Make sure you have discipline and flair in your startup




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.

  • Henry Joseph – Grant


  • Exactly!

  • True. Discipline is the capacity to deal with boring, repeatable stuff. Natively, very smart people lack this skill for sure, but later in life they learn it. Maybe this is how nature understands to keep balance. A not so smart person can launch a Kebab restaurant and every Friday morning to offer free kebabs. Keep that for a long time, and you have a brand.

  • Bertrand Dierckens

    Great final sentence. That requires real self discipline.

  • Henry C

    Hi Nic.

    Timely post. Discipline is a key principle of Gorilla Theory (have you read the book yet?). Discipline may not be sexy or get the headlines, but without it, modest success or unicorn aspirations will remain a dream. To quote The Gorilla Theory D.I.C.E action plan, ‘there are 3 I’s in Discipline’: I should, I can, I will.

  • There are three i’s in discipline. I like that!