There are many types of fears that can derail you and your company, but reputational fear is the Big Kahuna.
Let’s face it; we all care about what people think of us. It is only the most insensitive, egotistical and selfish that navigates through life without a concern for others. We all know people like this and many of us dislike being around them. They suck energy from us and definitely live to take and not live to give.
As I get older, I strive to surround myself with people who give me energy not away my energy and make this a personal investment goal. I wake up every day thinking that more good people equals more good outcomes. Good outcomes equals good reputation.
But what if I told you that some of the base characteristics of “those people” are a few of the more critical characteristics you will need to be a successful startup founder. And following this logic, if I need to be more selfish and insensitive to be successful, what does that do to my reputation?
So where am I going with this thread?
Making the decision to quit your stable, well-paying job to undertake months to years of emotional highs and lows defies logic. My Dad always told me that if you created the classic Pro’s vs. Con’s list for a decision whether to have a child, con would win the day every time. Having children is not a logical decision. Starting a company is like that too. It is much more faith based than logic based.
Given your desire to start your own company, you will need to confront many fears.
If there is one startup fear that is common among all founders, it is the fear of what others think of you especially if you fail. (I don’t know about you, but my chest is getting some pretty heavy pressure just writing this.) How people think is an integral part of your reputation.
My thesis is that great founders find a way to confront their fears. So where does reputational fear factor into your psyche?
The bottom line is that it can’t factor in. You can’t even let it in the door. There are hundreds of small but critical decisions that will ultimately decide your company’s fate. I have argued that using data more than instinct can hopefully drive better market-friendly decisions. That burden is difficult enough. If you layer on or factor in how your reputation will be perceived to the decision-making process, then I am afraid that you put the right decision at risk. This goes for both internal and external reputation.
Now let’s be clear. I am not advocating nor giving you permission to act like a jerk. Your reputation for being a good leader, a marketing maven, a visionary, or a person who executes flawlessly can still be intact. You just can’t factor how others perceive those into your thinking.
The world is full of those who are faking it. Be real. Be authentic. Be smart. But bring your reputation into your decision-making at your own peril.