No Man’s Land - Start Up Life

It's been almost a year since I decided to roll the dice and step out into the start-up no-man’s land. I don’t draw comparisons with a world war one scenario lightly, it truly is a fix bayonets and fight to the death scenario. 

When you go over the top, that two hundred yards to your goal is literally like it was a 100 years ago, razor wire, bomb craters, shrapnel and bullets. You don’t know where the next hit will come from, what’s more you need to be wary of friendly fire to. Please don’t take this in the wrong way, I am not a pessimist or a negative person by any means and that’s where lies my biggest fault. 

The expectation that there is honour, respect, my word is your bond sort of scenario is simply not true. This is a world where people are cash and margin hungry and as you pass through the first 20 yards of no man’s land the words of “don’t take it personally it’s just business” will be a constant go to. That’s what my good friend and managing director told me in my exit negotiations after the school yard bully had got his way with me. 

I suppose the message I am trying to get across is that as a start-up you need to protect yourself not just through good business practices but personally to. Don’t think that for one second that by what you have done for individuals will immediately give you some sort access into payback heaven, sorry to disappoint it does just not exist. You must take your situation, your company and everyone that you are dealing with at face value, that way you won’t be disappointed. 

I am not suggesting that you change your behaviour and start acting like these disappointing individuals, quite the opposite, the way you act will ultimately build the values of your company and create your culture. All I am saying is fully expect to be treated on the wrong side of the two-sided relationship and don’t be hurt when it happens like I was, rather expect it and be prepared for it. By being prepared for it you will protect your business, negotiate harder on margins and feel no remorse for going after business that you have every right to go after.  

Ultimately as your business starts to gain traction and you get to the last ten yards of no man’s land and you start to stare into the whites of the eyes of your goals as they peer over the edge of the trench.

Year one done and now you need to occupy, be strategic, you have a new group of friends, you have done the hard yards, you have run blindly into lead, steel and razor. You are now tougher, smarter and stronger, it’s not just about winning the battle but winning the war.

Key take-homes:
  • Neither expect nor await payback
  • Be more brave than ever before
  • Be smart and consider the outcomes
  • Think long game and be patient