Why Your Startup Needs a Lead Dog

Companies need the same kind of leader that dog-sled racers do.

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GL Hoffman
I am told that in dog-sled racing circles, a lead dog is a very valuable commodity. A good lead dog spells success or failure.

It is the same in your business, particularly if it is a startup.

In your startup, you will hear all kinds of excuses from your new sales staff. Excuses like, “The prospects have never heard of us!” or “If we would only advertise on [insert the most expensive media here], we could sell more.”

A good lead dog in your organization doesn’t use excuses--he or she just gets things done. He leads by example and soon sets a high standard for the others to emulate.

Typically, he is not the one you would predict would be the lead dog. He is unassuming, quiet even. After he has demonstrated success, others might attribute it to luck, or to the fact that he was around longer. The knowing startup leader just smiles and willingly pays the lead dog handsomely.

Here’s why:

A lead dog can nearly support the entire operation on his success. Every other sales person--despite their jealousy and even unfriendliness toward this person--now realizes that they too can achieve success. In other words, it can be done.

Here are five attributes of lead dogs:

1. They have been successful before, whether in a state championship softball team or as an Eagle Scout. Once they have been to the promised land, it is a feeling they love to recreate.

2. They never complain or whine.

3. They are sponges for new information, ideas and advice.

4. They love hearing you tell the story of their success. Learn to tell it well, and often.

5. They are highly principled. In the playground, they were the ones who would quit if the teacher spotted the other team a lead.

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com.