marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Friday, August 6, 2010

Do You Suffer from Induced Success-a-phobia

Silicon valley is a great place to meet entrepreneurs who, at first glance, have good or even great ideas with serious potential. In many cases, however, I've seen entrepreneurs afflicted with something I call induced success-a-phobia (my term) - or induced fear of success.

It’s easy to get stuck and distracted by the wrong things. After all, there’s no shortage of service providers trying to sell startups their services, sometimes waving the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) card or sometimes dangling promises of funding or customers. Some of these consultants are really good, sensing an insecurity or chink in the entrepreneur’s armor, and finding a way to extract money from the entrepreneur for non-core issues. It might be legal docs, business plans services, detailed financial projections, patents, revenue models and forecasts, slick marketing plans, etc. While those administrative tasks should not be ignored, entrepreneurs need to really ask themselves if what the service provider is selling will help the business succeed. Without answering that question, it’s easy to get so buried in the administrative distractions that they never execute on their vision.

A friend pointed me at a young, 23 year old CEO, whose first two companies were not ground breaking or even high-tech, but this CEO had a vision and repeatedly executed, simply following through on what needed to get done. He created a business where there was none, recognizing the needs he could fill, then taking the steps to fill them. He did not appear to lose much time on raising money, either, mostly focusing on customers and sales. Both of the first two businesses did not sound like they were VC backable, but as an entrepreneur with a vision, he plowed ahead and executed anyway, seemingly oblivious that he was pursing tough businesses with few technical advantages on his side.

This CEO epitomizes the gumption that I often see missing here in the valley, regardless of age and experience. He saw a need and filled it, without an if, and, or but. He just went for it. He had an idea, figured out what needed to be done, then put the plan in motion. In his case, even flying to China to setup manufacturing, building a sales team, then aggressively building channel at Mac World. He did all that at 19. Of course, that’s a rare case, but compare that to what I often see entrepreneurs doing here in the valley. If they don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis by simply going to endless meetups and startup seminars, they come down with induced success-a-phobia.

While my advice may sound flippant, there’s a key concept where many would-be entrepreneurs should start - “Nothing great was ever built by worrying about why it can’t be done”. I sometimes use a sports analogy to lay it out in simple terms, and my apologies to the original idea owner: “You can never take a swing if you don’t step up to bat, and you can never hit a home run if you never swing the bat.” Know the key elements that matter in your business, and take the steps necessary to get where you want to go.

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