Business health, vitality and long game prospects are being scrutinized at every level of company scale, from public company to brand new startup, at a depth only this pronounced a few times in world history.
Time To Get Real
Beyond the now, founders need to be realists at all times. We admire that idealistic optimism and naivete that gives entrepreneurs the confidence that they can conquer any mountain, but it must be based on facts. There needs to be a market-in opportunity with a bottom’s up execution game plan – that stands defensible for all roadblocks thrown in the way.
Only people inside a company know if their company is stagnant, stuck in mud, off course, or lost its way completely. Deep down workers can tell, regardless of role or position, but the more senior the more obvious – especially the CEO, founders, or longtime executives.
The answer to “how is your company doing?” is an innate feeling. Sometimes even the numbers can lie or share a fool’s tale. Leaders need to tell the truth to themselves, they must use outside noise to fuel them, but also ensure intrinsic honesty through thick and thin on the state of affairs. The risks in startups are market, execution or product. One at a time can be overcome, all together is a tidal wave. These things will ebb and flow. CEOs must focus ruthlessly to get execution on track and stay on track. Look forward financial models and back looking performance KPIs mean nothing in the throes of being an operator. They are just the guardrails and it’s hard as hell to stay within them.
Go With Your Entrepreneurial Gut
I look for entrepreneurial honesty and gut instincts to get my best gauge of a startup’s health and opportunity, at any given moment. The most confident executives don’t deny the challenges they face, they tell it how it is, slow it down, seek guidance, iterate and adjust, and focus on the tasks at hand. It always comes down to day to day execution. Those spreadsheets will work themselves out over time. Stay the course, don’t freeze, be pragmatic, maintain your conviction and play the long game. That is what startup life is all about.