By Joe Edgar, CEO of TenantCloud, the premier cloud-based property management solution
Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés was ambitious and hungry for conquest. Having grown up on a Native American reservation, I have a special disdain for what drove Cortes, but his ability to lead a group towards a unified effort is to be admired. Early sixteenth century with a fair number of competitors, Cortes was inexperienced, much like a first time CEO, in the modern ocean of startups who set out to claim a market.
Cortes was able to bring his team together to accomplish one goal. His determination and single focus meant going against his Cuban financier’s wishes. He unified his team by eliminating any other option other than success – no plan B. To limit his options to success required putting everything on the line. He bet it all and had everything to lose. Much like Cortes, startups should adopt this format to help unify their team and will likely find they can do a lot more for a lot less.
Vision should be far-sighted
Having a vision is important, but developing that vision from a concept into a revenue growing company is a long-term goal that requires determination. Determination isn’t just something you agree to, you have to prepare for it. It requires preparation, thought and order prior to hitting the high seas. Getting up at 3am and continuing into the weekend while you work your full time job is the best test to see if this is a vision you want to follow through to fruition. Learning to live on beans and rice and getting the support of your immediate family is a must. They’re on this voyage with you.
Family, Friends and Fools
Cortés risked public shaming after disobeying his financier and putting his family fortune on the line. Investing your own money into an idea is important, but more important is involving your friends and family. You have lost money before and know the limits of cutting your losses. However, your family’s money has much more value. Not only does it speak well to investors that your family believes in you, but when you are spending the money of those you love, it adds a layer of accountability for doing much more with less.
It also puts something more valuable than money at risk – your pride. Losing your own money doesn’t require being reminded of failure at family functions or at dinner with friends. There’s a different type of accountability that comes from financial support from friends and family, for example – when it’s your own money, you are less likely to check-in on the investment that was made from a credit card advancement (yes, this is from experience). Your parents won’t let you forget it if you lose their money. Failure is no longer just telling investors, “I did my best.” Failure is truly not an option when you have your family’s fortune on the line.
Do NOT have a Plan B
As an investor, it always fascinates me that founders budget themselves into the funding. Some go as far a six figures. We all know that starting up is difficult – it takes long hours, unwavering persistence and is often a thankless endeavor where key members of the company may have a “day job.” However, if monetary compensation is what’s driving you, you’re doomed before you set sail, since passion is the critical component for success. Cortes gave his men a unified goal not by inspiration, but by eliminating any other options – he sank the ships. Taking the option of an escape off the table meant his team now shared the passion as it became their own. A startup is also faced with many foreboding headwinds, so everyone must be in survival mode in order to cover any real distance.
As an example, our company has a culture where the CEO (me) is the lowest paid person in the company. It’s important to lead by example to inspire other hires to join the early effort with hopes of future benefits. This leaves us with only one option – succeed. The team effect of everyone sharing the same single option outcome breaks down the hierarchy. Everyone feels empowered to voice their opinions and even interns become passionate about different portions of what we’re building.
Before looking to investors to support your grand idea you should first look to the resources you have all around you now. Your preparations for determination, the risk you are willing to take and making success the only option. Finding ways to go farther with less is a goal every company should have and ultimately, sets your startup on a course to conquer the market.
Joe Edgar is the CEO of TenantCloud, the premier cloud-based property management solution.