Below you’ll find our second podcast - where we delve deep into the range of expectations faced in starting a new business . Rising to the challenge is no easy task. Andy Wright pens this week's article, an insight into how to stick to your guns when all eyes are on you.

Great Expectations

Words by Andy Wright

––– The word ‘expectation’ is always so loaded. I mean it’s pretty tough on its own, but moreso when it’s accompanied with adjectives like higher, weighty and great. Even ‘positive’ expectations can’t be considered without the 'negative’. And don’t get me started on ‘managing’ them.

Expectations set you up for two things. Achievement, or failure. There’s no real middle ground. So take that into account when you decide to start up a new business, bring a new person into the world, or move into a new neighbourhood. These are all things I’ve tackled in the last 18 months - and I’m still here, alive and kicking.

We’ve all lived with expectations pretty much from day dot. I know that now, even if I didn’t know then. Because I’m sure I’m guilty of exactly the same expectations my parents had of me.

"Expectations set you up for two things. Achievement, or failure. There’s no real middle ground."

Why isn’t he talking yet? Why isn’t she counting past 20 yet? Thoughts I’ve literally had in the last week. Isn’t that a bit unfair? My kids are 3 and 1. Imagine they knew what I expected of them? They’d be nervous wrecks, crumbling under the weight of my lofty expectations of my own flesh and blood. Trying to live up to the ideals of who I thought I was, or who I should have been.

I know it won’t stop there. My kids will only have greater expectations placed upon them, the more excited I get as they grow and make their mark on the world. But is that such a bad thing?

It’s easy to get crushed by the weight of expectation. Cue gif of anvil missing roadrunner and dropping onto Wiley Coyote’s bruised and battered forehead. But not if you believe. Believe in what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and that those with the expectation, just want you to achieve it.


Starting a new business has more expectations than a Charles Dickens fancy dress party. Like:

“When will we be paid?"

“You’re the single biggest threat to our business. I can’t wait to see what you guys come out with."

“When are we going to move into a cool space?"

“When will we be able to go out and buy curry for lunch again?"

All of these questions are well meaning (I hope). I mean I wonder if the ‘single biggest threat to our business’ is passive aggressive industry sledging - I don’t think it is, but you never know - and many of them just come out of caring and giving a sh!t.

"But what if the expectation is that you shouldn’t need investment or an uber lord holding company. Why not aim to be profitable from day one?"

Expectations come in many forms from many people. Even people who you've set up a business with. You may have worked with them before or never met them before and think what the hell are you doing there with them? And vice versa? You all have different points of view, different ways of working and different approaches to delivering work for clients. The expectation that one way of doing things might be better or worse than another. But all should push even further forward, and be different to what you just did. Because the expectation of ourselves, from our peers and our clients is that we’re new and different - or why bother?

Expectations are also formed from different perspectives and experiences. Take the expectation of what’s necessary to startup a new business. In early discussions about your new venture you may very quickly get to sources of funding and investment. But what if the expectation is that you shouldn’t need investment or an uber lord holding company. Why not aim to be profitable from day one?

I thought it would be useful to provide a guide on how to cope with expectations. Indeed, the whole point of By The People is to provide a resource for all those having a crack on their own or at least contemplating it.

“Don’t compromise anything because if feels too hard. Intentionally pick on the hard stuff. The hard stuff is more rewarding, because it’s more challenging.”

So here we go. 6 ways to handle the great expectations of starting up a new business.

“Don’t ask too many questions"
I find questions just get in the way. They place too much focus on what you don’t know and not enough on what you do know. When you’re feeling the weight of expectation, you’re usually faced with the ‘do you know what you’re doing’ question. It’s a great way to stop yourself before you get started. Ignore it. If you got to this point you’ve got the guts and the smarts to figure it out as you go. Sure you’ll make some mistakes, but everyone does. .


“Millions of people have done what you’re about to do"
Unless you are some sort of returning messiah (then confidence really won’t be much of an issue) then there’s every chance that other people have already been through what you are about to do. No one taught me or my wife how to be parents - although my wife will tell you (rightly) that she read more books than me - but I think we've done a pretty good job so far. And so have millions of others across the globe.

"Surround yourself with people who know what you don't "
If you're starting up you need to expand the knowledge pool, not replicate it. Not only does your group get smarter but the burden of expectation is shared. Think about it this way. Would you rather take on the world on your own with an army of people just like you? Or with a small gang of people who know what you don’t. People are kind of a big deal. You’re only as good as the people around you. I haven't seen a film yet where the drones beat the diversity of the human race. What's that? The films aren't true? Pah. They will be...

“Be uncompromising"
I don’t mean be an arrogant prick. But I do mean, if you have a vision live it. The people that come with you, whether clients, colleagues, co-founders, investors or supporters can see something in what you’re doing. Don’t compromise anything because if feels too hard. Intentionally pick on the hard stuff. The hard stuff is more rewarding, because it’s more challenging. And that’s why you got into this in the first place. Last year I attended a talk by Joe Fernandez the founder of Klout. He's a guy who is incredibly likeable, smart, uncompromising and humble all at the same time. I remember walking away feeling inspired and thinking that things should always be harder. He was focused and knew what he wanted. To quote a close friend and fellow co-founder, "never knock off the sharp edges of an idea to make it more manageable."


"Perfect practice makes perfect"
An old tennis coach of mine gave me some advice that I've always remembered. It was that no matter how often you practice hitting a tennis ball against a wall - you're never going to play a wall. If you want to practice to win you've got to go and play for real. Practice everything in a real game against real people under real conditions. The same is true for this game. The only way to get better is to go out there and do it for real. Don't sit at home or in your current job thinking over the plan or practising your pitch. Get out there and do it for yourself. It's the only way you'll know if you're getting it right or wrong.

"Trust your loved ones"
Soppy, emotional, deep? That's not really me to be honest. But I can tell you from living through this experience that there are 1 or 2 people who will always have your back. And you will take them for granted way too often. Sometimes I caveat this with "they don't really get my business or industry” or "they don't get what I'm trying to do." But you know what. It's irrelevant. They get you. And they believe in you. And they expect that you'll do the right thing. Trust them, believe in them and always know that they want what's best for you and for you to succeed. Remember that when you're tired, cranky and behaving like Alf Stewart in that Snickers ad - "you flamin' galah!"

You can’t hide from expectations. You can only rise or fall. Give it a go, take your chances, trust in those around you and believe in yourself. And have some fun. You’re the boss. The only person who’s going to kick your ass is you.

What were the greatest expectations you had when starting a business?

(in 140 characters or less)

Damian Borchok, @dborchok
That I could unlearn enough old stuff to give me the headspace for learning new stuff.

Andy Wright, @adwrighty
That we could truly create something that might just change or even better, create, a new industry.

Greg Symons, Co-Founder, Society One, @gregsymons
A revolution was needed to change our industry. Pioneering this movement to deliver the vision at whatever the cost was/is my expectation.

Joel Brydon, UsTwo @jbrydo
Having success in London, NY & Malmo, the biggest expectation - was there an appetite for us in the AU market. No verdict yet but only 3 months in.

Attila Yilmaz, Founder, Pazar Food Collective, @attilayilmaz
I had an excellent reputation built on social media. The stress to exceed expectations of a very loyal / vocal following's my biggest driver.

Alex Freeman, Founder, Policy Party, @titanvine
I want to solve problems. Ask why this matters to the buyer, and try to solve their problem so well the product will sell itself.

Michael Graham, Co Founder, Mercurien
Hope like hell it works. Scared we had missed a show stopper in the planning. Excited at the chance to change an industry. Dreaded failing.

Jason Little, @jaslittle
That I didn’t need to do it alone. I wanted to build it with people I respected and could learn from.

Olivia King, @liv__king
That the work I will do will exceed even the expectations of what I think I’m capable of.

Jon Clark, Founder, BoldInc @spacemanclark
Controlling destiny and fortune.

Sharyn Smith, Founder, Social Soup @socialsouphq
We wanted to democratise marketing, make $50 million then use our money and brains for good. #loftygoals

Howard Parry-Husbands, Founder, Pollinate
Don't be boring or average, make a difference and challenge mediocracy be bloody good and still be nice. Sell it for 3million in 3 years.

Andrew Walker, Founder, 3Wks
Our great hope was to actually have fun day-to-day by controlling what we work on and who we work for.

Soren Trampedach, Founder, Work Club @workclubau
I wanted freedom to go with my ideas and follow my own passion. What I'm doing isn’t work, it’s pure interest - therefore weekends sometimes can be harder than Mondays!