Stay Positive

August 27th, 2007   |   by Frank Addante

Startups are emotional roller coasters. It is very, very hard to remain positive 100% of the time. It takes effort, it takes commitment. It is unnatural to be positive 100% of the time. But, being positive is powerful. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

It is easy to let fear overcome you. It’s easy to worry. It’s easy to focus on inefficiencies. It’s easy to let mistakes discourage you. It’s hard to overcome all of that and stay positive.

You may hire someone that doesn’t perform 100% to your expectations. You might make a decision that wastes money. You might delete a file that costs you time. You might accidentally say the wrong thing to the wrong person. You might have people trying to discourage you. These things will always exist. They will only drag you down. Let them bounce off of you and keep moving forward. Looking back will only slow you down. Try running one block looking behind you the entire way. Do that same run looking straight at the finish line the whole time – I guarantee you you’ll reach the finish line faster.

I used to focus on all of the inefficiencies. If I hired someone that didn’t quite fit, I’d focus on trying to improve their weaknesses. Now, instead, I focus on leveraging and exploiting their strengths. Funny thing, the weaknesses end up working themselves out. It builds confidence in the employee, it builds up your confidence and your team’s confidence in that employee and their strengths help correct the weakness. Focusing on the weakness has the opposite effect.

I used to over-analyze every spending decision trying to maximize a dollar. What I saved in dollars, I lost in opportunity and almost every time that opportunity was far more costly than the dollar itself. I would delay buying necessary equipment or over-extend a vendor or new hire negotiation to save money. There’s a balance that needs to be found. You should always be smart about spending. But, if you are confident in your plan, then execute against it full force. If you are not confident in it, change it so that you are. Focus on the efficiencies and the positive, and the negative will usually take care of itself.

Being positive is contagious. It can be a very strong part of a culture. It is the foundation of our culture at the Rubicon Project. Everyone is positive, everyone believes in themselves, they believe in the company and our team. Everyone has a “can-do” attitude. Because of it, they have been very successful. I’ve seen the effects of a positive culture first hand. We had this same culture at L90/adMonitor. There, we took on the impossible. We were the 7th horse in a 7 horse race and the race had started 2 years before we came along. Our competition was well funded with many millions of dollars, well armed with hundreds of employees and far down the path. We had a few wooden desks and a desktop computer that served as my personal workstation, our web server and our ad server. We ultimately grew to be the #2 advertising technology solution on the Internet until DoubleClick acquired adMonitor in 2001. By that time, we had 3,000+ customers, delivered 8 billion ads a month and reached 65% of the Internet. All that powered by positivity. I see the same culture developing here.

But be careful. It could take only one moment of negativity to ruin months or years of positive equity. Negativity will erode an organization at a speed you have never seen before and is hard to reverse.

The longer you keep a positive energy culture, the more everyone tries to keep it that way. Sure, it’s hard work. You may have to bite your tongue, you may have to hold back, you may have to look the other way and refocus on the positive. But, do it. It’s worth it, I promise.