Startup team: Am I the only one who cares?

I was excited and nervous for our first big tradeshow. Our team shared responsibilities: I had picked out the products, our staff were brining them over, and my cofounder was arranging the display material. We planned to meet at the hall at 7am to set things up.

I got there at 6am, nervous and ready to go. I waited; 7am came and went and no one else from my team was there. By 7:15am, I was getting scared. I called my cofounder but her voicemail inbox was full. The show opened at 8:30am and I had no idea how to pull this off without my team.

Our staff finally arrived with the products, but there was no display table. When my cofounder finally showed up I screamed at her; she had overslept. We quickly set up and started to layout the products. It immediately became obvious that our staff had brought the wrong boxes of products; there was only one color in one size. I sent two people to the warehouse to get the right boxes I had picked out. By 11am everything was sorted out. The show went well, but not as good as it could have.

That evening we took everything back to the warehouse and debriefed. No one was taking responsibility for their mistakes. I left that night feeling that no one cared other than me. I thought I was a good employer, that we had fun together, and shared a vision. Now I felt like I was the only committed one. For everyone else, it was just a job. I felt alone and isolated.

Managing software development as a non-technical person

My business is dependent on a technology platform. It connects retailers with consumers and I had signed on three retailers. I had to make sure that the digital platform was fully functional and could be used by the shop staff and consumers. I am not a software developer, so I hired a company to do the development.

Every time I checked I was told development was on schedule for on-time delivery. I didn’t now what to check for and took their word for it. Every time I asked for a demo something went wrong and they would tell me, “Don’t worry. We are ironing out the bugs. This is a normal part of the process.”

It was hard for me to determine if the bugs were hardware or software issues. When I tried to use it, it was difficult to use and not intuitive. My sense was this was designed for “power users,” people far more tech savvy than my target user.

On the day of the launch, things were not much better. I had to have my company’s staff at each retail outlet to help with the platform because it was too complicated for the consumers and there wasn’t enough time to train the retail partners’ staff. 

Always know what's happening in your supply chain

I have an apparel company employing different local tailors. We were launching our next collection with a fashion show. The tailors said they would have all the clothes ready by the 1st of the month, in time for the fashion show. I was totally focused on the show and assumed all the suppliers would do what they promised.

A week before the show, I went to one of the tailors and learned that he had only completed 10% of his quota. I looked at the garments and there were serious quality issues. The zippers did not work. The sleeves were different lengths and there were not enough stitches per centimeter. I panicked.

I went to seem some other tailors and the situation was no better. They had let me down. They all said “but I didn’t hear from you or see you, so I didn’t think it was urgent,” or “someone else came in with an emergency job, so I stopped working on your order.