Expectation management

Updated: Jul 18, 2020 at 12:02am
Created: Jul 14, 2020 at 11:17pm

Underpromise, overdeliver. - Unknown

Expectation management is key in business (and in life), but first-time founders have difficulty in doing this well. The level of enthusiasm and naivete will make it hard to set the right expectations. You will likely to oversell the first time when you pitch your company. You probably heard "fake it til you make it" and live and breathe this practice.

While some of it may be true, that you need to keep your self-assurance and confidence high to carry through the dark tunnels and grind of a startup, this does not mean you should oversell.

Investors invest in lines, not dots. Customer eventually wants your promise to be delivered. Employees will be patient until they see the promises not being met. Once the trust erodes and the founder becomes the boy who cried wolf, it's incredibly hard to recover from that position.

Expectation management involves so much humane element that it needs a lot of failures to really learn the lessons right. So remember this:

  • Don't make many promises, but when you do, keep them no matter how small.
  • When you are setting a goal, internally you should set a stretch goal, but externally, underpromise and overdeliver on the goal.
  • When people see you sandbag, they will push your goal up, so finding the right balance to set a credible goal that's achievable and yet is still impactful, while internally set a higher goal to add buffer in case you fall short.

Shoot for the stars and you'll land on the moon.

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