Startup Lesson 24: SWOT & Serve

Do a SWOT analysis on you. No, really. Whether you’re in a job with a stable company, a full time entrepreneur, or considering a startup, you have to know your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  Specifically, if you’re starting a business, you had better know your strengths and weaknesses, and then exercise what you do best and overcome what you do worst.  There are several ways to do both.  Here’s my list of what I think are some of my strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

  1. No fear of failure. I’ve failed before. It sucks, but life goes on. You figure out how to get to tomorrow, pay the bills, fill that hole, plug that leak, etc. Do I think about failing? Sure, who doesn’t. But to me, it’s like dying. I don’t fear death. I fear dying. Big difference.
  2. Leading small teams. I just did kind of an inventory of my weekly schedule (what David Cummings would call ‘cadence’ or ‘rhythm’), and I realize that I lead, or have a leadership role in, seven small teams.
  3. Quick study. There’s not much I can’t learn, if I want to and if I put my energy into it. I learned product management in 1996 when I had never seen it done before. I learned WiFi. I learned WordPress. I learned just enough HTML to be dangerous. I’ve learned crowdsourcing, AWS, and Mechanical Turk. I love to learn and am not afraid of learning something new.
  4. I get technology.  I can’t write code or design a network, but I get it, and I can detect BS from the best Systems Engineer and explain why it’s BS to the sales team.

Weaknesses

  1. Procrastination
  2. I can’t write code.
  3. I can’t sell.
  4. I’m terrible at networking.
  5. I tend to get distracted by the little things.

Naturally, I try as best I can to play to my strengths, and do things I’ve done well before and know I can do again.  As for my weaknesses, those are what drive a couple of things I do on a regular basis, because you can only hide your weaknesses for so long. Eventually, in the pressure of the startup world, weaknesses will be exposed. It’s how you overcome them that counts.

To overcome my procrastination, I make a list of everything I must get done every day. The list lives until it’s all done, even if that’s a week from now.  I hire sales people and software developers, because even if I learned either or both, I’ll never be as good as a professional at either. To overcome my poor networking abilities I do several things, intentionally and purposefully:

  1. I run Pitch Practice every week. This meetup has become a regular part of my weekly rhythm, and I’ve met hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, and just generally nice and helpful people.
  2. I serve from the keg at Birdsong‘s monthly Atlanta Startup Village. Talk about a target rich environment!

It’s not my natural bent to meet people out of the blue. I’m not the guy about whom everyone says, “He never met a stranger.”  I can’t “work a room.” I’ve watched others do it to perfection, but that’s not me.  To overcome that weakness, I put myself in oncoming traffic, so to speak, and purposely meet everyone I can in that stream of people.  Pitch Practice offers me the opportunity to meet, help, and learn from other entrepreneurs as they practice explaining their business.  Filling cups in the ever-growing line at ASV affords me the pleasure of saying “Hi! How you!” to 400 people every month.

In other words, to overcome your weaknesses, find a way to serve other people as you build that weakness into strength.

What do you do to overcome your weaknesses?  Before you answer that, do a SWOT on yourself. Or, even better, do a 360 SWOT with your peers, employees, and bosses.

What do you think?