The Importance of Mindset
Guest writer Alex Kraft addresses the challenges of starting a company in “The Importance of Mindset.”
As we hit year 3 of Heave, I wanted to share my biggest challenge starting a company because it’s not what I thought it would be back in July 2020. In the early days, I thought the biggest challenge starting a company was building a product. Finding talent to build technology, supervising the build, and getting the product to market was all brand new to me. This certainly wasn’t easy (and the continual product improvements we’ve made since), but I’ve learned that managing my mindset is the hardest part.
Starting a company is an exciting time. You’re full of passion, belief, and energy. You go into it understanding the odds are against you and that you’re fighting every day to gain relevance. But you believe that at some point (soon) others are going to see what you see: your product is ten times better. than what’s out there or that others are going to recognize the great idea and want to partner with you. What I wasn’t prepared for and has proved the biggest impediment is the avalanche of “No’s.” No’s come from everywhere. Potential customers tell you ‘No,’ investors dismiss the idea within 5 minutes, even those who you were sure would help you, say NO. Plenty of people laugh and ignore you. This is where the reality check happens. This is why entrepreneurship is so hard. How do you stay motivated and keep pushing forward when the world says NO? Small wins help but most of us are wired to focus on the negatives. For the past 30 months, I’ve been engaged in a battle with my mind.
I found two things helpful over the past 3 years. First, I tried to read as much content as possible on other companies’ origin stories. We tend to view successful companies today through the lens that they’re an overnight success story. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every company faces crucial life or death challenges along their journey, many times in the early days. It’s these decisions that make or break the company. Things that seem common sense today aren’t so obvious early on. It’s also reassuring that talented people behind iconic companies didn’t have all the answers from the jump. They learned over time and listened to the market. This research helped our team determine ‘pivots’ along the way and necessary tweaks to keep us breathing. Time is a precious asset for a start-up.
The opposite can also provide context: researching companies that failed. Finding out where they made critical missteps can help someone anticipate issues within your own business. I’ve learned one of the most critical CEO functions is to determine what’s around the corner and to have a plan. Unforeseen circumstances can create panic, which is the worst thing to happen to a company. Employees look to leadership in challenging times for the confidence that the team is prepared and will have the answers for whatever comes their way.
Perspective is important, but the battle comes when human nature kicks in. We all want to be liked. We seek consensus and to be part of a group. I was listening recently to a podcast with famed investor Mike Maples Jr. and Daniel Ek (Spotify founder) when it clicked for me. They were discussing how breakthroughs happen. Mike Maples Jr. mentioned that breakthroughs only come from a contrarian perspective. The people who aren’t afraid to say, “nope, the current way isn’t the right way. Here’s a new way….” The lightbulb went on for me.
To accomplish something great or to achieve a breakthrough, one must be comfortable as the outsider. These individuals don’t expect others to agree with their viewpoint or embrace their idea. This is what I didn’t understand or appreciate. The breakthrough builders focus on making an impact—rejection comes with the territory. They put the customer at the center of everything and work towards solving a problem. The customer’s opinion is the only one that matters. If you deliver an A+ in customer experience and deliver results, everything else takes care of itself.