What do you do when your vision for the company diverge too much from your partners'?

My company is a 3-year old startup based in Brazil. We reached the breakeven, got major customers and a good revenue. As it is not a technology company, it is hard to escalate, but we have 35 people on board. I'm having troubles with the majority shareholders: what should be a vibrant, engaged, decentralized culture became "corporate-y" too quickly. Bad hires, leading to bad managing habits, evolving to cracks in products and services. 25% of the revenue comes from my sales alone. Everybody just underperforms. While I'm trying to get to strategic level, the company needs my revenue directly to keep going. I'm starting to burnout. I feel I'm working for money only. I feel distrust growing, I'm feel I'm being "Woz'ed" away, and not by a Steve Jobs. I need some insights!!


Congrats on the success you have achieved in just 3 years! That's statistically uncommon and reveals that the initial focus of the company was effective and worth reviving.

Yes, it must be frustrating to feel like you are the only one carrying the company uphill. I've been in a similar position.

First, I suggest you take responsibility for the position you currently find yourself in. It's easy to cast blame on people and circumstances outside of yourself. It's the most common first reaction.

If you really think about it though, you will realize that where you are did not appear overnight. Every day for the past 3 years you have either consciously or unconsciously agreed to move towards where you are now.

By doing that you are no longer a victim of circumstances and can move forward from a place of power.

As the primary producer in the company you do have the leverage however, you also need a pro-active plan to promote using that leverage and it needs to be something that benefits everyone involved.

First of all I would check your perspective on the whole situation by calling a meeting of stakeholders to recalibrate the company vision.

The idea here is to get everyone to tell you what they see as the primary problems with the company right now and where they each would like to see things improve. You need to see what everyone else is seeing not only what you are seeing.

This meeting in and of itself might change your perspective entirely. If it reveals nothing that profoundly changes your view then move on to the next step.

If you are the star salesperson then you have a method by which you get results. Try creating a sales training program out of that method and then go to the team and present this training plan. There are books and resources online on how to create a sales training plan like this. The goal is to duplicate and systematize how you achieve your above average results.

Frame the plan as a way to get all the other team member goals accomplished. Whatever those goals are, inevitably they will require more money.

By using your leverage as the star salesperson and taking the initiative to create a program that will effectively create more star salespeople then you are bound to create more revenue for the company. This way your goal is a means to an end for everyone else's goals. This way you get unanimous buy-in.

Set a goal of 8 weeks or so to implement this training across the enterprise. Provide bonuses and other incentives to participants to achieve this goal as well as longer term sales increase goals.

Create company-wide perks for achieving these long-term sales goals. Maybe a retreat somewhere awesome? You get the picture.

The idea is to create a win-win situation for everyone to get going in a positive direction that will, in the end, alleviate your present problem as well as achieve a greater success for everyone involved.

Hope that helps. Best of luck!

Answered 8 years ago

I may be wrong on this one, but the situation smells of excessive funding and its consequences. Having successfully bootstrapped (no outside investors) two of the world's largest tech startups during the first wave of the Internet, I've been advocating for bootstrapping and/or MVF (Minimum Viable Funding) since coming back to entrepreneurship. More on that here:

Culture is driven at/by the helm, which typically translates to founders with majority shares. It's very difficult to be the only one trying to row the boat in a different direction, especially if nobody really cares where the original direction is leading to.

Biggest question now is are you the only one that cares about the status quo? If yes, then it might be a tough one to pull through. Remember, you can always build another successful company. And if you need any advice on starting a fresh, please do feel free to reach out to me here on Clarity.

Answered 8 years ago

Unfortunately you're fighting a losing battle. You have no control and based on your stated performance you'll have no problems finding a new opportunity. Make sure your next venture shares your vision before you commit.

Answered 8 years ago

Firstly, congrats on the success to date. As someone who has worked with Brazilian entrepreneurs (e quem fala Portuguese), I understand how tough it is to do business in Brazil right now.

There are several issues that seem to be at play in your company:
1. Purpose - Lack of clarity or agreement on purpose
2. Values - Failure to define/enforce a set of organizational values
3. Compatibility - Potential lack of compatibility between cofounders

1. Purpose
There are a number of triggers that can cause burnout: lack of purpose (beyond profit), life imbalance (working too hard for too long), hostile work environment, etc. All three of these could be reasons why you’re feeling burnout, but I’m guessing that the lack of purpose is a key driver. You mention, “I feel like I’m working for money only.” I’ve felt that several times in my career as well. Money will only motivate us so much. Research here in the US has shown that money sharply decreases as a motivator once people reach an annual income of around $70,000. In order to feel more motivated, you and your co-founders need to have a heart-to-heart to clarify WHY you do WHAT you do. You can go through a similar exercise individually to figure out why you get up every morning to come to work. Harvard researchers have shown that there are 6 motivators for why we work: play, purpose, growth, economic pressure, emotional pressure and inertia. The first three are productive whereas the latter three are destructive.

2. Values
Values drive our decision-making and behavior. It sounds like there are some major mismatches in the company, firstly at the founder level and secondly more deeply in the organization. Unfortunately, very few entrepreneurs consider the values compatibility of potential co-founders before embarking on the startup journey together. You may find yourself in this situation. As an organization, you need to identify the 3-10 values that make you different from the competition. Don’t focus on generic values like honesty and integrity. Dig deeper into the secret ingredients that make your company unique. Next you need to translate those values into actual behaviors so everyone is clear on what it means to live out a certain value. Thirdly, you need to weave those values into the culture of the organization. You should hire, grow and fire people based on values compatibility. It sounds like you have grown quickly and hired people that are not a good values/cultural fit.

3. Compatibility
You mention your fear of being "Woz'ed" away. Frankly, that could be a blessing in disguise if your cofounders do not share a similar purpose and values for the company. If there’s large disagreement today between these core elements of the company, then that’s not likely to change. Think about each of your cofounders in four buckets: personality, abilities, likes and values. Identify what each founder brings to the table. Are issues largely coming from personality differences? Are founders simply interested in different things? Are your values simply not compatible?

Good luck as you try to decide on the path forward. Boa sorte. Estou aqui pra te servir.


Answered 8 years ago

I enjoyed reading comments from other experts here which has provided good insights and perspectives. if I may add a little bit.. creating a high performance culture is a journey that I recommend you to work on for your business. the people in the organization needs to acknowledge that there is this problem. It can't be only you feeling the heat, but, others must also understand and acknowledge the situation. your ability to create a good dialogue with your stakeholders - to negotiate on your way forward is KEY. start with seperating people from problem. if you think people is the problem.. it is very hard to get a dialogue..

I also think you need a good break too.. and come back when you are ready. good luck!

Answered 8 years ago

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