By Mary Juetten — Guest Blogger
In my Startup Advice Part 1, I discussed a couple of business best practices: asking questions and planning ahead. This blog addresses three additional best practices: the critical nature of metrics, the need to check your ego at the door, and the importance of being a team player.
Chaos is not king; cash is king. To earn cash, a rigorous plan is required. That means relevant metrics have to be set and measurements done regularly. These metrics are then used to guide action and correct course.
In my startup engagement, with senior leaders focused on the 90-day plan, questions were asked daily about irrelevant metrics. Frequently I heard, “How many members? “ and “How many friends on Facebook?” The number of friends on Facebook did not translate into cash. A chaotic atmosphere without focus and a guiding plan did not allow execution — and did not create cash.
The correct metrics are necessary to check progress on the plan.
Check the ego at the door
Ego can get in the way of success. Leaving aside the genius of Steve Jobs and other successful individuals with larger than average egos, the entrepreneur with an inflated sense of self is a dangerous partner or boss. Warning signs include anyone who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” or boasts of her startup successes without reference to challenges or lessons learned. These leaders surround themselves with similar people and tend to engage in mutual backslapping.
That said, it is easier to recognize this serial entrepreneur than to spot those who rest on past laurels.
While working on a turnaround in the mid ‘90s, I divided people into two camps. There were those who clung to the past. They would say, “That is the way we have always done it.” A smaller group would say, “OK, I will give that a try.” As an interim vice president trying to close a multimillion-dollar budget gap, I sought out those who were not rooted in the past.
That lesson carried over to the startup. Live in the now and address issues by applying lessons learned in the past, not reliving the past. Be humble. It is that simple. Give credit where credit is due, and remember that no one succeeds alone. No one.
Wrapping these best practices all together, I go back to one of my hiring practices. Any successful member of a youth sports team receives a second look. As a rule, a person who has played a team sport is a more natural team member than someone who played a solo sport such as golf or, tennis.
The ability to fail gracefully as a team is important. When things fall apart, a good team pulls together and does not point fingers. A recent experience saw the overseas developers pitted against the local operations group. Communication was in writing, sent at the end of each group’s day. When the website experienced downtime and problems, email accusations flew back and forth. The impersonal communication had created bad feelings because there was no direct interaction, no exchange of ideas and no team effort.
Babe Ruth summed it up, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
Ask questions; plan, execute, measure, and react; check your ego and accomplishments at the door and be a team player. It still works.
Mary Juetten is the founder of Traklight.com, a site that provides inventors, creators, and small businesses with the tools to identify and secure their intellectual property. Juetten also conducts provides IP Strategy & Education with her partner at InnovaPro Consulting.