I have been called many things in my life. Nerd, geek, freak, and many other things that would require me to tap a lot on out my asterisk-key on my keyboard. But recently, I’ve heard someone that felt like he had to label me as unmanageable. So, I went out and try to find out what this actually means; this whole “being unmanageable” thing. One finding that struck me instantly was that the people that considered me as unmanageable were people that couldn’t bring me any value. As I have the attention span of a three year old when it comes down to dealing with people that can’t provide value, I kind of put them on ignore. I know, that’s not a good personality trait. But hey, what can I say. I’m an arrogant sob (that’s one I, forgot mentioning earlier).
I have come to the conclusion there are two types of people; people that want to coach you and approach you as an equal, and the people that want to manage you as they try to control and conform you into “one of them”. Well, honey, I don’t bend that way.
Founders need to be coached, not managed
Most of the time, coaches have worked the same long hours as you – and still do -, have made the same sacrifices as you, and have been through hell and back… just like you. They are here to share their experiences, and are often genuinely nice people. They speak to you from the heart, and they often aren’t shy to challenge you. These people are far and few between, but they are out there. I have been fortunate enough to have met some good fellow entrepreneurs which I consider to be a straight up guys. Because they know what it is to wake up at night with panic attacks. Because they know how it feels to have spousal problems because of your startup while you are preparing an investor pitch at 11:00PM. Because they know how it feels to pour your entire soul, heart and money into a startup while facing sudden death all the time. And because of this, these guys have gotten my utmost respect. So, I listen to them respectfully, and translate their experiences into how they might be applicable to me.
Founders have an idea, not an ego
On the other side, there are egotistical entrepreneur-wannabes that constantly want “to manage” founders. They obviously have no clue what it’s all about. Or at least, in theory they do. But most of the time, it’s all about them. It’s about what they can get out of you, by sucking your creativity, energy – and eventually your company dry. They make it seem bad if someone is “unmanageable”, while I think it’s a testament of being wilful, creative and intelligent. They always need to work alongside with founders and entrepreneurs to feel empowered and successful, yet they often turn dismissive of the very founders they work with. But hey, it’s not uncommon for a parasite to try and kill its host. Luckily the startup environment is unforgiving and most parasites just get shaken off like a bad case of flees. And right so.
After all, managing means adhering to rigid structures, best practices and other predefined frameworks that work well for 99% of the general population. But innovation is never about following rigid structures. It’s about venturing new waters, it’s about failing. It’s about burning the box you were living in. Founders work well in a chaotic space, as there are no boundaries nor rules. In a startup, there is simply no room for “managing” (except managing your cash-flow). Intelligent people – as most founders are – are capable to flip their mental switch dozens times per second, pivot their business under a few minutes and take decisions in split seconds. These are not signs of being unmanageable. This a founder at work. Hustling.
Truth of the matter is, these people with the desire “to manage” don’t have the heart, intellect, balls, creativity or passion to do what founders are doing. Quite a bit of jealousy and ego is involved in trying to control founders. Not unlikely, you might run into a whole lot of these miscreants at legal or vc firms that dress up nice, have a plethora of diplomas to compensate for their lack of self-confidence, and they most likely have shiny business cards stating “advisor” or “manager”. In the world where I live, no one ever was successful by advising. Nor managing. Only executers win.
Bottom line: Founders don’t need to be managed. They need to be coached. But I wouldn’t expect them lemmings to understand…
To my fellow founders… Never roll over like a dog because some egotistical wannabe wants you to. Don’t waste your valuable time. Keep moving and break things. And once every while you’ll break someone’s ego.