Don’t Waste Energy on Yourself Too Much
I’ve noticed that certain young start-up founders are developing a bad habit. There are only a few of them, but some individuals get caught up in promoting themselves as part of marketing their company.
Now, I know this is hard to resist, especially at a younger age: There is the constant stream of profiles that focus on new start-up stars; self-proclaimed experts flood the market with their latest motivational handbooks; Forbes is also full of it; and not a week goes by without some sort of conference with the opportunity to give a talk or record a podcast. Social networks are full of pulp wisdom and you’re admired by throngs of followers that inundate you with likes despite being wannabes themselves. I understand it all, I really do. But let’s be real here: Reading the biographies of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs and being slapped on the back by your high school buddies doesn’t make you a global innovator. Not by itself anyway.
Now it’s not my place to criticize what someone does in their free time, but when that sort of self-promotion is presented as an investment for the company, it’s a bit worrying. Those are usually the types that haven’t achieved all that much, but they’re able to endlessly discuss the right way to build a start-up at three conferences each month all while mentoring others, organizing conferences, writing books, and adding to an ever-expanding list of other accomplishments. “It’s good for the company. It’s great PR,” we often hear. But is that true? The boundary between corporate communication and massaging one’s own ego is paper-thin and submitting to the latter can be oh-so tempting. Yes, educating oneself and representing the company at events is important, but it shouldn’t be something that becomes a burden for your marketing team. And it certainly must not become something that’s the butt of jokes.
The chief disadvantage to this approach is the clear and direct comparison to people who keep working with their eyes on the prize; building a great product while motivating the people in the team. That’s the type that isn’t thinking about posting a motivational status to their profile and waiting to see how many likes it gets; it’s the type that supresses his/her own ego in favour of building the brand.
When I see that sort of behaviour, I have to stop and wonder what would happen to the company if the energy put into promoting the individual went into the team. What if instead of networking at a conference where everyone knows him, he’d take his team out for a fantastic dinner? It’s an example of poorly allocated energy.
I had two bosses in my life and I can’t recall either of them speaking at conferences, much less organizing them. They gave all their time to their companies and led by example. Neither of them wanted us to spend time presenting ourselves. I can’t imagine taking them seriously if they criticised me for my effort while they just came back from the printers where they posted the first copy of their new book to Instagram. Could I really respect someone like that? An entrepreneur needs to be a true leader and not just a face that spends a third of his/her time representing himself or the company to the outside world.
Work hard and let your results speak for themselves. Once you make it, then you’ll be a star in your own right without having to force it.
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