I talked about existential crises, communicating who you truly are, finding those people who resonate deeply with you and forging a joyful connection with them. I spoke about the communication being a dynamic relationship, about alignment and culture, about values, and filters, and worldviews.
But sometimes things are a lot simpler than that. And while I believe in and stand behind everything I said last week, it is also important to remember we are humble animals, often driven more by our lizard brains than by our executive brains. So here are three simple rules for your start-up that take into account our oh-so-basic human nature:
1. Choose a name that is easy to hear and interpret. One of the first companies I co-founded was called ThoughtSource. We thought it was clever -- great ideas are born here! -- but it turned out to be quite possibly the worst name ever. When I got on the phone with someone and said, “Hi, it’s Kaila from ThoughtSource,” the reply was always the same: “Foughtforce? Sotsorce? What?”
Important Point: Your name does not have to describe what you do. Starbucks has nothing to do with coffee but when you hear the word you can easily repeat it. Twitter doesn’t explain Twitter, but, again, you know the word you’re hearing even if you don’t know what it means.
2. Make sure people can get their heads around what you do. People like to be able to “get” things. If they “get” you, they can “help” you, and life becomes a heck of a lot “easier.”
When you explain your business to someone, you’re looking for that moment of discovery, that “Aha!” You want to see people feel like the circle has been closed and all the questions have been answered -- the company makes sense, and they’re kind of surprised nobody has done it this way before. If instead their eyes glaze over and they say, “Oh,” there’s a chance you need to revisit the way you communicate. There is also a chance you need to revisit what your company actually does.
Important Point: The whole “getting what you do” thing only applies to people who ought to be able to get what you do. If you’re starting the next Twitter and your grandma doesn’t understand it, that’s not a problem. If Ev Williams doesn’t understand it, you need to go back to the drawing board.
3. Never fight a two-front war. Sometimes you’re stuck with a difficult name. Sometimes your business proposition is hard to convey yet still awesome. These things happen. But if they happen at the same time, you’re in a lot of trouble. Imagine: “Hi, it’s Kaila from ThoughtSource. We’re a company that lets you send 140-character text messages out into space where anyone can see them, and you can see the messages other strangers send out.” The person on the other end of the phone is now hopelessly confused; I lost her at “ThoughtSource,” and my confusing business offering had no chance of winning her back.
Important Point: Did I mention you shouldn’t fight a two-front war?
What are your simplest rules for success?