“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” is a famous quote by George Bernard Shaw that can aptly describe what this article is all about. We all would agree that communication makes up a huge part of our everyday life; that without it there can be no normal functioning. This holds true even for a startup, probably more so, where there remains so much to be accomplished. As a result, a lot of what actually gets accomplished will depend on the quality and effectiveness of communication of the founder and the core team. And though it may not seem obvious to many, poor communication can prove to be a stumbling block for a startup and spell doom.
What does history tell us?
If you had doubts that poor communications has the power to destroy a startup, let’s look back at the past and gauge how things worked out for corporations that had communication issues. Once successful global giants, Nokia and Enron saw tides turn and they ultimately collapsed because they were unable to communicate their ideas to their teams and strategise them effectively. Even Toyota Motors suffered a loss of $2Bn due to its lack of transparency and consecutive bad press. If big corporations like these had to pay so heavily owing to poor communication, imagine the plight of a startup that has just begun its journey!
Why is there a communication gap?
Today’s modern era, with its advanced technology and teeming social networking platforms, have successfully created a dangerous illusion that a lack of communication is a ridiculous phenomenon. The reality is that you end up shrinking your communication further, with the assumption that you’ve communicated enough. The main reason is this – good communication is, in all actuality, a personal phenomenon.
It takes condor, courage, curiosity and a willingness to welcome criticism (both good and bad), all of which a majority of the people lack. They are so ‘stuck’ in their comfort zones that they fail to see the need to break it. Putting personal growth before the team’s overall growth is also a major factor behind lack of proper communication.
Language is another major obstacle in the way of proper communication. With members from different regional and linguistic origins, communication can often be confused and productivity hampered.
How poor communication can be a bottleneck
Communication is an important pillar for any startup to succeed. For a startup that stands on ground zero, everything is built based on communication. A lack of proper communication will cause serious issues in the top leadership, between the members or between the two levels. Today’s popular digitised communication fails to accomplish the true outcomes of good communication, such as trust, honesty, clarity and openness. Without these, a startup will eventually dwindle and fail even if it had the best idea and the best team.
A team that does not communicate effectively suffers strained relationships. This in turn results in a tensed environment at the workplace, ultimately causing low morale for the members and poor operational results that further bring down performance (individual and team) and productivity. The prospect of seeing the team’s efforts bringing poorer and poorer results is a major cause for a stressful work environment.
There is also the factor of negative communication to be considered. That includes rumours, incomplete information, misinformation and conflicted actions between members. This is a scenario that should be looked into at the earliest and nipped in the bud because it can lead to severe issues like poor staff confidence in the company. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to reverse the adverse effects of negative communication and the impact can be even more profound on a startup that is yet to prove its credentials to various stakeholders in the ecosystem. Poor communication is like the push that knocks down the first card which further causes a domino effect and results in the entire structure collapsing.
Apart from stopping a team from really being a team, poor communication also has the power to hinder the team’s functioning right from the starting point itself. A leader’s idea, when not communicated properly to his/her team, is the point from where things begin to go wrong. Badly communicated ideas give rise to badly built strategies, which in turn result in poor execution, and therefore, poor revenue generation. It is of paramount importance that the leader is a very good communicator, not just in imparting ideas, but also in making the members work cohesively with him/her as well as with each other with a common vision to drive them.
Outside of the company, good communication is essential to get you the resources you need, be it investors, partners, clients, etc. Unless you get your ideas and vision across to them clearly, they will not realize how much potential your company has and how they stand to gain by backing you.
Communication is a two-way process, which means that listening is of as much importance as speaking. It is imperative that healthy, focused listening be practised especially when working with clients because unless you know what they expect from you can’t deliver to their satisfaction.
Communication also forms an important basis for networking, which is a crucial element for a startup to succeed. By networking effectively, start-ups can forge new and lasting relationships and tap them for greater synergies.
Effective communication is a sure shot way for a startup to get noticed in a space that is getting highly cluttered. Though communication alone cannot ensure success, since ultimately it is your product that’ll do the talking, it certainly opens up gateways to success by drawing the limelight on you and ensuring you stand out of the crowd, thus making things a lot easier.