Honesty and communication go hand in hand when you're trying to establish a technology start-up. They're hard habits to get into, but if you can get the hang of it you're going to impress the pants off of folks. If you don't, then you're buying a one-way ticket to FML Read more...
Honesty in our context exists on two levels; being honest to yourself (selves), and being honest to your customers/clients (but that's a different blog post). Being honest isn't easy. It's easier to lie, or to keep your thoughts to yourself. Sometimes honesty is painful, because being on the receiving-end of an honest opinion can mean your idea wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, or it can reveal that you don't know what the hell you're talking about.
One of the things that separates Cameron and me from the other wackos in our industry is our compulsive habit of talking a lot about everything. We're blunt, unapologetic, and shameless when it comes to putting our ideas on the table. I think most people repress their thoughts and questions a lot. We evaluate ourselves and each other regularly, we pay attention to the way we talk, the words we choose, the posts we publish, and the code we commit.
It's hard to take criticism. When I was growing up, I used to purposefully hand in my assignments at the last possible minute so I could avoid letting my mom edit my essays. I would break down as soon as she told me that a certain sentence (or paragraph) was ugly or useless. I just couldn't handle not being right. Now it's a lot easier for me to take criticism, especially from a guy like Cameron. He's harsh, but I never take it personally. And I thank him for it, because even though it kinda sucks to break some balls (especially more than once for the same thing), if you want to be a ninja then you better get good at criticizing and being criticized.
Don't Lie to Yourself
When we drafted our first shareholder's agreement I realized that we were playing for keeps. I highly recommend that anyone starting a technology company invest the necessary resources to take this process seriously and understand it all word for word. When you draft a shareholder's agreement, one of the questions you have to answer is what happens if your company falls apart (gasp).
This is a really sensitive question, and nobody likes to talk about it. But, this is the level of honesty that I am talking about. Don't be sensitive, be realistic, and talk about every contingency.
Cameron and I sat down and had that talk. And you know what, it turned out that if you can decide on how you're going to measure failure, then you can also measure success. Once you can measure success, then you're already halfway to reaching your goal. All that aside, the best part about putting that uncomfortable question out in the open is not having to worry about it. Knowing that we have a plan in place that protects Cameron and me equally under any circumstance allows me to move forward with 100% confidence. But the best part about having that on the table is that it motivates you to do what it takes to be successful and avoid having to shut down the operation.
The way we see it, we can't afford to be anything less than completely honest with each other. We don't have time for miscommunication, and we don't have time for unrealistic expectations. If you take a look at the reasons why most websites are delivered late, why most projects tend to fall apart, and why many entrepreneurs end their partnerships in bitterness, it all comes down to one thing: somewhere along the line, people stopped talking.
Especially now that I have a new iPhone.