Fire Yourself

I just did.

A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted:

f***ing hard telling clients maybe their "baby is ugly." #lsmSF#leanstartupMI#EntrepreneurDownDays

The pause that followed was a deep void.  It was emotional.

During the next week of reflection, a non-early adopter, but loyal user of the product called the founder to  announce that he would not after all, pay for the product. Not at the proposed price, not at the price they had argued for, not at any price.

So he fired himself as Founder and CEO of his company.  And then he fired me.  ("I no longer need your services.  But in the future...")

We talked briefly about his future, including possible pivots and leaps, but essentially, the gig was up.  I admire his self-awareness and the honesty with which he evaluated his situation.

Can you do that?

Yes, it's difficult to know when to kill your idea.  Yes, you should be knocking down walls to work.  But the market is the final arbiter, not your hustle.

There's a whole slice of our society based on non-transparency, on not being totally truthful. It's necessary for polite society.  You don't always need to hear your haircut sucks or you look fat in that outfit.  But this is a problem, too, when you really need to hear the straight dope.  As a startup founder, you need to surround yourself with people who are willing to speak the truth.

You need to talk to investors who won't grinfuck you, e.g., those who makes intros to a bunch of other investors, instead of telling you why he thinks you're not fundable. You need advisors like Dan Martell, who challenge whether you got the stuff, or Patrick Vlaskovits, who will kick your ass because you're spending more time documenting your business canvas then actually outside the building testing your business model.  Truth-telling is why I admire Eric Ries, who is willing to challenge the most fundamental media myths surrounding startups and "visionaries."

Gravity's Zipper

You will be exposed.  If your idea isn't what you've built it up to be in your mind, it will eventually fail.  Believe in  yourself, be skeptical of your idea.  Surround yourself with truth tellers.

8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Fire Yourself”

  1. Trevor Owens June 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    This sort of reminds me of Seth Godin’s book The Dip:

    Did you ever post your presentation from the first LSM?

    • brantcooper June 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      Cool, I’ll check it out. No, I don’t think I ever posted that deck.

    • Nate Berkopec June 9, 2011 at 9:42 am

      I just recommended that book to a founder a few weeks ago in a “stick with it or quit it” situation.

      It helped me through a similar time.

  2. Dan Martell June 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm


  3. sebastian June 8, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Surround yourself of truth tellers (and unsurround yourself of non-truth tellers) is a signal of intelligent life.

    The problem for most people is that their are brainwashed to live that polite society of stereotypes of political correctness. Everything gets so acceptable and nice and aseptic that becomes utterly artificial, superficial and consequently unhuman.

    Fortunately social media with its almost infinite machinery of brutal feedback will vaccine all brands about this (or it will maintain the untreatable ones as invisible).

  4. Allen Ackerman June 9, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Powerful stuff. True but hard to do. Great advice Brant. As always! 🙂

  5. Scott June 9, 2011 at 9:48 am

    It can be hard to swallow, but like they say…”the truth hurts.” Startup life is not for the faint of heart.

    Great advice.

  6. Sean Murphy June 13, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I think one of the key values you can offer as an outside consultant is an independent assessment of the situation. I first make sure that we agree on the facts and then suggest possible next steps. One of the reasons we work with many clients in parallel is to be able to minimize unconscious financial considerations: if you are only working with one or two clients it can be much harder suggesting a major change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Name *
Your Email *