While there are many important skills that a startup founder should have, one stands above the rest … [+]
While there are many important skills that a startup founder should have, one stands above the rest – the ability to deal with people.
It is ironic that in startups defined by innovation and automation, the central skill required for success is one as old as humanity itself. Because of this, the most powerful advice on the subject isn’t found just in modern books about entrepreneurship.
Below, you’ll find a couple of tips on how to deal with people effectively as a founder of an early-stage startup. The tips are inspired by Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and applied to a startup context.
1. Put Yourself In The Shoes Of The Other Person
“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” – Dale Carnegie.
As a startup founder, you’ll have to deal with a lot of stakeholders in your business. Each stakeholder has their own wants and needs that drive their behavior – unfortunately, none of them are driven by your personal wants and needs as the founder.
In order to make sure that all different stakeholders interact positively and productively with your business, you need to understand deeply their point of view – the incentives that drive their behavior.
This is arguably most important to keep in mind for two different stakeholder groups – your customers and your employees and co-founders.
The first group – the customers, is a ruthless test of the real value that your project is able to generate. If you don’t understand the problems of your target customers, you won’t be able to solve them effectively. This is why interacting with your customers and building a relationship with them is a matter of life and death for early-stage startups, especially before reaching product-market fit.
The second – your team, is a test of how well you are able to align interests. Your employees and even your co-founders have their own personal circumstances that have lead them to work on your idea. In order to channel the effort of everyone in the same direction, you need to understand very well what makes each person tick. Most importantly – what are they interested in, and what are they motivated by. Then, you need to put them in circumstances in which they can thrive while contributing to the overall vision of success for the project.
2. Make Yourself A Pleasant Person To Work With
A powerful personal network is one of the most important drivers of success in the startup and business world as a whole. The more formidable people are happy to help you, the better your chances of success.
However, you would have a difficult time building up a productive professional network if you let your ego run wild. If you are an unpleasant person to work with, people wouldn’t want to work with you – it’s as simple as that.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, Steve Jobs was a notoriously harsh boss. However, it’s fair to argue that he succeeded in spite of his tendency to let his temper loose in a professional setting rather than because of it. His product design and marketing genius were simply more than enough to compensate.
That said, it’s safer to go about your business as a startup founder by assuming that you are not Steve Jobs. Make sure that you nurture your professional connections, rather than strain them. This will increase the likelihood that people will be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to help you. And in the boom or bust world of startups, it’s more than likely that you’ll need a helping hand at some point.
In sum, remember that as an entrepreneur you need to be able to draw people to enjoy being around you. This means both being a pleasant person to work with as well as understanding what motivates other people.