September 2012

In my last post, Growing a New Crop, I touched on 8 important tips to starting a new product line or business within an existing (core) business. If you happen to be that crazy & focused new business leader, odds are you will stumble into an early stage issue that was never even considered by the corporation.

Once any new product or business is successfully funded internally and off to the races – the early days can be super exciting depending on the decibel level of the internal hype machine.  The hype machine is a necessary evil to gain support, but can serve to harm when the first big obstacle is encountered.

Your first big obstacle is likely unknown, but could be a financial loss, a product failure, a customer cancellation, or a key employee quitting.  The tester in my first business was a product liability matter stemming from a fatal accident. While there was no fault by the company, the internal sharks began swimming and it gave the naysayers something to latch onto. There were even some cries to “quit selling the product and shut it down.” These are the times where you really learn who is who, and into which of the three categories your fellow executives and employees fall – Supporters, Naysayers, and Wind Blow Guys.

Supporters usually represent about 20% of an organization and you must love these people as they will help you at every turn, good or bad.  Naysayers represent about 20% of an organization, and they too are OK because they declare it up front; you know it, and can manage it. But that leaves another 60% who claim to be supporters, but are really naysayers, and let’s call them the Wind Blow Guys.  These folks are dangerous as they will blow with the corporate winds, and can work against you while telling you differently.

So do how to you proceed when an obstacle hits and it was not forecast? First, stay calm and do not get emotional when inside snipers begin to fire. This is not a time to be responding to each and every email without data or without an integrated plan. Seek out your top real supporters and get alignment to do some analysis of the matter based on fact, and not hearsay. Try to buy a week, ideally. Then hold a briefing with stakeholders, present the real data and associated remediation plan. In almost all cases, calmer heads, common sense and data will prevail.

Do not burn your energy trying to serve or make the Wind Blow Guys happy. They ultimately do not determine your success. Focus your energies on your external market, your customers, and your product/service. The external market pays the bills and this will be the opinion that counts. The Wind Blow Guys are usually not paying any attention to the outside, and only paying attention to internal water cooler trends. Most importantly, just recognize there are three types of followers to your business, not just two.  This general awareness will serve you well when building allies for the long road ahead.