• Hani W. Naguib

Mentor Journey: The QuickSand Effect!

What happens if the entrepreneur’s startup brand becomes more important than the startup’s revenue stream? What if the only thing the startup has is just clever social media branding and good PR? What if the brand becomes more important than the business? What if the story becomes more important than the startup?


These are a lot of questions, I know. But they are valid in a time of entrepreneurial confusion. Lately, I have encountered many entrepreneurs who have become hooked on a startup story that sells, even though it doesn’t reflect reality. But that is not all! When that story is fine-tuned to sell better, those entrepreneurs become even more hooked to it. And soon, it becomes more about them than about the company, the customers, or the employees.


What they don’t realize is that the more they sell a story, the more pressure it will put on their shoulders to keep up with it. In other words, they will have to make reality look like the story by any means necessary. So they start hiring people, make big initiatives and add new products or services just to materialize that story, to keep alive and going. What they don’t realize is that they are straining limited resources and alienating their early adopters. And that, right here, is the quicksand effect! Every time they work harder to keep that virtual reality together, the faster and deeper the startup sinks under the pressure of raising false hopes, actions disconnected from reality and unrealistic goals.


We are more convinced by stories than realities. If you think about it, most programs or initiatives are not really looking for hard-working entrepreneurs. They are looking for glamorous stories that would put their own brand story in a better spotlight. No one is really impressed with entrepreneurs who work hard and spend all of their time in their company offices with their teams and customers. That is a boring story, even if they make the numbers!


But guess what? Building a company is boring and repetitive! Is it hard to do? Absolutely yes. But nothing is interesting about someone who put in the hours, the resources and the effort, day in and day out, to build a successful startup. if anything, building a startup is a lonesome, stressful and sometimes painful experience. None of which, any entrepreneur can openly express or share.


Entrepreneurs are not here to move us. Entrepreneurs are here to impress teams with leadership, customers with great products or services, and investors with good ROI.

But shouldn’t we admire leaders? Yes, but with the result of their work. A good story is then helpful to put it all into context.


Dear entrepreneurs focus on the work, and I am sure you will feel much appreciated on that day when your company makes a good exit or even better when you acquire your toughest competition. PR and good branding are necessary, but not when their importance supersedes sound strategy, realistic view of startup needs, and well-informed optimistic decision making.


I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate all those entrepreneurs who work hard, lead their teams and build their companies, in silence without spotlights nor glamor.

You are my favorite kind of entrepreneur out there. You are building your companies by giving everything you have to your teams and your customers. I respect you, even without the PR glamour, the fancy prize, and the big titles glitter.

You are role models to your teams, you are leaders to your companies, and you are solution providers to your customers.

I applaud your resilience in these challenging times, and I am telling you right now and right here, GOOD JOB, and keep pushing FORWARD.

Focus on what really matters: building your company on solid firm ground (good team, happy customer, and good numbers).


Goodwill and Respect

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