How Startups Defeat Their Detractors
Five strategies every founder should use to win their naysayers over
Every startup is going to have its detractors. Every new idea, every revolutionary product, every unique strategy, and every best-made plan will find its natural enemy out in the wilds of the market.
When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to face armies of people who doubt you. At best, they’ll throw a cutting remark out on social media. At worst, they’ll do everything in their power — and they have a lot of power — to stop you from threatening their status quo.
Your detractor could be an incumbent company in a niche market that they’ve been taking advantage of for too long. It could be a potential customer’s “review” proxy, a tech or finance or other expert who is brought in for the sole purpose of poking holes in your solution.
The detractor I want to talk about is the “status quo hero” — an employee of a potential customer organization who has carved out an antiquated business process, made it intentionally complex and bureaucratic, and now manages an entire kingdom of inefficiency. These heroes usually lead teams of people carrying out the same costly tasks and making the same costly mistakes over and over again — because that’s how it’s always been done.
You have to kill these detractors with a combination of kindness and knowledge. You have to overwhelm them with shock and awe (kindness) and at the same time deplete their ammunition (knowledge).
This is never easy to do. Believe me, they’ve fought and won their battle many more times than you have.
But not more than me. I’ve been battling the status quo hero for a long time. Here’s what you need to know to get inside their head.
You are your detractor’s secret weapon
The first tactic a detractor will try is to get you off your game. Don’t get mad at them. Don’t complain about them. Don’t speak ill of them to anyone within their organization, even if one of their colleagues speaks up first.
I start here because I’ve seen this battle go the other way, where the founder or the sales lead was cocky, even confrontational, about the obvious…