Here is a tweet I recently saw from HBRExchange (HBR stands for Harvard Business Review):
The number of RFID tags sold globally is projected to rise from 12 million in 2011 to 209 billion in 2021. - HBRExchange
Why am I showing this tweet?
It brings back memories on the lost opportunity of growing a company since the CEO of the company I worked for wanted to be both the WHY-type and the HOW-type. The only problem was that he was not the HOW-type.
This concept of the WHY-type and the HOW-type is explained in Simon Sinek book, “Start with WHY” where he talks about how great companies and movements have always had a charismatic leader (who was the WHY-type) with a vision and people (who were the HOW-types) who would be on a mission to carry out the CEO’s vision.
In April of 2011, I was hired by a CEO of a very small company to help his company drive sales of their RFID tags and software solution. The CEO, though very smart technically, was not adept in sales and marketing. He needed help quickly since he was running out of money and no revenue was coming in. He was not successful with sales and marketing and was hoping that I could turn it around real fast.
I did just that.
In less than three months, I helped the company win two deals to sell the RFID tags: one from a major hospital in New Mexico and the second from one of the largest logistics provider in the world. We had a making of a WHY and HOW partnership here to make his company successful and grow quickly since I knew that the RFID market was going to grow real fast because of the emergence of Internet of Things (IOT) applications.
As Simon Sinek explains in his book that “in every case of a great charismatic leader who ever achieved anything of significance, there was always a person or small group lurking in the shadows who knew HOW to take the vision and make it a reality.” I thought we had a making of that here.
I had a meeting with the CEO to find out how we could work together. In the meeting he made it clear to me that he wanted to run sales and marketing. Furthermore, he added that the two deals that I helped the company win which he deemed as “accidents.” It became quite obvious that we had a difference of opinion and i decided to end our business relationship.
This was in 2011, which according to the tweet there were 12 million RFID tags sold. The projection is for 209 billion tags to be sold by 2021. This is a tremendous growth market and, knowing this company’s technical abilities, they would be very successful, provided they could execute on sales and marketing.
The lesson I took away from this whole episode was that in order for a company to be successful, according to Sinek, the WHY-type and the HOW-type have to be “certain about their roles in the partnership. Both are working together with clarity of purpose and a plan to get there. For it to work, however, it requires more than a set of skills, it requires trust.” Evidently there was no mutual trust between the CEO and me and we went our separate ways.
After we ended our relationship, I was sad to find out that the company ran into problems and is again close to being shut down. So the lesson from this is quite clear: In order for a startup to have a good chance to succeed, it is important that the CEO focuses on the WHY and leaves the execution to the HOW-types. When a CEO tries to be both, it eventually leads to a bad outcome.