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Self Awareness – Few Founders have it

Self Awareness - Few Founders have it

The last two months have seen us speak with the founders of many early-stage businesses who are seeking funding. There are common risk traits among the businesses and founders themselves, such as: valuations too high; lack of budgeting; no marketing strategy…the list goes on. But there was one trait in particular that caught our attention – company founders not knowing what they’re in the business of – a trait which I believe is born from a Lack of Self Awareness.

My interest peaked on this topic after several funding meetings, in which the company founders struggled to articulate exactly what they were in the business of and who their ideal customers were, noting that some of these businesses were on their 2nd or 3rd funding rounds and were attempting to launch into their chosen markets.

Being the curious guy I am, I entered the research rabbit hole and found some interesting pieces. According to (Eurich, 2019), there are Four Self-Awareness Archetypes:

https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it

Too often, we see the low external self-awareness archetypes running early stage ventures, and when I think about why startups fail, there is a clear alignment.

A great piece by (CB Insights Research, 2019) looked at the top 20 reasons of why startups fail, pictured below.

Looking at this list, it’s easy to see how many of the items could be addressed by an individual with strong self-awareness, who would do things such as seek external feedback, to ensure there is a market fit for their product or service, or challenge their own beliefs, which would ultimately ensure they don’t get out-competed.

Low self-awareness traits will find a way to bleed into every aspect of a company, from product to culture – and such traits typically lead to failure.

So, tying this back to ‘what are we in the business of’? Some questions a founder might ask themselves could be:

  • How does our business appear in the eyes of our customers?
  • Are we adequately challenging our views?
  • Do we seek feedback and if so, do we act on it?

Knowing the answers to these questions, in my opinion, is absolutely crucial to a company’s success, because it allows the management team to lay a clear pathway for execution.

If we don’t truly know what we offer and to whom it’s applicable, how can we begin?

Cheers

Jimmy

References

CB Insights Research. (2019). The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail. [online] Available at: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/startup-failure-reasons-top/ [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019].

Eurich, T. (2019). What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It). [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it [Accessed 20 Mar. 2019].

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When You’re Done Executing, Execute More

When You're Done Executing, Execute More

I read a great quote the other day:

“Execution is the game”  – Gary Vaynerchuck 

There’s an important and obvious message in this simple statement: take more action.

The failure to execute is something that plagues companies of all types – startups, SMEs and large enterprises, with each having their own unique challenges.

Typically, larger companies suffer fatigue in this area because of overly bureaucratic processes and internal communication issues, specifically relating to the company’s strategy and vision. Often, leadership aren’t properly communicating to the staff and, as a result, staff aren’t taking the appropriate steps to execute for the organization and drive it forward.

A 2016 study by Bridges Consultancy International supports the above, with their findings showing that 67% of well-planned strategies failed due to poor execution, with 61% of executives citing communication difficulties as a major contributor. 

If we shift the lens to startups, their execution failure stems from a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of resources.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Iterating their product or service too many times.
  • Inexperience. 
  • Too much funding.

However, the one trait I’ve noticed most, is over-planning. 

Don’t get me wrong, planning out your steps, strategy and future is essential, and everyone should be working with a blueprint, however, there’s a fine line between effective-planning and over-planning – with the latter stifling action. 

Uncertainty doesn’t sit well with us humans – it causes anxiety and feels uncomfortable, so naturally, we plan as much as possible, in the hope that we can eradicate all of the ‘unknowns’…but even the best laid plans may not help you when the unexpected happens.

The truth is, in business, as in life, there are always unknowns and it’s more about how you react to these situations when they arise, rather than how they fit within your plan.

So, drive forward, and execute like your life depends on it.

Cheers

James

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