Employee Mentality – The danger of Entitlement in your Startup (Part 2)

Entitlement is officially defined as “The fact of having a right to something”. A truly vague definition but one that has merit in its simplicity. Words that are used to define entitlement include “right” and “guarantee” and words that you need remove from your lexicon as an Entrepreneur.

Employees are accustomed to a simple mechanism: They work for a certain period of time and receive a certain prearranged form of compensation. They operate quite happily within these boundaries and the danger arises when they extrapolate this into their start-up.

When you start your business you need to realize that, mostly, there is either little or a very unpredictable correlation between your work input and the risk and reward within your start-up.

There are entrepreneurs that hit the right market at the right time and become the poster children of the media as a prime example of “Entrepreneurship”. There are also those that pick the wrong market such as say consumer goods or revenue based models that depend heavily on advertising and that no matter how much good marketing, hard work and intelligent strategy they input there is still a high chance of failure.

Often I meet start-up founders who make unreasonable demands of my time and believe because I am a successful Entrepreneur and they are starting out, that they are entitled to my help, my time and even financial assistance. If you think that a person or an organization owes you something then you’re probably a “Wantrepreneur”.

The last refuge of the incapable and disadvantaged

Consider a typical scene of entitlement, two children where one’s toy was taken by the other and the others demand of their parent. “It’s mine, not Billy’s! Make him give it back to me”. A more astute example that won’t be confused with ownership is that of a child crying if they have not received the candy they wanted in a store.

The above example is reflected in the incapability of the child to express himself and to obtain his or her desires without the sense of entitlement. For this reason I propose that entitlement is the last refuge of the incapable and disadvantaged.
Although this is understandable in children it is also endemic in too many adults that have not developed the ability to obtain what they desire or to abstain from what they desire.
In today’s society you do not get what you deserve but what you earn.

A priest and an entrepreneur walk into a bar

Here is, what I think, the interesting part of this article; At this point you might be nodding your head, appreciative of my logical and Sherlockian reasoning. Alas, like Arthur Conan Doyle’s strange contrarian belief in the Cottingley Faeries (http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/doyle.htm) I must disappoint you, and contradict myself.

Successful Entrepreneurs have something else that can be mistaken for entitlement but the difference is definitely nuanced. They have a dream, they have a vision and they have a holy quest.
This is not entitlement, one can call it the reality distortion field but I am going to call it Zealotry.

With entitlement you expect someone to grant you X
With zealotry you believe that it is your destiny to obtain X

I am not proposing anything like the Law of Attraction and all of that nonsense but I am proposing that you need to BELIEVE, believe in your vision and your company. A pastor who speaks to his flock without belief in his heart, will not move anyone.
The great Entrepreneurs of our day dreamt of the impossible and believed they could accomplish it.

Indoctrinating yourself

Sadly I don’t think you can TELL yourself to believe in yourself, you cannot convince yourself of your vision and you definitely cannot convince others of your holy quest or vision without first being convinced yourself. Although there is much of smoke and mirrors in business this is not something that you can “fake it until you make it”. So what is the solution, how do you believe in your idea that you are able to convince others of your vision?

This is an emotional issue and I cannot provide you with a 5-step process to accomplish this. I would hazard a few points that you would need to strive towards:

  1. Surround yourself with people that fill in your weaknesses and help you overcome hurdles. Find your own Paul Allen or Steve Wozniak.
  2. Commit. If your idea is all that you have in your life you really need to believe it. Many entrepreneurs have launched themselves into great businesses from the backseat of their cars because they had nothing else in their minds but their vision.
  3. Money is the best validator there is and for this reason focus on Sales. If you are getting paid for your vision you will believe in it even more.  (Stay away from Vanity metrics. Winning Pitch of the year and being unable to sell your product to your target market speaks volumes)
  4. A touch of Realism: Work on developing a feedback loop. Pursue activities that will validate your idea or destroy your idea. Be ruthless with yourself

Too many business accelerators and incubators focus on realism. They look for the hockey stick, they look for KPI’s and metrics that determine when to go Series A, Series B and when to exit. The really great ideas that change our world have no hockey stick, they are born of the mind and the soul.
If you don’t know your Customer Acquisition Cost for a SaaS model (Excellent article here on SaaS Metrics: http://chaotic-flow.com/saas-metrics/) then it’s true that you may have difficulty but ultimately you might be alone, you need be the insane one

Drinking your own Kool-Aid may not be such a bad thing after all?

Written by Marko Jakovljevic