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Insights

Why great founders need to learn how to communicate the hard things too

- September 1, 2021 2 MIN READ
Ted Lasso
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Being a great startup founder is not just about running focused stand-ups and killing pitch comps.

And it’s not just about recruiting a rock-star team and letting them do their voodoo. Neither is it about closing a funding round and then ignoring your investors until it’s time to raise again.

An underperforming team member can affect the performance of the whole team.

Most members of even the best startup teams will adjust their level of work performance down a little, if they feel like another member of the team is underperforming, or lacking the necessary skills.

Nobody’s going to work their bum off in their own role and then volunteer to carry the load for another team mate for very long.

Honest conversations

As founder or a team leader it’s difficult to have an honest conversation about it with the underperforming team member. It’s potentially going to take the cap off a bunch of difficult emotions and the outcomes are unpredictable, so it’s understandable when we consciously or unconsciously try to postpone the conversation.

But while you’re hoping it’ll work itself out, that underperforming team member is like a patch of barnacles on the underside of the speed boat which is your startup — holding you all back, slowing you all down, making the race to beat your competitors, to exceed the expectations of your customers and satisfy the benchmark of your investors all the more challenging.

The rest of your team needs to see you can take decisive action to resolve the situation and get the team back on track before they’ll give you their best work.

So have that difficult conversation as soon as you become aware of that problem.

If you want to be a great founder you also need to learn how to maintain regular and open communication with suppliers and creditors – your landlord, your designer, your contractors or your accountant.

It’s invaluable for managing your cashflow position when cash is tight and making sure everybody is giving 110% to help you, not just 75% because they don’t love you anymore.

Just reply to follow-up emails, return calls, and if things get tight, give people a heads-up as soon as you can in advance.

They all have bills to pay and employees to employee and their own cashflow issues to manage.

You’ll find people and suppliers will go out of their way to help you when it really matters, if you do the right thing for them day-to-day.

(Inspired by an email from great friend and behind-the-scenes startup-enabler Tony Burrett).