Expectations in anything are very important because over time they become the norm and probably the ceiling.
For example in love, often in the courting process the lady starts off with very high expectations of the other half and if the guy is smart he is doing his best to meet them. Then of course, as the relationship matures, movies and a nice dinner at a restaurant gradually turns into tv and takeaway and the lady who started off saying she’d never spend her Friday night eating pizza and watching the footy has lowered her expectations of what it means to be in her perfect relationship.
Expectations for your start-up can kind of look the same if you’re not careful. When you first start out you have a bunch of expectations. They could be about how big your business will be, how exceptional your product will be, the quality of your hires or the quality of your customer service. You think of the examples of other great companies you will emulate in various facets (eg the simplicity of twitters design and the customer service of zappos) and everything seems possible and you have the highest of expectations for your business.
Then the rubber hits the road and you become tempered by the real world and if you’re not careful you’ll make critical decisions that are ultimately driven by lowering the expectations for your business.
Many entrepreneurs are instinctively aware when these critical decisions come up and good investors will make them aware of them too. At these moments you need to manage against the expectations you had before you started because it’s amazing how different things look through the jaded lens of being in the battle.
The greatest entrepreneurs know that the possible seemed impossible right up until the point it wasn’t anymore and somehow they maintained the highest of expectations for their start-up throughout the journey.
My suggestion to all my Founders is to write down your expectations as early as possible and make them as detailed as possible. Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid. Then as you go along your journey use them as a beacon and a benchmark.
The chances are you won’t be able to maintain all your expectations and when the time arises you may need to consider lowering one or several. Take it seriously and thoughtfully because the ones you maintain vs the ones you don’t will ultimately shape your companies destiny.