Why comfortable founders fail

There is safety and security in doing what you know, so is it any wonder that founders tend to focus on what is comfortable rather than what is necessary.

At least this was the case for me. I'm a developer. Dealing with technical concerns is my forte. Sales, marketing, PR and business development - they're all other people's responsibilities right?

Except in a startup with limited resources and a small team, you don't have that luxury.

It's just too damn easy to focus on what you feel comfortable doing. I could do product development all day long, convincing myself that if I build that next killer feature, they will come. Unfortunately they won't at least not if the only tool at your disposal is engineering.

Recently I've been reading Traction (thank you Alexander) and it's really opened my eyes about how me and the rest of my team should be spending our time. The authors advocate that from day one you should be splitting your time evenly between product development and gaining traction (testing various traction channels such as SEM, PR and Business Development). For a startup like mine that already has an established product, we should be putting most of our time into exploring these channels to increase growth - we have a great product but not enough customers.


The problem, I tell myself, is that I'm not a marketeer, a natural born salesman or a business development expert. In the past when I've attempted to fill these roles I start with lots of enthusiasm but as soon as something doesn't work, rather than trying a different strategy, I give up.

This is because I'm not used to failing in my area of expertise (tech) as I have enough experience to keep reiterating until it works.

So how do you stay focussed on things that are outside of your comfort zone?

The short answer, keep doing them.

It's also incredibly important to get your team onboard. There's strength in numbers and you need people around to pick you up when you inevitably fail.

So if you're snuggled up in the cosy blanket of familiarity, in the words of Taylor Swift, "shake it off".

As an exercise, try something that's outside of your comfort zone in your personal time. I'm about to start a Jive dancing class with my girlfriend. This is about as far from being comfortable as I can get, especially given that my arms seem incapable of staying in rhythm with my legs. But give it a few weeks and I'm confident I'll be able to clear the dance floor of a trendy east London hipster club with my new found jive moves.


Ben Foster

About Me

I'm a software engineer and aspiring entrepreneur with 12+ years experience in the tech industry and have worked with startups and SMB’s in areas such as healthcare, recruitment and e-commerce (I even worked in enterprise, once). I founded my first startup Fabrik in 2011.

I'm available for consulting. Just drop me a message on Twitter.

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