Startups are tough. I’ve several friends doing different companies and projects. Some have been going at it for three years, others only six months. Some of my friends’ companies have been bought after 3 months of launch. I’ve seen others keep working for multiple years without any traction at all. How do you convince people to stay on board with you to keep pushing?
What I realized is this:
Your best substitute for traction is strong vision.
Statistically, most startups don’t make it. Most products that are launched require many, many iterations before they see even basic pickup in the market. But you have to substitute the lack of traction during those iterations with something else – and I think that’s vision.
Think back to when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. The company’s financials were a disaster. The company was corrupted by poor positioning, tons of confusing product lines, and lack of concise leadership. Talk about a situation where a company’s health does not look good.
Think about it. If you’re an employee of Apple in 1997, how can you ignore the market? What confidence can you have? How would you trust Steve to turn it around? Phrases like “Macs suck” and “Apple is going bankrupt” dominated public perception. Arguably even Steve’s track record — at NeXT — wasn’t very successful.
So what have you got left? Vision and leadership.
Watch it in action. Here’s one of my favorite videos of Steve demonstrating a simple idea, but presenting it with pure charisma.
Keep leading with vision.