Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is Too Much Attention being Paid to the First 100 Days?

I'm torn about the tremendous attention being focused on the President's first 100 days. On one side, it seems like kowtowing to a media event and creating a lot of hype around a false stake in the ground; on the other hand, we live in a time where clear communication is key.

Ok, I admit it: at the end of the day, it seems like there is too much "pomp and circumstance" being put on this date on the calendar. While the President couldn't and wouldn't stop the press from covering this milestone and should communicate clearly, the planned prime time press conference feels like a bit much.

So what the relationship between this hoopla and technology start ups?

1. First, running a company is a marathon not a sprint. It's fine to set goals and meet them (in 10 days, 100 days or 6 months). But that's not the end in itself.

2. Hype kills. Yes. This is a familiar refrain for this blog. But we cannot say it too often. At the end of the day, spinning up too many things to create too much buzz can (nearly) always lead to disappointment among most constituents. . (Admittedly, the President has, thus far, avoided this pitfall. But...)

So, what should the President be doing now? Probably clear and concise communications to keep the discussion and understanding progressing. But without the prime time focus.

The same goes for most companies.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"When all else fails, try the Truth"

I saw a wonderful film the other day called "The Audition" . It was about contestants in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. At the end of the film, when asked for the most important advice for young opera singers, one veteran star said "Say what you mean and mean what you say".

I thought it was ironic that an opera singer would provide the same coaching advice as we do in the communications realm. Our version is a little more tongue-in-cheek: "When all else fails, try the truth."

Of course, what we really mean is "start with the truth". But that's not as provocative. Either way, its an important perspective. We are in the business of managing perceptions and have always believed that the market always figures out the truth. This is ever more the case today, when all communications are "transparent" and the data is available easily.

This, of course, does not mean that you just spit stuff out. As we have said many times, start with a clear idea of your goals and messages and provide information both within this context and clearly explained.

But, at the end of the day, the truth wins out. So, start there!

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Speeding Along in the Real-Time World

David Brooks wrote a very interesting piece in yesterday's New York Times called "Greed and Stupidity" about the current financial crisis. I won't comment here on the specifics of his view of the crisis. But he had a very interesting comment in the article that got me thinking:

"To me, the most interesting factor is the way instant communications lead to unconscious conformity. You’d think that with thousands of ideas flowing at light speed around the world, you’d get a diversity of viewpoints and expectations that would balance one another out. Instead, global communications seem to have led people in the financial subculture to adopt homogeneous viewpoints. They made the same one-way bets at the same time."

We have all been made increasingly aware over the last decade of the implications of the world being flat. But i don't know that it was quite so clearly articulated that one of the side effects is, in fact, increased "lemminghood" (my term for Brooks' more polite "unconscious conformity"). But it is certainly the case. I have been concerned about it when reading poll numbers -- they reflect the perceived direction of the moment (sometimes this is valuable and sometimes it can be misleading); it's certainly impacted and been impacted by the news media and what's popular and what we read about; the speed with which 'fashions' come and go; and there are many other unintended consequences of real time communications.

So what is the impact on technology start-ups?

*First, now more than ever, young companies cannot afford to be slow in their decision making. This has been true for as long as I can remember. In small companies, there has never been room for misdirected use of resources for long.

*On the one hand, it is important to listen to the market and ferret out what can be learned from the constant access to information and opinions and real-time responses. This is a very powerful tool.

*But, on the other hand, it's critical now to be clear on your goals and have the "intestinal fortitude" to stick to them. We have always believed that "looking over your shoulder" is a very distracting activity for any company, especially start ups.

*The real time world is one in which entrepreneurs need to have a well-honed sense of balance between their fundamental views and outside input -- both of which are key, when you have an instinct about which to heed when.

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