your really good friends a few times, but who you don’t really know. They’re the type of people that you realise you haven’t seen in a while when it’s actually been over a year. They know you well enough to know you’re not crazy, but also won’t be afraid to give you really honest feedback, especially if you give them specific instructions to be as brutal as possible and try to tear your idea apart. They will give you well thought out constructive criticism, which is absolute gold.
The Early Adopters
Some people really get it. The early adopters. They’re the ones whose pupils dilate when they see your product in action and know what benefits it will bring. They usually end up helping a lot and not only that, often end up as long term friends and will spread the word to anyone and everyone on your behalf!
These people are your customers when you first launch. They are your world. Look after them and listen to them really carefully.
How do you find these people when you first start? The Internet is the greatest connection machine in the whole world. All you need to do is find a yes and you’re on your way.
These are the people you should avoid like the plague. They’re not worth your time.
They’re the ones who haven’t made anything profitable in their whole lives and yet are giving you a thousand reasons on why you’re wrong and will never make it. They’ll have a knee jerk reaction of negativity irregardless of your unique insights, talents and abilities.
Be careful of these people. They’re a waste of time, because they’ll give generic “feedback” which won’t help you execute on your idea. In organisations they are often the saboteurs and will try and block your project from moving forward. If you encounter these people, then don’t engage them, move on and find a way around. I am yet to encounter a scenario where I have not been able to go around.