Why Every Entrepreneur Must Become a Fearless Truth Teller (and 3 tips for how)

The Shiny Object Syndrome

Startup founders are often stricken with Shiny Object Syndrome. When you have a new idea, you only see unlimited potential. Boundless opportunity.

The downside of this optimistic perspective is that it is easy to delude yourself. Entrepreneurs solve problems. That's what you do. So even when things seem as if they are not working out, you find a way. Deep within your soul, the mantra is this: I'll figure it out.

As an entrepreneur, how do you stay positive, yet pragmatic? Here are 3 tips: Measure What Matters, Recognize the Hype in Your Head, Make Informed Adjustments.

Measure What Matters

How do you measure success as an entrepreneur? Let's be honest, usually the audience determines the metric. Because you harbor an optimistic view of the world, it becomes easy to choose the numbers to tell the story you want to tell (or to position the numbers to support your assumptions).

Measure what matters. Vanity metrics like number of downloads or number of "likes," etc. are just that--vanity metrics. They are important only as a retrospective of what you have done and the efforts you have taken. Engagement, sales, revenue--these are the metrics that provide the real picture of your business. So be sure to measure (and give weight to) the measurements that matter.

This process can be confusing unless you live in the world of metrics and analysis every day. Here is a great overview which helps clarify the numbers--not only in the health of your own business, but as you analyze opportunities for your business to grow or expand through acquisition or merger.

16 Startup Metrics

Tell the Truth (to yourself)

Recognize the Hype in Your Head. The most dangerous lie you tell as an entrepreneur is the lie you tell yourself. The self-told lie is so devastating to the startup founder because you believe it so deeply and it permeates every action you take (or don't take) in regards to your business.

The most dangerous lie you tell as an entrepreneur is the lie you tell yourself.

When I started my first business, I made several key "novice" assumptions.

If I build it, they will come. Or business will pick up. 

They didn't and it didn't. The business folded. I didn't know what I didn't know. I learned a lot about what not to do in those early days. Sadly, I learned it by enrolling at the School of Failure.

Mentorship is the key. A quality mentor tells the truth, but more importantly, points out the untruths you may be believing.

Challenge every assumption. Ruthlessly hunt assumptions down, expose them and force yourself to validate them.

Measuring what matters and telling the truth about it may be uncomfortable; however, it is much safer than the alternative of continued self-delusion. When you know the truth--even if it is grim--you take action based on reality instead of taking action based on fantasy.

Make Informed Adjustments

In the world of negotiation, the old adage says, The person with the best information wins.

Why?

Information empowers you. The best information allows you to grow your business by taking important and necessary steps to make quick adjustments. If you make decisions based on faulty assumptions (just as I did early in my startup career), your business will struggle and may even fail.

Entrepreneurs chase the impossible. We make real the unseen. It's what we do. It's who we are.

But one of the greatest qualities you can develop as a startup founder is that of a fearless truth teller. Tell the truth to yourself first, then to your company, and finally to your market. It all comes down to the sage advice: Know the truth. The truth sets you free.