5 ways to think like a founder

Do you want to be a founder? Or want to understand the founders in your organisation better? Renn Vara, The Wizard Of Silicon Valley, helps you get inside their heads.

Back in June, we staged our second #SaasGrowth conference, at Here East, part of London’s Olympic Park. There were over 350 SaaS professionals in the audience, watching more than 40 of London’s foremost SaaS experts share their knowledge. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our #SaaSGrowth2019 articles.

Renn Vara

There aren’t many people in the world like Renn Vara. He is the co-founder of SNP Communications, a long-time partner of Sales Confidence, but that doesn’t really begin to cover it.

Renn is the communications coach the legends of tech call when they need help. In many cases, he’s been there from the beginning. From Marc Benioff at Salesforce, to Brian Chesky at Airbnb, to Sergey Brin and Larry Page at Google and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, Renn has helped them articulate the message that wins the day. It’s why they call him The Wizard Of Silicon Valley.

We were thrilled to have Renn back at #SaaSGrowth2019, this time to close the show. The title of his talk was, ‘Think Like A Founder’. Renn explained how founders think differently from almost everybody else. If you want to become a founder, or work in closer harmony with the founders in your organisation, you should learn to think like them.

‘If you have a goal in mind, really just let it all out. Focus on it.’

Here are Renn Vara’s five ways to be like a founder in how you think and act.

1 — Create

To think like a founder, you have to think creatively at all times. It’s a big part of who founders are.

However, if you’re in sales, you have a head start here. Salespeople are the most creative people in the organisation, even if the founders don’t like to admit it!

Founders are happy to improvise when they need to. Nor are they set in their ways, if they learn something new which can drive their business forward, they adapt.

2 — Break things

The best founders break things as they go along, even if it often scares the people around them. Everything can be challenged, the status quo, bureaucracy.

If there are rules, break them. If you break the rules for your team, they will be bonded to you forever. Just make sure you are transparent about the rules you are breaking. Breaking rules in secret helps nobody.

3 — Build trust

The most important of all the five tips, build trust. Leaders build trust with their tea, through empathy, authenticity and rigour of logic.

One thing that’s important to remember is that founders aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. They don’t try to be invincible. Renn told a story of how Brian Chesky at Airbnb told a story to his entire team about how he used to carry steaks around in his pockets. However, rather than think, ‘That’s strange’, his team loved him more for it.

Be yourself. Be authentic. Build trust.

4 — Pay the price

When you start a company, you’re on a mission. Missions are hard. You give up ever having a predictable life. Founders embrace this feeling and don’t apologise for having to work hard.

They look after themselves and the people around them, but that work ethic and ‘never give up’ attitude never dies.

5 — Share the win

Finally, founders recognise, reward and support the people around them. It’s how the idea of stock options in startups happened; everybody gets rich.

So what’s missing from that list?

‘The main thing founders struggle with is emotional intelligence. You’re asked to run a major company at a very young age. That’s why you hire senior teams around you to help you get the emotional intelligence that you need.’

Over to you

We’ve heard from Renn. Now, we want to know what you think. What qualities do you see in founders that Renn didn’t mention?

If you’re a founder, what can you add to the debate?

Let the Sales Confidence community know with a comment below.

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