Start-up Transparency

Some founders take the approach of shielding their teams from the realities their start-up faces. They want the team focused on building a great solution and serving customers. I caught up with an early-stage founder who recently updated his small team on strategic direction and the state of the company during a team meeting. He decided to leave their current runway out of his update because he didn’t want them to worry.

They didn’t let that slide, though. One of the first questions was how much runway they had to execute what they’d just heard. Having been asked, the founder answered candidly: four or five months to make it happen.

The founder wasn’t sure how the team would respond to such a short runway. He assumed some would worry. Their responses surprised him:

  • “Thank you for being transparent.”
  • “I was giving 100%, but now I’m going to give 120%.”
  • “I did the calculation on my equity, and if this works like we think it will, I’ll make a lot of money, so I’m going to do all I can to make it work.”

This founder learned that he doesn’t have to shield his team from the unpleasant realities of working at a start-up. People don’t expect everything to be roses. They know start-ups will have ups and downs. They want to be kept in the loop, good or bad. Sometimes, sharing the bad can energize the team to push harder to make the impossible happen.