Do you recall the days when the £ sterling was strong and the € euro was weak and on the verge of collapse? And what changed?
Well, it was July 2012 when Mario Draghi – the Euro’s ECB head honcho – said ‘we’ll do *whatever it takes* to defend the Euro’. (link)
From that point on, the Euro immediately recovered and has now strengthened to become an alternative to world’s global currency, the US dollar.
So, what’s the lesson for startups and founders?
Firstly, running a startup is like living in constant crisis! A bit like the rolling crises of the Euro from 2010 to 2012.
And, there are times – actually, quite a lot of times – when it just feels like the best option is to bail out of your startup. To give up! Because you lack resource, time or money.
But there is a simple – and free – solution – for making your startup successful – and it is just six words:
Such a statement, expressed outwardly to those around you and inwardly to yourself, changes everything!
Yes, you might be short on cash. Yes, your tech may be held together by string. Yes, your best developer or critical sales person may have just left, but despite it all – the willingness to do whatever it takes – stands out and speaks volumes.
Important note here, neither Draghi did nor do you *actually* have to do whatever it takes. As soon as Draghi spoke those magic words and the markets were convinced that he was serious – the Euro began to recover. Why? Simply, traders knew that the Euro was not going to be allowed to fail and therefore, their ‘sell bets’ were going to lose them money – so they exited quickly and the Euro was saved.
Likewise, as the founder, you probably run two jobs and a family – so, if I ask ‘can you say ‘I’m willing to do whatever it takes?” – the reply is often cautious, because you are already beyond your limit of commitments.
But I don’t ask ‘can you’ do whatever it takes – I asked, are you ‘willing’ to do whatever it takes.
And in the difference between these two phrases is often the difference between success and failure.
Nearly always, simply being willing to do whatever it takes means that you don’t actually need to!
Draghi didn’t need to do anything further to save the Euro. The markets did it for him – because they were convinced that he was sincere. But he was sincere in his willingness to act, if that was required.
And so it is with your startup. Can you sincerely say ‘I’m willing to do whatever it takes?’
If you are, then say so and things and people will move to help you. You will shift from a potentially failing startup to a potential unicorn – because you are ‘willing’.
You’ll move from feeling that you always need to ‘have all the answers’ to being able to confidently say ‘I don’t have that answer, but I know we’ll figure it out’.
Hence, you do not operate from a mindset of delusion, but actually, can face the brutal facts of your current situation whilst setting a path to a successful future.
You see, the people around you – investors, suppliers, freelancers, staff, husbands/ wives / partners – they don’t actually want to know the detail or the answer – they want to know that you understand the problem / challenge and that they can trust you to solve it.
That’s all they want to know!
Yes, they may ask a question such as, ‘when is the money coming’? But actually, they just want to know that they can trust you – because you are willing to do whatever it takes!
And that is why this is such a great question.
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to succeed with your startup?
Of course, you are allowed to say no – in which case, it’s time to move on – either, earn the big money consulting or build a different startup for which you are willing to do whatever it takes.
Equally, the reason that my Breakthrough Business Model Canvas starts by asking if this startup speaks to your purpose, is for the simple reason that unless you care deeply about this startup, you’ll never be fully willing to make it successful.
Possibly, if you are not ‘willing to do whatever it takes’ then perhaps you are just hanging around waiting for someone else to dump a load of money on you or for someone to magic-up a big client sale. What happens here is that you waste your time and waste the time of the people around you too, waiting and hoping – almost as if you are hooked on buying lottery tickets!
Lastly, if you have partners – as in equal equity partners – then unless all of you are equally ‘willing to do whatever it takes’ – then you are in for some very tense conversations. And, if that is the case, have those conversations early! Be willing to do whatever it takes to resolve this!
Answering the ‘willingness’ question then allows you to tell if you want this enough. And is one of the strongest indicators of your future startup success.