Oct 7 2008

Ok Entrepreneurs, Time to Step Up

Of all the macro events happening in the world, there are two occurring in the US right now that seem to be dominating most people’s thinking: (1) the US election and (2) the credit crisis (or whatever it’s being called today). 

While I don’t watch TV news (and therefore get to miss out on all the talking heads on CNBC and CNN) I do read extensively online, especially about startups, software / Internet technology, and venture capital.  Most of my general business news is either via headlines (once a day in the morning when I scan several newspapers), alerts (whatever WSJ, CNN, and NYT alerts send out during the day or tidbits my friends put on twitter), and business magazines (Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek).  The business magazines are usually already two weeks old by the time I get to them (in the bathroom) and they lag the actual events by another week or two.

So – I get a nice mix of current sentiment (via headlines and alerts), two to four week old stories (via magazines), useful industry information, and a small mix of random stuff, without getting sucked into the day by day, play by play endless noise, chatter, and punditry.  While this isn’t a pure or organized stream of information, I’ve found the tempo enables me to stay "informed enough" without being distracted.

Since I returned from my Q3 vacation two weeks ago, each day seems to bring more bad news and overall negative sentiment.  In the last week I’ve started to notice a bunch of doom and gloom among entrepreneurs, especially high profile ones.  In most cases, these aren’t cautious warnings, or suggestions of behavior modification, or real analysis of what’s going on.  Rather, it’s an emotional response which is starting to creep into the zeitgeist of an otherwise typically optimistic set of people.

If you remember that Fear Is The Mindkiller you’ll quickly realize the correlation between the general commentary (the sky is falling, the world financial markets are collapsing, all your money will disappear, things will never be the same) and the notion of "killing your mind."

My recommendation to all of you entrepreneurs out there is to get off the negative sentiment treadmill, step up, and lead.  The people working for your company are likely confused, concerned, and overwhelmed with all the noise in the system.   In the near term, building your business will likely be more challenging on a number of dimensions.  So what – that’s the normal cycle of business.  You don’t need to be a blind optimist and spout happy talk, but you do need to have a clear sense of purpose and goals for your company.  Leadership 101.

When I look back at the dotcom apocalypse that was 2000 – 2002, I realize some of the best companies I’ve ever been involved in were created during that time.  In the midst of this, I remember the endless stream of "the Internet is over" and "the information technology business in now a mature business and there will never be innovation again."  Yeah – whatever.

Get some exercise, take a shower, eat a good breakfast, and get out there and build a great business.