Coco, entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky‘s pet, living the dog’s life
Where I Respond to Dorian
Dorian’s goal for us as a team (Dorian, Autumn and me) is to have him write about building a business from a ten-year-old’s perspective — and for Autumn and me to respond. This week it’s my turn.
A couple of weeks ago on this blog, Dorian asked whether it’s easier to be a kid or an adult?
My take: I think its easier to be a dog 🙂 When have you ever heard the expression ‘it’s a kid’s life” or “it’s a grown-up’s life”? But since — in this life at least — we don’t exactly have a choice of being a cute pup or a big shaggy dog, I would agree with Dorian that it is easier to be a kid. This assumes, of course, you are a kid with a few people who love and support you hanging about.
I was most captured by Dorian’s writing about leadership though. That’s what I’d like to respond to most of all.
Zibkids Was Almost Dead
I will start by saying that a few months ago Zibkids was about to die as a business. And I was the one suffocating it. By not really trusting Dorian (the kid) to lead — and by not having any time myself to lead (because life as a grownup is often too full), the business was just sitting there.
And a startup just sitting there is a startup dying.
Then something happened. I said to Dorian that I didn’t think it made sense to keep Zibkids going. That it was costing us money every month to run the server and pay the e-commerce platform fees. And mostly it was costing me a lot of mental energy being guilty about not leading Zibkids forward. And to top it all off — we weren’t getting a lot of feedback on how people were using the site. Not that we were seeking any feedback, mind you.
Dorian got a look on his face that would pain any dad. And my heartstrings started tying my brains in a knot. And then I did what I always did with Zikbids at the time: I ignored it. My day-job was calling and calling loudly.
Kid Power is Real Power!
But Dorian didn’t ignore Zibkids. Something changed in him. He started to make things happen with Zibkids. He became the true leader. And whenever he expended energy on Zibkids I would find a way to help him. He wanted better web analytics. He got it. He wanted feedback from users to find out how they use Zibkids. He got it.
Dorian noticed that when he led, I would follow and support him. So he did it more and more.
He also noticed that by leading (in a sense) our customer base by engaging with them, he was able to find out some incredible things about how kids and families are using and really liking Zibkids.
So he kept going. And we kept going. And, therefore, Zibkids kept going.
He wanted the homepage improved., he got it. He wanted the parents page improved, he got it. He wanted the teachers page improved, he got it.
Then he got stronger. He wanted to re-engage with the incredible Autumn Zimmerman who is based in Barcelona and had done so much to improve Zibkids several months ago when I did have time to lead.
Now the two of them meet every week and together they are making a lot of incredible things happen — many of which you will be able to read about here in coming weeks and months.
The Early Morning Glow of the iPad
One of my jobs (as dad, not Zibkids employee) is to wake Dorian up at 6:45 AM on Tuesdays so he can Skype withAutumn. Often, though, when I tap on his door and open it, I’ll see the blue glow from the iPad lighting Dorian’s face protruding from the covers. He’s already awake and preparing to talk with Autumn.
Big Lesson 1: Bad News Is Sometimes Good News
A huge lesson for me in all of this is to that sometimes delivering bad news is a good thing. I hated the idea of maybe shutting down Zibkids. I hated the idea of raising that possibility with Dorian even more. But that message struck something in Dorian. And he felt his own power to lead because of it.
Big Lesson 2: Trust, Trust, Trust!
Another huge lesson is to trust! And I really want to thank Autumn for this. Her very clear point is that Zibkids is by a kid for kids. So it makes sense that it is led by a kid. A kid who has some sharp grown-ups who can advise him and implement his vision. Autumn has become a very interesting advocate for Dorian. When we have three-way Skypes sometimes, she makes sure there is room for Dorian in every conversation. Asking his opinion.
Trusting makes getting out of the way possible. And when there are incredible people there to fill the void, then getting out of the way can make incredible things happen!
What do you think?