Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Making leadership about moving towards, and not just moving away from – thoughts for startup founders

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on April 2, 2014

Many of us are driven to manage and lead in response to negative experiences, and from the lessons of how not to do it that we have gained from working with ineffectual managers and leaders and from working in stultifying business environments. This is perhaps particularly true for startup founders, and particularly for first timers who seek to both develop their own businesses and to build and run them differently than the people who they have worked for would. The drive to do things that we see as important to us, better, can be very compelling. And the drive to get out from under ineffectuality that has stymied us can be a powerful source of motivation: a powerful source of inspiration to action on our own behalf. That is understandable, but ultimately success in these ventures has to be based on what we would work towards as our positive alternative, and not just on the negatives of what we would move away from and seek to surpass.

I offer this posting as a thought piece on untangling the sometimes knotted complex of drives and incentives that would lead us to strike out on our own to build our own business. And the threads of our knotted skeins here can be very complex. Along with logic and reason, our motivation and drive are usually built on and from emotion too. And while emotionally based drive can be forcefully compelling it generally lacks a clear and analytical focus, in and of itself. And even when our core reasoning is more rationally and analytically grounded and very intentionally so, it can still be somewhat out of focus and a work in progress, and even as we make commitments to step away from old career paths and into a more entrepreneurial new.

I have worked with a number of successful first time and serial entrepreneurs and can state with confidence that I have never even just met one who was not driven at least in part by emotion as they pursue that next new business opportunity, from the joy and excitement of building new – and even from the joy and excitement of the risks that this involves, always.

Analytical reason and yes – emotional involvement, both play legitimate and even essential roles in being that effective and successful entrepreneur that every startup founder seeks to be. Building a startup and making it work calls for a full scale and comprehensive effort and a full scale commitment, and of ourselves as much as of our material and financial resources and our stability in those areas. This posting is all about knowing and thinking through what drives us and what sets our agenda and our priorities for following it, so we can more fully and effectively know those goals and priorities and know how to make them succeed. This holds true for first time entrepreneurs who see potential for opportunity moving forward, even as they see compelling personal need to break out on their own and with a fresh, unstultified approach that is not limited by the strictures that they have faced in their prior and up-to-now career paths. This holds true for a serial or would-be serial entrepreneurs too, that they understand where and how their desire to try this again might be driven by analytical consideration of specific business new opportunity and where it might be driven emotionally by a desire to relive the experience of building success out of novelty and risk again.

Think this through both to know what motivates you and why, and to identify and address any gaps that you may have left in your planning and reasoning. And I add that the more fully you have done this exercise, the easier it will be for you when you enter into the more formally structured exercise of developing a business plan as a documented road map for your proposed new business venture.

You can find this and related postings and series on building and growing a new business at Startups and Early Stage Businesses. For further related material, also see Business Strategy and Operations and its continuation pages Business Strategy and Operations – 2 and Business Strategy and Operations – 3.

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