If you’ve hung around startup people, especially younger ones in or fresh out of college, you might have run into an “idea guy.” It’s easy to roll your eyes at them. They have passion, but no real skills to bring to the table. So they have to hunt down a coder to make their killer app, a designer to actually bring their ideas to life, and a sales and marketing team to get it in front of people.
So what do they bring to the table?
In a way, everything. They bring the energy to help the other people on the team believe they are actually onto something, that’s the magic that can’t be bought, hired, or trained.
(Yes, they need real skills on top of this, but my point is without this irrational exuberance, you won’t make it.)
Startups don't die when they run out of cash, they die when the founders run out of energy.— Naval (@naval) February 6, 2013
I sat in on a few different startup team meetings this week. All very different industries (but all tech companies, which is why I was there). Candidly, I have a lot of faith in the teams where the people have good attitudes.
Sales people get what I’m saying, but I’m guessing operations and tech are rolling their eyes.
You can have someone incredibly talented, but if they’re not giving their best to the work, why are they there? Maybe hire them as a consultant or advisor, but that’s not a core team member. That doesn’t mean they need to be your bro laughing at all your jokes—but if you’re late to every meeting, never turn your camera on during the zoom call, and always wait for someone else to give you work instead of suggesting some yourself…it’s pretty clear you don’t want to be there.
These teams don’t end with a bang, but a whimper.
Without Money, Why Do You Work?
Some people wait until they’re retired to figure out this question (and if they don’t figure it out, they die quicker).
Startup people have the blessing of figuring it out early in their careers. 99% of startups not making money right off the bat, which mean they are working on out of faith in their idea, passion for the subject matter, or resentment of being a normal employee.
Some folks jump into a startup with a get-rich-quick mindset. They will burn out. Instead, if you think your idea is powerful enough that it’s worth giving 10 years of your life to it, then I want to invest in you (because you’ll probably figure it out quicker, or at least treat the investment as a marathon, not a sprint).
All that to say, without faith you will not have stamina to see your business to profitability.
Leaders Have Double the Burden
Leaders have to not only cultivate and guard their own energy, but give it liberally to the other people on their team. That’s not an easy thing to do when you’re bleeding cash, you’re not sure how you’re going to make payroll next week, and then your employee brings some bullsh*t problem and you can’t believe this is a legitimate blocker for theri work.
It’s a lot like being a parent.
I don’t mean that facetiously. It’s not just “well, I gotta suck it up and provide” which is true. It’s also the mature side of parenting that says “their needs aren’t just physiological and they need to know they will be taken care of”—even if you’re not sure how you’ll that off.
If you’re into startups, you should know hat product-market- fit is already.
If you’re into the trendy VC talks these days, you’ll have heard of the product-market-founder fit, describing not just “this is a good idea” but also “this is a good idea nad I’m the right person to execute on it.”
Part of that equation is understanding how much energy you have to give to your people when you don’t feel like it.
It’s a very hard job which is why so few succeed.