Transparency is essential!
And more advice from Victoria R. Montgomery-Brown, CEO and co-founder of Big Think, the knowledge company that makes people and companies smarter, faster through efficient e-learning from world-renowned-experts.
1. Transparency as a startup is key!
It is a mistake not to be transparent in your business dealings. Your investors, clients, and people you work with have invested in you with their money, business, and time. If you are not honest with them, I think that is a big mistake, and it could lead to bad things other than lost business or lost employees. As I say in my book, Digital Goddess: The Unfiltered Lessons of a Female Entrepreneur, I am the anti-Elizabeth Holmes. I always thought that the best thing that I could do is get the bad news out there as quickly and brutally as possible in business. These people have invested in you. If you lose their trust, I think it is virtually impossible to get it back. It is a mistake not to disclose things you should. And perhaps there is a way for your investors and advisors to help with the problems. If you deny the business realities and hope things will get better, they most likely will not. I can't think of one instance where I have gone to an investor and said what was wrong, and they weren't compassionate, sympathetic, and keen to help. Going in early with a problem leads to a sense of camaraderie and also honesty.
2. Fail and Move On.
There is an idea with some of these big companies like Facebook that failing is mandatory. If you are not failing a portion of the time, you are not trying hard enough. And I do believe that. It is not necessarily that failure should be rewarded in the organization or inside oneself, but if I am not making mistakes, I am not pushing the boundaries hard enough. We have had a lot of business strategies at Big Think that have not done well. It is good to think we tried, and it didn't work rather than beating ourselves up. Move on, and go focus on something else. Don't punish your team for the mistake.
3. Don't wait to fire employees that are not productive for your company.
If you are a person that is leading or managing, I would say forgiveness, empathy, and humor are critical in looking at your employee's mistakes. Getting over things and not being so judgmental is the best strategy. As far as hiring, I have made many missteps. If you feel that someone doesn't have the company's interest and is specifically looking out for themselves, let them go even if they are a high performer. No one person can be the crux of an organization. If they are bringing bad energy or culture or making others feel uncomfortable, it doesn't matter how much business they are bringing in. It is not worth it to keep them. When I have not trusted my gut about somebody because I thought they were critical, it was a mistake. As soon as you feel that they are not the right person, I would have that difficult conversation with them, and if that doesn't go well, I would let them go.
4. Do not forget to laugh it off!
Have a sense of humor about mistakes! In a year or even in a month, you might not even remember the mistake. Acknowledge it, of course, but laughing about it is a good thing to do. I think people think you have a business life and a personal life, but you only have one life. The way that you would handle situations in your personal life is the thing to do professionally.