Great expectations


One of the constants I’ve experience with FreeUP is variety. Other roles I’ve had have been variable, but (over time) had a relatively steady base-line, a ‘normal’ from which I could measure how different my day was. This base-line in a start-up however, drifts, sometimes at quite some speed. A ‘normal’ day 3 months ago, is now quite different from what a normal day looks like today.

It very much feels like a journey.

Many articles separate this journey into phases based upon company statistics, Technology Readiness Levels, and other perfectly valid metrics. I’ve noticed though, that from a founder centric viewpoint, there is a simple metric that demarcates the end of the very beginning and the beginning of the next step. As the probability of a startup, being successful tends to increase as it becomes more developed, I took this transition as a very positive sign.

A journey of parts

I previously wrote about how presenting belief was the objective when you are trying to get initial traction and buy-in for your idea.

You don’t have much in the way of data, a track record, or anything of great substance to point to, so you have to present why the idea is believable. Why people should be interested. And how you are going to demonstrate that it will work and assuage concerns.

You then get buy-in, create the technology, do a whole load of other tasks and then start piloting. If all goes well, you then get an ever-increasing interest and have to manage the startup’s bandwidth to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Suddenly you’ve gone from presenting belief to setting great expectations.

People still want proof that the technology will work, but their expectation is that it will. Your new role is to ensure that the promised timeframes are met and that your tech works on the day. If those main activities are completed, it’s likely they’ll be onboard.

As more people are onboarded, the need to prove the technology reduces, further increasing the importance that the logistical and agreed expectations are met.

The reason I think this transition is noteworthy is because it requires no calculations and is fairly rapid. It also indicates a point from which the company’s bandwidth may increasingly become the limiting factor rather than other barriers such as disbelief or product/solution mismatches.

There are few clear indicators of what’s going to happen next on this journey, so having such a clear signpost that highlights a new set of priorities and near-future bottlenecks is useful.

Setting great expectations won’t enable you to write as well as Dickens, but it may indicate that you need to focus on expanding your bandwidth and your team. You may even need to hire a marketer, who is a storyteller of sorts.

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