Debunking the Unwritten Rules Of Startup
Why rules like “Better to apologize after than ask permission before” can be an invitation for disaster
What’s your favorite startup rule? What’s that one saying that you always fall back on when you’re having trouble pushing an idea into reality?
Mine is “Go fast and break stuff.” In five words, it reminds me that everything I do is an experiment, nothing new is ever perfect, and I’ll never know if an idea works until I put it out there to potentially blow up in my face.
But as much as I love that rule for myself, it’s not a line I toss out in general conversation with entrepreneurs, or give as generic advice. It’s a rule I reserve for people who already know me and know how I operate.
Without proper context, all the good intentions behind those startup rules can easily be misunderstood, or worse, ignored completely. This has two effects. For one, it can completely sink the entrepreneur’s business as they attempt to execute a misguided strategy for the wrong reasons. And two, it sometimes results in an unethical means to an end.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Check your lexicon
Entrepreneurship is full of its own terms, acronyms, and rules. We constantly tell entrepreneurs to build “minimum viable products,” find “product-market fit,” and gain “traction.” We stress the importance of monitoring “ARR” and “LTV” and “CAC.” We tell them to “apologize later rather than ask permission first.”
The term and acronym stuff is fine, when it’s honest. Most business terms are just dead-simple words used as shortcuts for slightly more complex concepts. And acronyms are just shorter short cuts for those same concepts. For example, LTV is just lifetime value, which is just the total customer spend on your product for the complete cycle of time they own and use it.
When terms and acronyms are misunderstood, the results can be painful, but the pain is usually containable and recoverable. However, when startup rules are taken out of context, the damage can not only impact the startup, but also its customers, supporters, employees, and even its investors.