Monday, June 01, 2009

Start Ups Need to Avoid the "Susan Boyle Effect"

I have been intrigued by the story of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent." It was hard not to be interested in this shy woman who has the potential of realizing a life-long dream by singing her heart out. And, I admit, I have followed each of her ups and downs over the past few weeks. It's not really surprising that she has "buckled" under the pressure of all the public attention that has come her way.

This "Susan Boyle Effect" is not disimilar from a phenomenon that most start-ups need to be careful of: coming out with such hoopla that they can hardly do anything but buckle under the pressure and ultimately disappoint the expectations that have risen far too high.

By nature, start-ups are somewhat like the shy woman from Scotland. They have the stuff but have not been real-world tested under the glare of Klieg lights. We can all think of a number of examples of companies that have come out with too much attention and then because of the market interest and expectations, they ultimately were unable to meet the demands were placed on them. And they became exhausted in the process of trying. Or worse, the first impressions they made on people were unsatisfactory and they couldn't get customers and influencers to come back for a second look.

There are a few companies that have defied the odds of lots of attention. Google comes to mind and was amazingly able to withstand the pressure of vast relatively early attention. We are all living through the pressures that Twitter is under and the jury is still out on whether they will hold up (though in spite of some technical problems they have done amazingly well). But in general, we recommend a modulated plan for emerging from under the radar.

How should a company do this? Of course, it's different for each company. However, in general, we recommend building credibility and infrastructure and consistently raising visibility. This process enables a company to accomplish its business needs steadily while at the same time building up the strength to support market demands.

I hope Susan Boyle bounces back. Regardless of the next step, she will undoubtedly be wiser.

Labels: , , , , ,