It is often said that the most important things a startup founder and CEO needs to focus on is setting the vision and communicating it effectively, hiring the right people and making sure there’s enough money in the bank.
In the early stages though, the vision is less clear for a company for many founders. What’s more clear (to most entrepreneurs) I assume is the problem they are trying to solve. Or, in many cases the solution they are trying to build.
If you over index on good or excellent execution but have not a clear, well thought out vision, the market, investors and employees will give you time and room to develop. Case in point, it was not always clear what Twitter’s vision was to most people (and probably is still not clear).
So, if you have a great, compelling vision for the future of how the industry (like Marc Benioff did with Salesforce.com), then it does make it easier to grow, fund and scale the company, but if you dont, I wont sweat it.
There are many forms of communication, but the 3 I am focusing on are public speaking, written communication and articulation in a personal setting.
Not surprisingly, if you are afraid of public speaking (which apparently is the 2nd most feared thing for most people after death), the market does give you some leeway. There are many entrepreneurs and senior executives who I know, personally, who are poor public speakers and are not at all charismatic. That usually does not seem to stunt their progress though.
If you are not great at written communication, (which can easily be fixed BTW, with practice), the world is not going to end. It does help, but you only have to keep in mind that over 80% of successful founders in the unicorn list have trouble writing something meaningful even with the 140 character limit that Twitter proposes.
If however you can’t articulate the problem you are trying to solve in 1-1 situations or answer the difficult questions about why your company exists, what it does and how it will solve a problem, then potential co-founders, employees, investors and customers will not give you much leeway.
There are certain situations when even poor articulation (which I have seen multiple times when folks come to pitch their product to us) is something we accept and assume we can help with.
That situation is when someone has executed very well. Whether it is building a compelling product, getting early customers, growing user base or raising funding rounds, doing beats telling 95% of the time.
From time to time, we (potential employees, customers or investors) get enamored by a good story, articulated by a charismatic, passionate and visionary founder, and it may happen more than in exceptions than the rule.
The thing is though, you can’t argue with execution at the partner meeting or at the customer review or when you are talking to your friends about a company you want to join.
Either they did what they did or did not – either they got users and growth or not. They have customers or they dont. They have a product that users like or they dont.
They executed or they did not.
Which is why, even if you being told you dont have a great vision or that you are poor at telling your story or you have bad communication skills, take heart.
If you out-execute and show the proof in the pudding, by numbers, metrics and growth, the market and the participants will let you get away with your “weaknesses” or perceived faults in vision or communication.