The most indispensable trait a startup founder can possess, and should desire to possess, is respect. For their fellow co-founders. For their employees. And most importantly, in my opinion, their competitors.
Paul Graham, someone who I deeply revere, wrote in one of his recent essays,
So if you’re a founder, here’s a deal you can make with yourself that will both make you happy and make your company successful. Tell yourself you can be as nice as you want, so long as you work hard on your growth rate to compensate.
I cannot agree more. Adding to this, I feel it’s safe — nay, essential — for founders to be respectful. And respect towards your competitors the most important of all. While it’s true that fierce competition and pressure-cooker situations almost always get the best of us, it is imperative that founders remain respectful of their competitors. After all, that’s what shows your true character. And you cannot win a war by bad mouthing. Nobody ever has. Wars have been won due to sheer excellence in execution. Exceptions being none.
Respect enables you to rise above pettiness
Entrepreneurship is definitely not a walk in the park. Behind all the perceived glamour, there is sheer hard work and an emotional roller-coaster that runs all day, everyday. Everyone who has seen early stage startups closely will testify.
It’s important that we remember that our competitors go through, or have gone through, the exact same phase. Competition might blind us, but it’s a fact nonetheless. Everyone who’s worth being called a competitor by anyone deserves respect. It’s only when we accept this, would we be able to see the struggle, the mistakes, the wins, and learn from it. Pettiness is for small minds.
Respect enables you work harder
It’s when you appreciate someone’s hard work, is when you truly begin to appreciate yours. Among most of the hugely successful companies in the world, you’d hardly see the founders bad-mouth or trash competitors. Smart founders realize if they don’t learn from their environment constantly and improve their craft, the next startup gunning for them in a garage somewhere will definitely take the cake.
I have been fortunate enough to be in company and under mentor-ship of some of the smartest entrepreneurs ever. And I’ve never seen any of them bad-mouth or trash their competition. Why?
They’re busy building. And growing.
Don’t miss to read this, of course.