The Hard Thing About Hard Feedback

When you’re a founder, you take a lot of feedback on different things. It doesn’t quite get annoying, that’s not the right word for it. So what is it like?

Sometimes it’s helpful because you see something new (rarely).

Sometimes it’s just another new data point.

Sometimes it’s frustrating because you know it’s something you should be doing but you’re not (often).

Talking to people is an essential part of your job. You can’t run away from them.

You’re talking to investors, employees, directors, customers, and everyone else. What are you going to do when people tell you your idea sucks?

How do you deal with that?

You don’t. You thank them for their feedback and you move on.

The hard part is knowing what to conclude from people’s feedback.

Some things to consider:

  • Listen
  • Assume people want to help you. The fact that they’re giving you advice means that they care about your success. So don’t take is an as attack.
  • Be aware of how it’s making you react. Are you getting upset? Are you getting frustrated? Are you getting excited? Those are all okay. But it’s worth being aware so that you don’t let those emotions blind you and make you do something or respond in a way that you shouldn’t.
  • One data point is not enough. You have to do additional research and talk to more people.

How Do You Balance Your Time Between Execution and Managing People

More of a running a business question, but how much of your time do you spend executing vs. being in meetings, conferences etc?

(I’m used to being an executor and now my job seems to be meeting with people and managing)

Great question.

It depends how big your company is. Once you’ve got 7 or so direct reports, management basically becomes your full-time job. Depending on your management style, that can mean a lot of meetings.

I spend most of my time being in meetings and stuff, but I still end up doing a lot of operational stuff in between. I’m still executing, but it requires me to be really clear about which meetings I’m not taking (any with people I don’t know, or where the meeting doesn’t directly contribute to our 2–3 strategic goals right now) and also it sometimes gets pushed into the evenings or the weekend.

Certainly as someone who used to be all execution, the change can feel really frustrating. It’s like going from 90% execution and 10% overhead to 90% overhead and 10% execution. But the secret is making the management stuff feel like execution. Because it is. It just doesn’t feel that way most of the time.

Resources to check out:

Founder Friday Series

This post is part of a series of short, candid, quick videos and essays on entrepreneurship and starting your own businsess– I call it Founder Friday.

If you want to see more of these, leave a comment and let me know that you like it.

Lessons From Famous Entrepreneurs for Startup Founders

Starting a company isn’t easy. When you find bugs in your software, get schooled in a meeting with an investor, or simply feel like your company isn’t where it should be, you’re likely to feel discouraged.

In these moments of weakness, it can be helpful to think of the most famous entrepreneurs. These are the people that persevered and changed the world in spite of various obstacles, and their stories offer lessons to founders everywhere. Here are six key takeaways that any entrepreneur can benefit from:

Define Your Own Market

Founders need to hear from customers about what they think of products and services, but this feedback is only helpful to a point. Henry Ford, who revolutionized automobile production in the early 20th century, famously said that if he asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said “faster horses.”

Ford’s point was that if you’re creating something truly innovative, a product that’s unique and ahead of its time, your customers won’t be able to give helpful feedback. Instead, you need to define the landscape for the customer, creating a world where they can’t live without your products and services.

The best products are created where there is little competition, where innovative solutions can change the world. Henry Ford didn’t see competition. Instead, he defined his own market.

Accept and Embrace Failure

Steve Jobs may be famous for bringing Apple success with the iPod and iPhone, but he wasn’t always on that track. Jobs founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976, but it wasn’t all rainbows and flowers. After facing various obstacles and struggles at Apple, Jobs resigned in 1985 because of conflicts.

But that didn’t stop Jobs. Rather than go to work for someone else, Jobs started NeXT, which was eventually acquired by Apple, as well as world famous Pixar.

Through it all, Jobs never gave up on his dream of entrepreneurship, nor in his faith in Apple. Years later, after the NeXT acquisition, Jobs stepped up and took the position of CEO at Apple, putting the past behind him.

Many would’ve given up along the way, but not Jobs. In the face of difficulties, even when he was the most famous entrepreneur in the world, Jobs never stopped trying to create the world’s most innovative companies and products.

Do the Grunt Work Yourself

When Lori Grenier, serial entrepreneur, started out, she did most of the grunt work herself. She hit the streets and visited all types of different neighborhoods to ask various people what they thought of her earring organizer. She handed out a questionnaire to people asking whether they would buy the product, and how much they’d be willing to spend on it.

Lori wasn’t too good for the job — she was committed to getting on the customer’s level so she could truly understand what they wanted.

“Get out there and pound the pavement,” said Lori in an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine. “Look beyond your friends and family — their innate desire to support you and give you positive feedback might not be indicative of the larger consensus. Go to different neighborhoods and get opinions from all types of demographics.”

Don’t Define Yourself by Your Competitors

Just because someone has years of experience doesn’t make them better than you. Just look at Evan Spiegel, 25-year-old founder of Snapchat.

Spiegel famously turned down a billion dollar deal from Facebook, which was hard for many to believe. Instead of bowing to the competition, Spiegel decided to continue working on his own. He wanted to be in charge, and was committed to building a team that was committed to the success of Snapchat.

“We have a lot of admiration for our competitors, they are really serious, really big and they know what they are doing,” said Spiegel in an interview. “So, I think it is always, always tough. But I don’t think you define your business, what you are doing in terms of other people. The way you have to do is what you believe in and what you want to do. And we built a team around that idea. So when you built a team that is terrific who believes in building something really meaningful, you just keep going.”

Stay Relevant for the Long Haul

When Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook, he was living in a college dorm room. Eleven years later, Zuckerberg is still leading the team to success.

Zuckerberg shows entrepreneurs everywhere what can happen if you’re willing to fully commit to an idea, a company, and a vision for the long haul. Zuckerberg was not looking to make a quick buck in college. Instead, he wanted to revolutionize the way people communicate over the Internet, and he continues to be committed to this vision.

Many experts cite Facebook’s ability to perform on mobile as a reason it’s been able to stay successful and relevant all these years. In 2004, when Zuckerberg started Facebook, mobile phones weren’t in the picture, and many other social media sites, such as LiveJournal and MySpace, weren’t able to stay relevant in a mobile world. Today, Facebook says that 87% use Facebook on their mobile devices, and roughly 48% use Facebook only on mobile devices.

Be Fearless

Electric cars, humans on Mars, and solar panels for the average joe. A few years ago, these would’ve sounded like the musings of a mad scientist, but Elon Musk, Founder of Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity, is committed to making these dreams a reality.

Elon Musk isn’t content with the status quo, and he’s not ok with creating companies that don’t see into the distant future, even when critics say that he’s attempting to do the impossible.

He thinks about how his innovations can revolutionize and change the world — and he’s not afraid to go out and make it happen.

Whether you’re building a new software system, running the next unicorn, or opening a brick-and-mortar business, be fearless like Elon Musk. Go after what you believe is right, and don’t shrink in the face of challenges.

Lessons from them Best

As you lead a company to success, you may face challenges, but you also get to impact daily life for your customers. Look to the famous entrepreneurs that inspire you to do better and keep innovating.