“Why did you connect to Franz on LinkedIn?” I emailed my cofounder, "Ken". Franz was a Senior VP at one of the largest distributors in North America for Semiconductors. We had just signed an agreement with Franz’s company, and I didn’t want it to leak to our largest competitor, Maxim.
Ken and I had tons of contacts on LinkedIn from Maxim since we had both worked there. The last thing I wanted was someone at Maxim scuttling the deal. Plus our funding hadn’t closed yet, and I was scared beyond belief that something was going to happen at the last minute that would kill it.
Ken wrote back, “Sorry, my finger must have slipped on the keyboard,” Ken’s glib answer didn’t make me feel any better.
You should have a healthy paranoia about keeping your plans secret.
Maxim’s founding CEO, the late Jack Gifford, told me once, “You’re the most paranoid person at Maxim.” Then after a long dramatic pause he continued and said, “And that’s good!”
I was fully bought into Andy Grove’s, “Only the paranoid survive,” mantra as you can be. And I was still in that hyper-paranoid mode when we started the company.
I could justify my paranoia by thinking of all the bad things that had already happened to us. Who knew what might happen next?
There’s extreme paranoia and there’s healthy paranoia. And, if you’re not careful, you can overdo it like I was overdoing it.
Yes Ken should have been more careful, but Ken was also chaffing because I was too controlling. All I needed to do was what you should do, just gently remind your team that our plans are confidential, so they’re not to be shared with anyone outside the company.
You should also expect your plans to potentially leak.
That’s it. That’s all you need to do.
For whatever reason, I never had the same level of paranoia about our launch. I’m certain I would have been pissed if our launch did leak, but I just didn’t worry about it.
The reality is with the interconnected world we live in today, some of your plans will leak. My goodness, all you have to do is look at Apple. They have a super-secret-paranoid culture and their future plans leak!
Your transparency with your team is more important than keeping your plans secret.
This leaves you with a choice of keeping things secret from your team or being open and transparent with your team. You will likely do some of both strategies as CEO.
There is some information that is extremely confidential and not to be shared outside a small group of people. However I don’t think market introductions are one of those things.
There’s too much positive momentum you can generate by sharing your market introduction information with your team. There’s a ton of excitement in the company as you get closer and closer to your launch date.
And you’re going to need your team pulling together as you launch your first product or service. We were up all night in preparation for our launch. If I had decided to not share what we were doing with the team, I don’t know if everyone would have pulled together.
Your competitors are likely too busy with their own problems to react.
We had a bunch of interviews that I had already done with trade publications under embargo and ready to go. Plus, we had our new website that we were up all night getting completed. Finally, we were going to running a new ad campaign. That was a lot for us to keep under wraps.
I don’t know if our initial launch information leaked to our competitors or not. I do know that our web traffic in the days leading up to the launch didn’t spike up. That would have been a telltale sign that the information had leaked.
The day of the launch things went reasonably smoothly. There were a few links on the new website that we had to fix, but that was about it. More importantly, we got the bump in traffic that we wanted.
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