Startup Diaries: The Hero’s Journey Part VI: Tests, Allies, Enemies

Published : 2015-01-06 04:58:40
Categories : The Hero's Journey

Startup Diaries: The Hero’s Journey Part VI: Tests, Allies, Enemies


 The great thing about having a team is that you are not alone. You will always have your die-hard supporter like a Sam from Lord Of The Rings. I’m sure you know who they are in your own life. They will seem to risk everything for you and vice versa.

But you also have those close to you that say they are on the team, but at times it seems their only objective is to throw stones in your path…or worse.

Their purpose just seems to make the journey more difficult and at the worst possible times and their actions, for no apparent reason, suggest sabotage.

Keeping a cool head and making sure communication lines are open is vital otherwise it becomes totally exhausting. Half of the problems that arise when you start your business in earnest are caused by not choosing the right team in the first place. And looks, resumés and references can be deceiving. A lot of it boils down to pure raw gut instinct, which is not fool proof by any means. So eventually you will be confronted with difficult situations that will require your personal attention.

The culling process! It is painful, difficult and expensive emotionally and financially. You spend ages interviewing and reviewing people in the hope that they will meet the requirements and enthusiastically want to be part of your journey. But you soon realize they are not ALL there for the long haul. Some are just tourists there to ride your wave for a while until they find their own opportunity. In The Fountainhead by Ayn Rands the protagonist Howard Roark’s speech sums up the trials facing entrepreneurs.

Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways—by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others.

These seem like harsh words but consider that Rand resonates, to a greater or lesser degree, for many in the Silicon Valley tech startup world who have read Atlas Shrugged and gone on to create some of the worlds largest corporations.

As we don’t have a built in BS detector yet (Silicon Valley may develop one yet) it takes time to see people’s real intent. And even those with good intentions can unconsciously betray you. Unfortunately the result is the same. The good thing is that as soon as you sense that a team member is not right (and you are probably correct) you need to move fast to eliminate the problem. If you don’t, you will soon realize why you needed to take action sooner for both yourself and the rest of the team. You need to remove problems before they can grow into a real problem. Most people only realize this after they have experienced a ‘real’ problem. As Leonardo da Vinci wisely said:

Wisdom Is The Daughter of Experience.

This is why it is so important in your team to have all your contracts and agreements in place - Confidentiality Agreement, Consulting Agreements, Manufacturer’s Agreements, Distributor Agreement, Agreements for Agreements….the list can be endless. Apart from having to create sales targets, reporting procedures, installing software programs and setting KPIs for all those involved in managing the business that you are creating, you need to ensure your rules for disengagement are clearly laid out. So when the time comes it can be managed under your own agenda.

This is even more relevant the more successful you become. If the business is not successful nobody will fight for it, but when it is, you will be surprised who starts to lay claim to ownership. It is a benevolent dictatorship and losing control of situations like this can be the death of a business, maybe not with a designer, but with a manufacturer as you are placing your first big order for a client, or with a potential business partner who is looking to work closely with you to expand the business.

When things go off the rails and a battle ensues it is vital to remain calm and think objectively about the situation. Irrational reactions don’t help. You need to consult the team, where possible and if you have chosen the right team not even a blizzard on K5 can stop you unless it the Divine himself that wants you out of the race.

One of the hardest things is to stop repeating bad patterns. Making the same mistakes in your personal life is emotionally exhausting and depressing enough, but in business the result can be fatal. The hardest thing is being able to recognize the situations ahead of time and make the right decision before it becomes critical.

No matter how much a team is behind you if you repeatedly put them into dire situations that could have been avoided through experience you will lose their support and trust.

And those two commodities together can be as important as funding.

So how do you even begin to determine who is your ally and who is your foe. For if we can do that then the team will be invincible! Primarily, it is crucial to make sure each team member has a defined job role… a home territory. You can’t have artists managing the accounts department and while that sounds obvious, the hardest thing about managing people IS managing people.

Remember that defined job roles will make it all seem so much clearer. Business relationships can be very peculiar; some that start out appearing like a godsend can turn out to be the most toxic, while others that started out on the wrong foot turn into powerful unions. After all the hardest steel is forged in the hottest of fires.

With progress, the road becomes more complicated and subject to more dangerous battles where the stakes just seem to get higher and higher. The opportunities and the risks grow exponentially and wrong decisions that could have been easily dealt with at inception become far more serious. But this is also where your chance to grow lies. It is a major fork in the road for those that are serious about building a business or those that just want to have a simple cottage industry enterprise.

For those that choose to continue it is partially addictive experience. Like a good book that you can’t put down. But in this case you are the author, and in a strange way you are the one that manifests the trials until you find the courage to face them. And that is when the true test of fire begins. Just when you think things could not get any harder they do! And to compound the situation you begin to doubt yourself and wonder why on earth you took all this on, this road of trials. But this is when you reach out, you reach out to your team; your brain trust. The answers we need are all around us and the guidance we need is always within earshot. And usually in the form of a mentor.

To be continued…

Ondina Montgomery grew up in Denmark and has always been passionate about Art and Design. Raised by a family of artists including her creative grandmother and her artist father, a highly accomplished painter and sculptor, working with artists and designers comes naturally. Before living in South East Asia, she traveled the world extensively, eventually settling in Sydney in 2006.

During her time in Australia, she started a design course and became involved in diverse design-related projects. After moving to Singapore in 2010 to expand her knowledge and her international client base, she obtained her Interior Design Diploma from Lasalle College of The Arts Singapore and then decided it was time she founded her own company. MAH was born! As the CEO and Curator of MAH she works with a broad range of artists, designers and photographers who share her interest and passion for scarves.

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