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Win the crowd and you win your freedom

  • By Alan Knott-Craig
  • May 25, 2012

One day I started my own business. Along the way I realized I needed more money if I were to go to the next level.


So I diluted.


A year later I realized I need more money if I were to go to next level, again.


So I diluted.


Of course, the dilutions led me to toying with the idea of creating special voting shares, a la the Google guys, or tying up voting rights, a la Zuckerberg. The paranoia of losing control of my business started eating me up and I guess I started resembling your standard democratically-elected-president-turned-dictator. Bob Mugabe comes to mind.


Luckily I have been privileged to meet some wise men in my life, and it was one these legends than shone a light on the problem for me. He explained that no matter whether I own 1% or 51% of my company, as long as I’m the best man for the job, I control the company. Substance over form.


And that, my friends, is the truth. As long as you’re the best man for the job you have nothing to fear. CEO’s that seek special voting rights are no different to tin-pot dictators. They don’t back themselves to be accepted as the best man for the job.


What about the challenges of reaching consensus for major decisions versus being able to charge ahead regardless of the crowd? Yes. That’s a big problem with not having outright control. And yes, that is a big reason for special voting rights.


But it didn’t seem to hold back Steve Jobs.


At the end of the day, this problem is only a problem if you can’t persuade the crowd that your way is the best way. The ability to influence is part of the criteria for “best man for the job.”


Anyone that has ever tried to build a company knows that the easiest way to kill innovation and initiative is to force people to follow without getting their buy-in. That way lies the old world and death.


The new world requires everyone understanding the “why.” We follow the leader not because we have to, but because we want to.


Special voting rights create an old world culture.


Here are three clichés:


  • The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • It is better to have a small slice of a giant pie than a giant slice of a small pie.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it.


They are clichés because they have been repeated ad infinitum. They have been repeated ad infinitum because they are true.


You can’t go to the next level without losing dictatorial control.


The question is: Do you back yourself to win the crowd?