“Goals must never be from your ego, but problems that cry for a solution.” – Robert H. Schuller
I think one of the mistakes we tend to make as entrepreneurs is thinking that people care about us or our product significantly more than they do. We spend a lot of time fretting about what our customers will think if we make a certain change, what our friends will think if our business fails, and in general worrying about external perception.
Granted there are products that people care about. Everytime Facebook made a UI redesign an army of resistance would arise and rally to Facebook groups and online petitions everywhere to protest the imposition of the new interface on their lives. The reality is that we are not Facebook. By default, the number of people who care significantly about your product can be counted on one hand, and often with room to spare. To get to the point where people really care about your product you need to work hard. You need to make changes, some of them drastic, and some of them with some risk. You need to do this. Yes it’s possible that these changes may alienate your existing passionate user base, but if that passionate user base is smaller than you want it to be, you need to take those risks to move forward. This is the advantage of being a startup. Our risk vs. reward for making drastic changes is massive, whereas for a blue-chip company they have too much established revenue that they can’t risk.
As entrepreneurs we also tend to have fairly large egos. I think you need to; you need to think that you’re capable of doing something that most people aren’t. One of our challenges is to embrace that ego where it helps you, but temper it where it doesn’t. Having a large ego it’s very easy to worry about what other people will think of you personally. “If my business fails, what will my friends think of me?” The reality is that everyone else is too busy worrying about the most important person in their lives (themselves) to care terribly what you do. If you’re lucky and you are in fact super interesting, they may gossip about you occasionally behind your back, but in the grand scheme of things they really don’t care that much if you’re successful or not.
Risk is inherent in startups. I think most of us understand this at the outset, it’s easy to take risks with your product when no-one is using it. Where we can easily lose our way is when we get just a few followers; then we become concerned about effecting our loyal customers experience. Unless your business is at the scale you want to achieve, this is a risk you need to take to continue to move forward. And at the end of the day you can console yourself by knowing that they really don’t care as much as you think they do.