What Startups can learn from Superman
Superman is a fictional superhero appearing in comic books, TV shows, movies, etc.
The origin story of Superman relates that he was born Kal-El of House of El on the planet Krypton, before being rocketed to Earth as an infant by his scientist father Jor-El, moments before Krypton's destruction. Discovered and adopted by a Kansas farmer and his wife, the child is raised as Clark Kent and imbued with a strong moral compass.
Here are some lessons if you're growing up as a startup in unchartered territories and unknown geographies.
Resources and Team:
Very early Clark started to discover and in turn display various superhuman abilities, which, upon reaching maturity, he resolved to use for the benefit of humanity through a secret " Superman" identity.
The Potential of Unique and Gifted Children – Normal is overrated. A boyhood Clark had difficulty fitting in. Perhaps your start-up does as well. If so, it may simply be poised for future greatness.
He joins hands with Batman and Superwoman and builds a team to save the world. He knows how to build his strength by associating with the partners with either equal or more strength. Similarly start-ups need to join hands with the entities in their eco-system to build the strength of symbiotic partnerships.
He knows his weak spots. One word: Kryptonite. You’re not going to see Superman embrace Kryptonite, but instead find ways to work around it. How many times have you found yourself making the same mistake over and over because you keep embracing your Kryptonite? It can be your pitch deck, sales presentation.
His business is to undo wrongs: and knows how to market his skills. Leaping over tall buildings with a single bound and being able to fly, are not skills everyone can emulate, but you have to admit the guy knows how to make others appreciate him. He’s not afraid to offers his skills to a wide range of industries, and isn’t afraid to take risks. Being able to always demonstrate your value is critical throughout the business.
He maintains his moral compass. Superman has drawn his line in the sand and never crosses it. Can you say the same about your start-up? Or, have you succumbed to bottom-line pressures or other factors that have you breaking a personal and professional morale code of conduct? Maybe it’s time to figure out what you stand for – and stick with it.
Also, he doesn’t use his powers except for the welfare of the society. Start-ups can learn that one needs to understand the target customers or market segments to be catered with their services and products and keep pivoting in business as and when required to serve the target audience better – course correction is a matter of pride and not disbelief.
When Jor-El, attempted to dissuade General Zod from a political coup then General Zod says “Endless debates lead to nothing.” Remember this during your next
One day Clark says to his mother “The world’s too big mom” and she replies, “Then make it small.” If you think your target market is too big then divide it into small chunks and accomplish your targets through incremental progress. Reach your addressable market before attempting to impact the potential market.
Sometimes passion can be quite destructive when misguided and it can be learned through Genral Zod’s dialogue,“I exist to only protect Krypton. This is why I was born.”
Superman makes sure that he invests his time and resources for improving his strength and activities which will help him continue to scale up the work he intends to do.
Similarly start-ups can invest on growing their business and focus on adding value to the society through their product or service. Self investment always is non threatening however if need be, like minded partners need to be picked up to invest in time, money and efforts.Choose these partners carefully and cautiously. No such partner should have “Kryptonite” in their pockets.
UI/UX & External Communication:
Superman maintains personal appearances. You’re not going to see Superman having fight with his enemies in a wrinkled trouser and shirt while saving the world.
Superman values the power of appearances, and he keeps those boots shined, the cape ironed and the biceps buffed. Strangers make judgments about you during first meeting based on appearance and Superman knows how to make an entrance. Similarly, a start-up should make sure that entry is impactful with catchy appearance through their logo, website, handouts, photographs, videos, etc. First meeting with potential customers and business partners needs to be impressive and must influence them to join hands with you. User Experience, User Interface and Customer Communication impact differentiate one from the other – and in the real and virtual world – a seamless impact of UI/UX must be created by each startup.
Impact Advisors / Role of a Mentor:
Let’s understand this through some sentences of Jonathan Kent, Superman’s father and mentor.
“There is more at stake here than just our lives. It is the lives around us.” – Mentor makes you aware of your responsibility to those in your sphere of influence.
“People are afraid of what they don’t understand.” - So make sure that you keep your sales and marketing effort so simple that people understand it. Sometimes mentor tells you something that has implicit meaning in it. Find out what it is.
“I believe you were sent here for a reason. And even if you take the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.” – A great mentor provides direction and intentionality for her/his mentee.
“You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Because that man, good character or bad, is going to change the world.” - Great mentors give their mentee a BIG vision for their business idea. Subsequently, a start-ups performance is often directly proportionate to their mentor’s confidence in them.
Perspective and Positive Image:
Change doesn’t daunt him. Superman knows he has to change with the times, and his persona has reflected the different moods of a nation going through various wars, upheavals and cultural shifts. He embraces differences and leads through example by treating everyone fairly and with respect.
“Hope. The potential of every person can be a force for good.” – Optimistic perspectives provide solutions and are the reason for hope.
“Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. The trust comes later.” – Trust can take a lifetime to earn but can be lost at a moment in time.
The Responsibility Of Service – Superman leads by example in that for many people helping others is not an option. It is simply part of our identity.
“You can’t control me but I’m not your enemy.” – Superman. As a leader, you can’t control others if you can’t control yourself.
PR and Publicity becomes an implicit need of a startup – and never to believe that every publicity if good publicity. Maintaining a meaningful and positive image is always important and to never be in news for conflicting reasons. If this means that the startup needs to hire professional PR Specialists then so be it.
Assessing the situation to approach is what Superman does with analysis, using the information available and tries to collect more information to build his trust on his decisions. This can be understood well when he says “Zod can’t be trusted. I’m not sure the people of Earth can either.” – While being in business, a forward-looking research must be a continuous process: research is not a pre-startup function.
It is an ongoing process that ensures there are regular course corrections. Here we learn that as an entrepreneur one needs to evaluate reality before taking action. Also, research on the same topic can throw up different perspectives – here what matters is the understanding of overlying assumptions. So triangulation of information from multiple sources and then taking a judicious call on the research outcome is an important part. As a startup, one must ensure that due time is spent in learning from what others have been doing and not to keen on re-inventing the wheel at all times. Every data has a story- and the same must be well read and interpreted.
Wrapping it all Up
Like Superman, every start-up must consider unpredictability to be a friend and
1. Identify, build upon the resources and their strengths – be consciously aware that building an organization is as important as setting up a product life cycle. Probably early stage entrepreneurs who don’t have tech-comm experience struggle more because of their lack of exposure to working in a culture led organization.
2. Along-with building a team, associating with like minded or higher capability partners will help start-ups scale and accelerate faster than otherwise – if not direct support by partners, still their references and guidance is important.
3. Being clear about your actual business: with a design thinking led approach with target customers at the center and business values + ethics being the key for sustainable business growth.
4. Invest wisely on business growth where adding value to society remains the focus. Have an impactful catchy entry in the market, with strong and effective PR, UI, UX impetus and keep improvising on your appearance in the market – so called wow factor!
5. Listen to your impact advisors and mentors carefully, implement learning and ask right questions to clarify doubts: at the end of the day, you are the founder and its your company.
6. Let learning be the continuous process. Keep yourself up in tough times with hope and optimism; yet evaluate reality before taking decisions!
You will encounter Kryptonite at all stages, enhancing immunity is the key.
(The article has been authored by Mr. Rishi Kapal, CEO, EduGild)
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