How Startups Defeat Their Detractors

Five strategies every founder should use to win their naysayers over

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.

Understand your detractor by exploring the root cause

There’s one industry I’m very hesitant to do any work in, and that’s healthcare. I’ve done it before, and the industry is an entire detractor’s user group working in one building. I imagine even Band-Aids were vilified at some point.

1. Stop selling technology

Technology can be a dirty word to some people, and again, that’s technology’s fault. You may be running the most technical company on the planet, but I assure you, you aren’t selling technology. So stop it.

2. Get out of the training business

Any product that takes more than a couple hours to train for first use is probably bloated. No judgments here, I recently oversaw the delivery of a three-hour training session on some of our own software. In my defense, it wasn’t built for customer-facing access, because if it was, I’d have already had a walkthrough built.

3. Compartmentalize and conquer

The odds are that you can’t win over an entire organization at once, but if you find a champion who can translate the value of your product through the bloat of what the job has become, you have a decent shot. You’re basically fighting the detractors from the inside, which is insidious and awesome.

4. Incentivize change

A great way to beat detractors inside of your own organization is to incentivize change. This is not just handouts and kudos, it’s rethinking the way performance is measured.

5. Take incumbent terms and tasks out of your lexicon

I’m advising another company that’s changing the way recruiting and hiring is performed. Their solution disrupts the process entirely, with quantifiable results. But it’s a total change in an area with a lot of detractors waiting in the wings to defend spending days on tasks that should take minutes.

I’m a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. Sold ExitEvent. Building & GetSpiffy. Former Automated Insights. More info at

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