"The more I find out, the less I know."

Monday - November 24, 2003 at 03:37 AM in

Tough decisions


One of the scary--some would say exhilarating--things about working at a startup is not knowing what the future will be. We're in the position right now of still being a long way from profitability, but experiencing a sharp increase in our sales pipeline and customer activity. Of course, you always wonder if this is for real, or just a fluke.
We went through the exercise last week of having an all-company meeting (even dragging one of the developers in for a day from his paternity leave) to review where we are, where we're going, and how we're going to get there. Bottom line: even though I've been financing this company out-of-pocket so far, we're probably going to need some outside investors soon. And outside money always comes with a price.

At the end of the meeting, I did something you'll never read about in Harvard Business Review: I handed everyone a sheet of paper, and asked each person to write (confidentially) whether s/he thinks we should continue to push forward. Then, anyone who voted "Yes" had to include some sort of offer which would help the company reduce our cash needs until we find an investor.

Of course, I didn't expect anyone to answer "No." The point was to make everyone think consciously about whether they thought we could make it against the long odds a startup faces, and make sure everyone understood that sacrifices would have to be made to be successful.

Two of the worst things which can happen in a startup are complacency and fatalism. Paradoxically, even though dumb luck is one of the most important factors in building a successful company, you also have to believe you are in control of your own destiny. Otherwise, you won't even make the attempt.

Maybe that's why they say you have to be crazy to start your own company.

Posted at 03:37 AM | Permalink | | |

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