The trifecta of choking, why businesses fail at being Batman.

· blog

Have a look at tech companies and you’ll notice they have a pattern. A way of working which looks something like this: they give you something you want, collect every shred of your data, then use that data to feed you more of the crap you just clicked on or searched for.

Google, Netflix, Facebook, and Instagram, all follow this basic framework. To me, at the scale that these guys are operating, there’s definitely something a bit evil going on, in no way can it be healthy to reassure your own ideas with no room for new concepts.

Broadening your understanding and being open to other people’s perspectives, prior to judgement, is a great way to “make the world a better place” (a tag often associated with any glitzy and global startup). And since these aforementioned giants seem to actively facilitate the opposite, by my logic, at this point in time, they are doing the Earth's people a disservice.

Philosophical ranting aside, this deadly data cycle, which is also known as being "customer-centric”, is a very effective way of doing business. It’s always been the mantra of a company, no matter how big, to track the trends of what customers are doing and to capitalize on those markers. This current era of making faster and more finely tuned decisions is just the new way of doing business.

So, how can smaller businesses survive? Those who don’t have access to 3000 of your most intimate data points or know every single thing you’ve ever searched for online. How are smaller players meant to compete in this arena? (Of course, I'm going to talk to the little guy, they are the ones who need the help!). That’s right, it’s time to talk logistics.

Okay, maybe not logistics so much as a general business idea but I'm trying to build a bit of theme here so dropping 'logistics' in here somewhere was a must.

Anyway, I’ve noticed something and I'm calling it ‘The Trifecta of Choking’. It goes a little something like this. An entrepreneur has an idea, develops a product, makes the investment and takes the risky leap. Luckily, it goes well. Soon Mr. or Mrs Business owner have a successful operation. They even have staff.

The issues come when the owners need to invest again. I mean look at it from their perspective. You’ve spent your time and your money, and you’ve built something. Well done. This is your baby. But now the business is successful, and you want it to grow but can you really trust your team? They never seem to do what you tell them. Or do it in the exact way you’ve told them. Or do it when you wanted it done. Hence, you feel obliged to continually correct and manage the entire process.

So rather than taking the time to see what else can be invested in, you spend all of your investible time doing the same operational tasks over and over again.

Another combination of words which could be used instead of “investable time” would be “being a control freak”. And my advice? Opinion? Whatever you can call this. Get over yourself and hire people you want to trust. Because right now, here’s the train of thought for the people who work for you.

Line 1: there is a task to do, the task is simple, I’ve done this task many times.

Line 2: I can do the job, but the boss always complains and wants it done a certain way, I know exactly what he or she wants but maybe today is different. To avoid the tears, I’ll ask.

Line 3: I'm waiting, the job isn't getting done, but I've done the best thing I can which is to ask the question.

If you were to take these three lines and tie them around the manager's neck, it would quickly form a noose. Metaphorically, of course, don’t get weird about this I have a point to make. The noose tightens, Mr or Mrs Manager, every time you think “if I don’t do it, it won’t get done”. This is quite an arrogant way of thinking but worse than that, it’s exhausting. I personally love telling people what to do and I look as hard as I can to offload work. Deep down I am the laziest person you will ever meet. So, when I see this kind of quest to be Superman on a business owners’ chest, I get tired out of sheer empathy.

I don’t expect a reward for this, it’s just something I do... Oh no, probably shouldn't have said I'm the laziest man in the world on LinkedIn... I could edit it but... I've come this far, and I'd have to scroll and click and blah it would take too much effort. It'll be fine.

My point is if you don’t trust your people, and instead build their mindset to be one which relies on you for every single detail. You’re going to burn out. The S on your chest will go from saying Superman to Super Sad (a character I’ve been workshopping, with only one superpower being to cry in empathically… surprisingly I haven't heard back from Marvel Studios. I was making a point, what was it about? Something important?). Oh, that’s right, my point is that you can’t do everything on your own, you need people you can trust, you need sidekicks to work with.

Think about it like this, if you don’t it give Robin a chance, then he has no incentive to use his own brain. So, your interpretations that he’s a moron are as a result of your insistence that he is. (That's Batman's sidekick I know, move on to the next paragraph please).

Now, of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, some managers are great, they have great people which they trust, and everyone gets along sitting around at the end of the week sipping kombucha. But in the real world, not painted in the tinsel of a start-ups landing page. I completely understand the difficulty of finding people you can trust. Trust is not something you can switch on like a light. But to that I say, have you even tried? when you did have good people, were they acknowledged?

Think about how much less stressful Batman’s life would be if he let Robin take the reins for a couple of nights. You can be this type of person. Not Batman, I'm Batman. You can be someone else.

Going back to the frameworks mentioned at the start (feed, collect, reiterate), smaller companies can’t do this. They/you don’t have the resources. What they do have is people, not all of them suck, it’s usually the opposite. In my experience, the front-line people are the ones who know more than enough to be trusted. Especially the super annoying people who make detailed complaints - because if someone is willing to complain then it means they are willing to care.

For inspiration think about that entrepreneurial team which pulled off a billion-dollar buyout or Facebook before it sucked the life out of humanity. They didn't and don't know any more then you do. In fact, they probably know less because they have 10 years less experience in your industry.

The difference between you and 'them' is that they use and trust their data. You can do the same, the variation is your data isn’t in a spreadsheet, it's in your people. It's like having a bunch of living and breathing Siri’s. Actually, Siri is garbage. It's like having a bunch of Googles, walking around your warehouse. Unleash the Googlers and trust them to help you find the answers.

Finally, an old boss of mine once said: “many hands make for light work”. I completely agree with this and so should you. So, take your hands off your neck and start handing out responsibilities.