On the one hand, entrepreneurs are optimistic, forward looking folk. On the other, they are often under extended stress – financial, operational, or just that stress which arises from not having slept enough! The weight of expectations, and the feeling of being behind schedules, timelines, and one’s desired level of achievement on any given day also adds up, and the end result is sometimes a very short fuse.
You get a mail from a customer about a bug that should’ve been caught in QA. Or a deadline gets missed again. Or a vendor, customer or employee calls up with a completely unreasonable demand. Or, just after a depressing day at work, a family member happens to ask you how things are going with the startup.
And you lose it.
But seriously – take it easy. Remember the following.
Your team need not be as passionate as you are about the business!
And it’s okay.
It’s your baby and while you have given the birth to the baby (and have spent sleepless nights taking care of the baby), it won’t be fair for you to expect the world to treat your baby, the way you have treated.
Your team, employees buy into your vision and it takes a while for them to really ‘get it’. After all, everybody has their own context in life – some might be looking for money, some preparing for their MS/GMAT (and want to show their startup experience to score some brownie points) and some just want a great job!
Stinker Email from Customers. Or the art of framing a response.
“Customer should ‘understand that we are a startup and struggling with resources.”
Nobody cares. Customers do business with dependable companies and you need to be one to close deals.
So when you receive a stinker, do not expect them to be good to you. They are just dealing with a vendor.
Do NOT reply to emails immediately. Go out, have a coffee/
smoke (if that’s your way to chill out) and reply after 30 minutes. To start with, write the email and only then add the email id in ‘To’ field! And if you’re still angry, share the draft with a level-headed colleague or partner and check with them to ensure the response is logical, reasonable and still makes the point you want to make without sounding angry.
Your family. They are too demanding. Of course!
SO you jump from a cliff and expect them to not question you? :)
Family expectation doesn’t change a lot (whether you are doing a job or running your own business) and while they do try to ‘adjust’, expect volcanic eruption every now and then.
Your entrepreneurship is stressful for them as well. You’re available lesser. There’s financial impact. There’s opportunity loss of all sorts – a vacation cancelled, an anniversary missed. And they live with the uncertainty as well.
The family need to be sold your vision and dream before you sell it to anyone else. There are needs and aspirations riding on you, and you need to explain the decision and impact and get them on board before you make sacrifices on their behalf. Do remember that while the glory will be primarily yours, the pain is shared by the family too.
Ups and Downs.
You are extremely happy when things are moving north and you hit a new low every time you lose a customer, an employee or not seeing the exponential growth you expected in the business.
Entrepreneurship is a roller-coaster ride – but here is what we are need to understand. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. On an average, it takes 15+ years to create a viable billion dollar business – so if you are planning one, plan for a long stay. And for a longer play, let go of your worries about competition.
While on this, learn to celebrate the wins a lot more than you moan the losses. The perception of things going right in as critical as the fact of it – amongst your team, the family, customers and even to yourself! (Of course, we’re not advocating extravagant parties and the like – being lean is as key organizationally as individually!)
Not everyone will “get it”.
You’re obviously sold on your idea (you are, right?)
The VC just brushed it aside with a “Hmm, interesting. Is there a market?” Or a friend heard you out patiently and in the end comes back with a “So? I’m confused.” Or a customer who commended you on a great presentation, or even went ahead with a trial, refuses to sign a check to make the purchase.
You obviously think they’re all missing the picture completely and “How can they not see how awesome and useful for them it is?”
Thing is, they don’t have to. They have a dozen things on their minds, and your offering might be downright useless in helping with their current pains, or be a small fringe benefit at most. If you can, put yourself in their shoes and read what they’re saying between the lines. At best, you’ll get insights for improving your product. At worst, you’ll handle rejection much better.
Sometimes you just want to respond with a sharp retort and express your anger or irritation – its a very human thing and it ok to let go once in a while.
Only – do it in style. And to have the desired impact. For instance, if you talk about how a customer experience went down the drain due to a preventable bug rather than who was responsible for it (that’s usually known already, isn’t it) and rant against the person – you’re likelier to make the person responsible feel worse about it without the opportunity to react defensively. Manipulative? Perhaps. But effective as well.
Focus on outcomes. The immediate, imagined battle vs the long term?
Do you want to kill a relationship, or take it forward?
If its the former, do it quietly and without anger – less people with a negative thought about you can only be good for you and the universe :) Even if you do momentarily lose it, keep the ego aside and send a polite, reconciliatory message to the person to ensure its a clean, amicable separation, not a messy, angry one.
And if its the latter – do you think a mere reaction will help? Focus on the issue instead and try not bringing the person/personality into the picture at all. Remember – you can bring up efficiency, workflows, processes, even competence and get away with it. The moment you bring up someone’s intentions or character into an angry conversation, its a closed chapter.
Takeaways – be smart
When someone points something out – see what you can use from it to improve or learn from. Respond with a cool head, and take notes!
Channel your irritation into highlight product deficiencies or communication slip-ups, etc and improve things.
Get the family onboard.
Celebrate wins, and make lost deals, customers, and opportunities primarily about learning and not moaning.
In any crisis, stay focused on long-term outcomes, not on proving yourself right.