On the occasion of INBOUND 2019 in Boston, I had the chance to attend a talk by Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot, on the fears of start-ups. Fears can be very useful in anticipating and avoiding certain dangers. However, they are not always rational and, even when they are, if they are misdirected, they can lead to regrettable decisions for companies.
I touched on the fear of engagement and fear of difference in start-ups earlier, but three other misguided fears can hurt these companies and their prosperity. Fear of change, disappointment and inferiority can also have impacts on management and performance. Let us focus on each of them according to the vision of Dharmesh Shah.
3.Fear of Change
The fear of change is perfectly understandable among start-ups. Imagine: things are finally working for you, you finally have a good offer, you offer an experience that matches your market, you have customers ... in short, you finally no longer have that fear every day that your business is dying.
You feel like you've found your winning recipe and it's normal to fear that everything will collapse if you change even the smallest ingredient.
However, there is a change that has taken place, which continues to occur, and which it is now impossible to escape as a company. The goal of a company has always been to make profits for its shareholders. This was the case until very recently. The Business Round Table, a group of more than 200 presidents of the largest American companies, signed a new declaration to affirm its new vision on this subject. These leaders make delivering value to consumers, investing in their people and, third only, generating profits for shareholders as official priorities of their companies.
Just as a business wants to attract and retain the best customers, today there is a real emphasis on attracting and retaining the best employees. According to Dharmesh Shah, it's all about flexibility: geographic flexibility (where), scheduling flexibility (when) and methodological flexibility (how).
All of these changes can seem extreme and uncomfortable to managers. However, we are currently witnessing an imbalance between the demand for and the availability of talent. In order to attract the profiles most in demand, it is therefore necessary to put in place the most appreciated advantages.
The boss of HubSpot draws the parallel here between how customers want to connect with businesses and how employees want to work: where, when and how they want.
The issue of location - teleworking - is a difficult one. It leads to questions related to communication, corporate culture, team chemistry, etc. Having a large number of employees outside the company can be scary, but it is possible. And teleworking is an element more and more sought by candidates.
Today, although this is diametrically opposed to the classic precepts of employment, the level of productivity of many highly skilled people is directly related to the freedom they have to work ... in their pajamas.
If the change can be terrifying for many, it is rather the immobility and the stagnation that one should be wary of.
4.The Fear of Disappointing
Sometimes it is necessary to make changes that will disappoint some to better satisfy the greatest number.
We often feel that there is a need to offer options to suit everyone. But an overabundance of choices leads to friction for the consumer. We want choice but we do not like having to choose.
Rather, the fear of disappointing a few people should give way to the fear of not satisfying the majority of our customers.
5.Fear of Inferiority
Many business leaders have an inferiority complex over their offering. They feel that there is always better elsewhere, that they are not offering as good a product as they could.
The desire to do things well is very healthy. What is less desirable is that a lot of companies decide, rather than looking to improve this offer which they feel is insufficient, to go the easy way and focus on short-term income.
The worst thing about this way of doing things is that some, by taking this route, try to trick the public into buying their product. For example, we can think of deceptive packaging that promises an incredible offer that the product does not deliver. Maybe the trickery will work and increase sales for a while. But disappointed consumers are unlikely to repeat their purchase.
The trust in a company is based on this: you want what you pay for, and you don't want what you didn't ask for (and which has no connection with what you initially wanted). Dharmesh takes the example of Facebook: we want to be able to share photos of cats, reconnect with our old forgotten comrades ... but we don't want our data to be sold to entities that use them to manipulate us. It is logical.
Your competition may be bigger, richer, and have a better product than you, but you can still be the most reliable, and the most trustworthy.
The watchword: offer the experience, the whole experience, and nothing but the experience.
As they struggle for survival, start-ups are too often sabotaged by bad decisions made in reaction to fears that are not directed in the right place. It is better to fear bland compromises than commitment, unhealthy uniformity rather than difference, and stagnation rather than change. Being very good at a few things is better than offering a multitude of options to cast the broadest possible net. Building confidence is worth infinitely more than a few easy, short-term wins.
By overcoming and redirecting their poorly channeled fears, the most innovative start-ups manage to stand out against much larger and more established companies in the market. Don't let your fears cripple you.