Learning To Lead: advice to startup founders

image1-e1403467816939A lot of times when we launch a startup, we’re like a duck out of water. We have no clue what steps to take to launch a business. We ask help from others who are more experienced, and we depend on their guidance to help us meander through the challenges of getting a business off the ground.

But at some point, a founder has to stand up and decide that it is time to be in charge.

When I was selected to pitch in front of investors from across the United States during an investor’s summit, I was still figuring out how to be a leader. I had a lot of confidence and believed passionately in what we were doing, but I’d also just brought on a team of developers and co-founders who were far more experienced than me. I was feeling a bit uneasy about how to lead us forward.

For several weeks, I met with a team of mentors from varying areas of expertise who were all tasked with helping me prepare for my presentation during the summit. Week after week, I received divergent advice, sometimes even completely opposing instructions from my team of mentors:
Less words and more photos on the pitch deck.
More words and less photos on the pitch deck.
Scrap the images; don’t scratch them.
Ask for more money. Ask for less.

During the early mentor meetings, I would try to please whatever looked to be the consensus of the group and would shift directions, change my pitch deck, change my talk … all in an effort to get the approval of this team of experts who I saw as more knowledgeable and experienced than me.

And then one day, in frustration, I pushed back and started telling them what my vision was, what I knew I needed to say, what I wanted my pitch deck to look like. The results were remarkable.

Once I truly embraced being in charge, it made all the difference. I realized that each of the mentors did exactly what they were supposed to do – give me their advice and feedback based on their own experience and knowledge. It wasn’t their job to give me consistent feedback. It was my job to take all of that feedback and use it to clarify my own position.

Once I owned my own vision and message, this group of mentors with very different opinions all came together behind me and expressed approval for the way the presentation was shaping up.

No one wants to follow someone who doesn’t know how to lead. If you are a founder, learn to lead. Learn to own your vision and have conviction. Stick a stake in the ground and declare what it is you’re doing. What problem are you solving, and why is your solution so important? Understand that and let it drive everything you do. You’re the boss, so when you need to, push back and draw a line about who and what you are as a leader. It won’t guarantee success, but not knowing how to lead will guarantee.

Published by Lisa Abeyta

Entrepreneur and passionate foodie.

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