Is Your Start-Up an Ugly Baby?
I don’t usually host guest-pieces on my page here, but this one struck me. Even if you’re not interested in starting your own business, there is some great advice in this article in terms of accepting and seeking constructive criticism. For that reason, I’ve decided to let my colleague, Kevin Van Eekeren, share his wise words here. I hope you enjoy as much as I did.
Ugly Baby Syndrome by Kevin Van Eekeren, Fulcrum Investing
A strange thing happened when I turned thirty. Facebook- a one time source for party photos, food pictures, and engagement announcements- suddenly gave way to a new phenomena. It was almost like it happened overnight: All my friends started having babies. No longer was I opening a browser tab to see what my friends were doing. Suddenly, I was opening a browser tab and gazing upon an unexpected influx of newborn photos.
Of course, I was happy for my friends and the sight of their new additions was welcome and happy news. Amidst the posed sleepy shots of babies in baskets and babies getting forehead kisses from their gushing mothers, though, I took note of something I had previously never given much thought toward.
Ugly babies really do exist. You can be mad at me for saying it, but we all know I’m not the only one to ever think it. We’ve all seen that photo of the newborn, looking like a low budget sci-fi horror creation, and of course the flood of comments ranging shortly between “He is absolutely beautiful,” and “She’s perfect.” Of course, those of us who feel so inclined will add our own special little complimentary lie to the pile.
Nobody ever wants to be the one to tell a parent that their child is hideous. Instead, we find something to compliment and go with, “He has his Daddy’s ears!” or “What a beautiful photo!” in place of “I wasn’t sure what I was looking at for a minute,” or, “I hope she’s smart!”
The thing is, ugly babies aren’t the only thing we tend to behave this way about.
Anyone that has ever started their own business knows the amount of hard work, perseverance, and planning that goes into the task. This is why your friends and family probably aren’t going to tell you that your business idea is stupid. Instead, you’ll hear them encourage you to keep going or some will even go as far as to make a small investment in the business knowing they won’t ever see a return. Why? Because they don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation about how starting a newspaper in 2018 is a bad idea or why a doggie salon/bistro will never take off.
This, my friends, is Ugly Baby Syndrome- also known as Confirmation Bias- and it’s something every business founder has to be ready for and honest with themselves about if they ever truly want to succeed. It can be a heartbreaking and expensive lesson to learn if you don’t demand honesty from the start- even if the honesty is brutal.
It’s a brutal honesty that many investors are left tasked with issuing. Nobody ever has fun telling a starry-eyed entrepreneurial dreamer that they should “take their idea behind the barn and shoot it,” but it’s a job that unfortunately must be done sometimes. It makes for an uncomfortable conversation at both ends and is one of the greatest fears many founders have when they look toward asking for an investment.
With that said, though, it is also a starry-eyed entrepreneurial dreamer’s best hope.
By finding a potential investor that they have no connection with otherwise, they can get an honest view from an honest professional about their likelihood of success before anyone- including themselves- ever invest a dime. Money saved on a bad business venture, naturally, becomes money you can spend on a better one. Most investors are happy to grant new business founders a few minutes out of their day to discuss an idea and offer advice (or buy in if you’re hitting a home run right away). By being willing to accept their advice, a business founder can potentially save themselves years of frustration and financial struggle- unless, of course, they want to live in a fantasy world until the sky falls in on them and their ugly baby becomes a behemoth monster that takes over every facet of their life.
Let’s face it- Perseverance is NOT the key to success. It is, in fact, only one piece of the puzzle. The puzzle in it’s entirety includes having a good idea, intelligence, work ethic, and an ability to accept constructive criticism. Case in Point: Mark Cuban. He certainly had to persevere, but he also had the work ethic to accomplish his goals. He accepted the criticism of those who succeeded before him and he altered his plan to make that goal reachable, rather than continuing to nurse an ugly baby that would have eventually broken him.