thanks siminoff for sharing this:
Mark Suster, one of my new favorite bloggers had the below 8 points in his post Startups are all Naked in the Mirror. If you have time I suggest you read the whole article and if you are not already follow his blog, Both Sides of the Table, do that too.
1. Be careful about believe everybody else’s good press and drawing any judgment on your own internal performance. Judge yourself against your own expectations for yourself and your customer feedback.
2. Let your compass be based on your customers. Get feedback, find out whether they are happy and serve them well. Over communicate with them. Don’t obsess with product releases of competitors or biz dev deals. In the scheme of things they come and go. Google announced Google Wave and people are worried about the impact on your business? Don’t. Product announcements come and go. You need to understand the impact of your competitor developments and learn from them. Just don’t obsess with it. And don’t let it be your compass.
3. Remember to communicate with your team frequently and openly. Point out the naked mirror syndrome. It is the elephant in the room anyways. Believe me they’ll all have Google Alerts out on the competition and will read their announcements with interest. If you don’t address it they’re minds are shaped by competitor PR.
4. Be careful about not over expressing your deepest concerns to your team. You need to be open but not instill panic. It’s OK to talk about fund raising challenges or customer losses. You should. But most people aren’t wired to deal with the nerve racking daily grind of life as a CEO. If you shared every deep seated fear (that I know you have) and over hyped every victory (that never pays off as much as you had hoped) you’ll have people on your roller coaster ride. Remember that most people aren’t wired this way.
5. Don’t underestimate the impact of good PR on your competitors. You need to be sure that you’re constantly communicating with the market. Having a conversation. Getting your company news out. Believe me your competitors are watching. Reading. Good PR can help slow down your competitors initiatives as they naively try to follow you. No news from you strengthens their internal morale.
6. Reach out to the competitors. Get to know them. Be open and many will be open back. Realize as a start-up you have much more in common with them in driving the industry adoption. I think it’s best to have friendly competition the way you’d hope to in sports. Compete to win – don’t get me wrong. But in a gentlemanly way. If you feel the need to have an “arch enemy” to motivate the team (as some CEO’s feel the need) then make it just one firm and befriend everyone else. Reach out to the founders, not the staff. Keep your conversations confidential. I wouldn’t even disclose to the team that you’re having them. They then start to think sinister thoughts.
7. Your strategic initiatives are unlikely to deliver knock-out blows – Just as most people overplay their competitors strengths, they also tend to overplay their own. No matter was killer next feature set we were releasing that we thought would completely change the game in our market it was uncanny how every major competitor I had was (in retrospect) working on the exact same set of features at the same time. They had all the same customer feedback and had they all had smart people around the table. I believe winning is about constantly executing, year-in, year-out. Not about some knock-out feature set, biz dev deals , pricing drops or market positioning.
8. Don’t overset expectations for your employees on the way in. I learned this the hard way. Imagine calculating what 0.25% of your company is going to be worth when you go public 18 months after inception. I know it sounds silly to those that weren’t around in the late 90’s. But when that doesn’t pan out then people look to the door. After a while I starting telling people on the way in, “join because you’re passionate about what we do. Join because you’ll make a good not great salary. Join because as we succeed so will you. Join because every year we’ve improved your CV to have an even better job in the future. And, oh, by the way. We do hand out stock options. If they’re worth something some day that would be gravy. But if you’re joining for just that reason it would be better to work somewhere else.”