Moving on from last week’s article on authenticity, this week’s focus on common startup mistakes is a big one – expectations!
Common Startup Mistake: Mismanaging Expectations
Be realistic and don’t assume everything will work out. It won’t.
If you aren’t authentic with yourself, your brand, or others, chances are that you’re also not properly managing expectations and falling victim to our fourth common startup mistake. Whether it’s yourself, your co-founders, your investors, or your customers, you have an obligation to be realistic and honest with expectations and try your hardest to meet them.
“Without a doubt, the biggest and most prolific problem I have experienced or witnessed was a failure to manage expectations. As with any pursuit in life, goals are the internal metrics that we define for success whereas expectations are the external promises we make to others. As founders, our job is to establish baselines and manage expectations for all the stakeholders that are involved. In short, our job is managing expectations.”
He goes on to break it down into three prime examples; cash, commitments, and customers. First, cash.
“First time and experienced founders fail to account for how much free capital they need to survive. We’re far too optimistic and always assume everything will work out. It won’t.”
He then explores commitments, which is more or less a reflection of time management, or lack thereof.
“Most hustles start on the side…For most of us, our day jobs, relationships, children, and hobbies all will compete for our time. On any given day, it’s difficult to predict which one will be the winner, but almost certainly the biggest loser is your side project. Our failure to make reasonable goals once again leads to unfortunate expectations and results.”
Lastly, we have managing customer expectations, which boils down to how well you’ve managed the two aforementioned, as Greg explains:
“Both cash and commitments feed into the broader, most critical place where managing expectations can crush our business. When we make promises to customers, we must consider them commitments that must be honored — or we risk losing them and ruining our reputation in the process. Clearly, if we don’t manage our own expectations for the cash required to accomplish our goals and have not properly allocated the time needed to focus our efforts, we have the perfect recipe for failing our customers. Don’t do this.”
Another expectation that you should manage is, “How many people are going to understand and appreciate the importance of my idea/product?” The answer is easy: zero. Remember Noel James from our earlier piece? Allow him to weigh in one more time:
“Entrepreneurs don’t understand that they are the only one who truly sees the vision [in their product]. Yes, you can get investors and a team on board, but no one sees what you see. This can lead to a big lag between your expectations and the ability of others to bring your vision into the real, physical world!”
John Lashbrook, Founder & CEO of Legacy Lantern, agrees.
“No one will care about your startup more than you. No…one…Own that fact and you will dodge disappointment. It’s your dream and no one is responsible for it except you. You and only you will make it a reality. I don’t mean you have to do all the work, just understand that at the end of the day, when everyone else goes home, they stop thinking about the startup.”
So how do you motivate your team to make the dream a reality?
“Have a sense of urgency and attention to detail. Project that urgency and attention to detail into your team every day. You make your dream a reality by making sure everyone has everything they need to get their job done. There can be no ambiguity in what they have to do, why it is important, and how it fits into the overall execution plan.”
To recap on common startup mistakes part 4:
- Manage expectations; specifically cash, commitments, and customers. This will come easier with a well executed plan.
- Understand that no one will care about your product/dream as much as you.
- Motivate your team by projecting a sense of urgency and attention to detail every day.