Why would a startup founder be a good Manager?
I was listening to Radio1, a flemish radio channel, and their baseline is “It all starts with listening.“. That was the trigger to start writing again. After the last Now Sprint Accelerator, I got very sick again. After a lot of research, they found out I also have metastasis in my liver, just dots, not a tumor. My mother died of liver cancer so that came in very heavy. After that, I got a blockage in my intestines, so I ended up in hospital for a week. I had constant pain for weeks but, Inşalah, I am better again. You can understand that I had no appetite for writing although in the meantime we went to Slovenia for an Erasmus Plus project thanks to my very good friend and partner Mustafa Memiş. I threw up on the plane twice but I had a productive introduction meeting with great partners. I think this is enough as an intro :-D
Back to the failing startups and management skills. We always hear startups complain about not having money to realise their dreams. It is like complaining to Santa Claus that you really need that toy and why don't I get it. They forget that man doesn't even exist. It is a commercial fantasy. Some smart people surveyed the missing link of successful startups. According to international statistics from December 2019:
- 90% of new startups fail
- 75% of venture-backed startups fail
- 40% of startups actually turn a profit (that is 40% of 10 to 25% of successes)
Failures were going back to bad or missing management skills:
Bad management — Conflict between co-founders — Bad hiring decisions — Underestimating market need — Poor competitor analysis and so on.
I know by experience it is very true. All my failures at the start of my entrepreneurial roadmap were due to the fact that I didn't know how the manage my business, my partner (at the start my ex-wife), competitor analysis, or financial knowledge. I learned it over 10 years at a very high cost. That is the reason why first starting to work in an existing company is so important. I heard the abbreviation “KPIs” for the first time after selling 2 companies, just like scorecards and other management tools. Lean Startup, Design Thinking, and Business Model Canvas when I moved to Türkiye 10 years ago. I learned from others but mainly from Youtube.
There are enough leadership and management courses you can follow but in the end, your character is the main reason for being or becoming a good manager. Management has changed from the bully, see industrial revolution, to an empathic person who is not sitting in his or her unidirectional ivory tower. That is why listening and understanding are becoming crucial. One of my partners in the last company that I started in Belgium was the ultimate non-manager. In the end, all I had the do is apologise to customers and coworkers for his behavior. 2 years after I left the company went bankrupt. Empathy is the keyword combined with transparency and clearly defined goals. You can not enjoy great music when you are talking. And most founders like to hear themselves, convincing themselves they have all the answers.
In Flanders we have a great saying about young people who think they already know everything. “A big mouth but he can hardly pee alone”. So true. It also was meant for me. I peed on my shoes figuratively for 10 years. And on leather shoes that give bad stains.
I don't have a solution at hand. As a founder, you have to go through this school of life. Sadly of course the bad managers don't see themselves like they are perfect. For those, who might challenge their own skills, get a second opinion from a mentor or an experienced business person. It will not surprise you that mainly men are suffering from overestimating themselves. It is in their nature. Women pee differently, that is probably the reason :-D.