Running a startup requires flair and discipline. Flair gives you the big vision, a great story, the ability to close big deals, to woo employees and to get great press. Discipline enables you to get the small stuff right so the business scales well and is optimised in areas like marketing and supply chain.
Fans of HBO show Silicon Valley which follows the story of a company called Pied Piper might recognise these skills in characters Ehrlich (flair) and Jared (discipline). I’m only up to episode 5 of the first series (late convert) but already Erlich has saved the day with an off-the-cuff speech to a key investor about the company’s vision and Jared has implemented a scrum development process without which they would have missed a key deadline.
Most entrepreneurs have a clear strength in either flair or discipline and but to have both is rare. It’s human nature to value the things we’re strong at and that can lead to entrepreneurs with flair seeing discipline as something that gets in the way, and entrepreneurs who are disciplined viewing showmanship and flair with suspicion. Erlich and Jared don’t get along.
The best companies embrace the need for flair and discipline and manage the inevitable tensions that arise. Founders who do this well hire for the skill they don’t have and let their vision and values determine when they should let themselves be over-ruled.