The Startup Killer That Almost Every Startup Leader Ignores

How experienced entrepreneurs navigate the law of unintended consequences

Joe Procopio

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image by master1305 on freepik

For a lot of companies, the battle for success is often lost in the margins. And quietly too.

A company can be quickly doomed by a decision that seemed less than critical, almost innocuous, at the time it was made. This is the law of unintended consequences, and it’s a nightmare for both startups and mature companies. It can strike in sales, technology, finance, hiring, just about anywhere.

The more mature the company, the more likely it can absorb the damage when the unforeseen becomes seen. On the other hand, I’ve seen the law of unintended consequences take out startups in a disproportionate ratio.

I believe I know why. And I think I’ve narrowed down the source of the problem.

The Case Of Market Share FOMO

Recently, I got a question from an entrepreneur who was already passing the $1 million mark in trailing revenue with a B2C product. His problem was that while he believed he could expand his market share, and probably pretty quickly, he was having a ton of trouble defining his ideal customer profile.

In other words, he knew just enough about his customers to know he didn’t know enough about them to go out and find more of them.

So he was going to do what any of us might do in that situation, start talking to them. He and I walked through what his strategy should be, what questions he should ask, and how to both limit and tabulate the results. But I also briefly warned him to take care when interpreting and acting on those results.

Because of the law of unintended consequences.

The law manifests itself in two ways.

  • The first is when a company creates something totally unnecessary.
  • The second is when a company fixes something that isn’t broken.

Both are based on an interpretation of data that is anecdotal and not statistically significant.

Let’s drill down into each.

Acting On Stories Is Trouble Disguised As…

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com