Start-ups, Don’t Let Arrogance Kill Your Business

Having a Great Product Just Isn’t Enough for Success

It’s a shame. I’m frustrated and saddened. I have been working with a company on and off for over 4 years and have failed. Four years! That’s a long time. I must be patient, crazy or, most probably a little bit of both. Planning has not taken place at all. Structure is non-existent. Processes are not in place. Communication is poor. Leadership is weak. Wait! It isn’t like a different me has been working with this company and they have not heard me harping about these things on a regular basis. It’s been me, and I have repeatedly pushed for planning and structure.

The company I am referring to has a really great product that they have spent millions of dollars to develop. The product is truly breakthrough and amazing. They also have a pretty decent product/market fit, so two of the key requirements for success exist. They have been developing the product and selling various versions of it for over 6 years.

So why are none of the key elements of a business in place? Why are they still seeking funding after 3+ years of trying? Why are sales languishing and/or non-existent?

The answer lies in two topics I have blogged about several times: arrogance and leadership. In this case, too much arrogance and very little real leadership. In addition, in my opinion there is an element of integrity, or lack thereof, that is an issue with this leadership team.

As a result, the developers of the product, who are also the owners of the business, have chased away several good CEO candidates that have been presented to them. In fact, every individual with a true business skill set that we have attempted to bring into the company has been minimalized and, eventually left the company or has been tossed aside. Yet the founders continue to believe they know what they are doing and just need to find that one or two people that understand how to do things their way so they can finally be successful.

But what they don’t get is that they have no business skill sets. They have no well established “their way” to run their business. As a result, they have no business plan, no business structure, no branding, no marketing. They have a product crying out for a business to do something with it.

Worse their communications capabilities are limited as they prefer to play everything very close to the vest. They share information with whom they think needs to know, and then only the limited information they feel is necessary. While they listen politely to questions and input, they accept very little as valuable and continue to move forward under their own set of assumptions. That truly is the crux of the entire problem. If you cannot communicate you cannot be an effective leader. If you live on a set on unverified assumptions that really is all you have.

Double whammy that with a lack of people management skills and you have a serious problem for any business. That is what I have been dealing with for 4 years, trying to coax the founders towards being leaders and/or moving out of the way for the leaders to be effective. Neither has happened and now they find themselves in a predicament. They lost two key employees and have a limited ability to generate sales. Now they are running out of money to hire the people they need. Under the current circumstances, I believe no investor will be willing to come to the rescue.

So, what can you do about arrogance? Lack of leadership? Lack of integrity? Well, it starts with realization. Like an addict must realize they are addicted before they can seek help, leadership is something that must be understood to be practiced. Arrogance must be recognized and stifled to be a true leader. Integrity should be the base for all interactions and is a requirement for any true successful leader.

I have always told my kids that you are born with 100% integrity and 0% respect. You spend your entire life trying to keep your integrity and build your respect. If you ever do anything to lose even a little bit of either one you will spend the rest of your life trying to build it back up.

That’s your challenge for this month. Recognize the issues within your leadership style and take action to correct them. You, your team, and your business will all improve accordingly. The outcome will be a win-win-win.

We can help, reach out!