The One Thing That’s Sure to Make Any Business Fail
The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s something you wish you knew before starting your business?” is written by Amol Sarva, cofounder of Virgin Mobile USA, Peek, Halo Neuroscience, Knotable, and The Knotel.
The “you-can’t-teach-it” school of entrepreneurship never seems to go away, mainly because we like to ask successful people, and good luck often makes unprepared people successful. But there are so many areas where natural talent is hugely important, yet training and learning are also vital: the 100-meter dash, chess, languages, leadership, and, yes, starting companies.
So here’s one thing that virtually no entrepreneur gets trained about enough: working with and managing people. Your cofounders, the core team, the troops at the growing company, as well as customers and the public are all too human. How should you handle conflict? How can you motivate a group? How do you focus amidst competing agendas? Some advice, some practices, and some familiarity with patterns of human behavior can make these existential crises look more like ordinary items on your to-do list.
You don’t have to re-invent the ancient art of human relations.
How should you fire someone when it isn’t working out? State the obvious and say it’s over—that you will be in touch with details, no apologies or tears needed. Watch the Moneyball scene about trading a player if you need some tutoring.
How do you make a decision when the group is not at consensus? You aren’t there to persuade everyone. You are there to listen, say what you think, listen again, and tell people the plan. And if you’re not in charge, but don’t know who is, fix that problem first.
Leadership skills sometimes come naturally. If they didn’t for you, you can practice them. Try the conversation on a friendly partner: “Hey, friend. I need to ask my investors to invest more, but they are going to be annoyed. Can I try out the conversation on you?”
One thing that’s sure to fail: delaying the solution, ignoring the problem, or delegating the dirty work. Leadership is irrelevant when everyone already agreed on the answer. Learning to tackle the conflict is learning the job of leading people.
Amol Sarva cofounded several startups including Virgin Mobile USA, Peek, Halo Neuroscience, Knotable, BEMAVEN, Knotel, and built a building in New York called East of East. He studied cognitive science for his Ph.D. at Stanford with an undergraduate degree from Columbia.
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