Stuck in the Middle with Denial


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On this week’s episode of the Marketing Dominance Guys, Chris Beall and Corey Frank continue their conversation about the middle phase in the creation of every startup or new product — being stuck. That’s the stage when things aren’t working out the way you’d envisioned them. That’s when prospects aren’t embracing your concept as you’d hoped they would. That’s when you have that sinking feeling that this whole project might be a terrible, terrible mistake. Something’s wrong! Panicking isn’t going to help the situation, but neither is denial. That can lead to faking that everything is just fine — when you know darn well it isn’t. Listen to Chris’ warning: “It’s hard to be honest once you start faking it.” Corey and Chris encourage you to face the truth, because as they say, “The truth is the boss!”

Come listen to how to use your resources to get an honest assessment about why you’re stuck so that you can start moving toward getting your project back in flow. You’ll learn these details and other great advice in this week’s Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “Stuck in the Middle with Denial.”


The complete transcript of this episode is below:

Announcer (00:06):

On this week's episode of the Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall and Corey Frank continue their conversation about the middle phase in the creation of every start-up or new product being stuck. That's the stage when things aren't working out the way you'd envision them. That's when prospects aren't embracing your concept as you'd hope they would. That's when you have that sinking feeling that this whole project might be a terrible, terrible mistake, something's wrong. Panicking isn't going to help the situation but neither is denial that can lead to faking that everything is just fine when you know darn well it isn't. Listen to Chris's warning. It's hard to be honest once you start faking it.

Corey and Chris encourage you to face the truth because as they say, "The truth is the boss." Come listen to how to use your resources to get an honest assessment of why you're stuck so that you can start moving forward getting your project back inflow. You'll learn these details and other great advice in this week's episode of Market Dominance Guys, Stuck In The Middle With Denial.

Chris Beall (01:40):

Oh, yeah. But what do we do when we're stuck for too long? We go back and we fake flow?

Corey Frank (01:56):


Chris Beall (01:56):

That's what we do. We fake flow and faking flow is the death knell of a start-up. You're dead if you fake flow because where you're going to go is somewhere and where the gold is somewhere else.

Corey Frank (02:08):

And also you have these quarterly or every eight weeks or so meetings with your board as a start-up, right. And we both been there where you got to give him something, you got to shoot a hostage, you got to give him some red meat, you got to make a virgin offering or something or you have to fake it. And that's the worst because you're an ear inauthentic in all of those and it sounds like... Which is probably going to butcher it. I think it was Lao-Tzu who had this Zen syllogism he says, "I know nothing, I know everything, I know nothing."

Chris Beall (02:46):

Yes, yeah.

Corey Frank (02:46):

And the stages that folks go through, right. And some folks will never get past the first or the second stage. So when you look at that from the makeup of a start-up so we drill a little deeper here. That has to be a safe place for Cherryl to be able to go to the CEO of the company in this new position she's in and say, "Hey boss, I'm just not feeling it. I think we need," "What do you mean it's not feeling it?" Right. And then there's got to be a level of humility there to incorporate other folks. So how do you, you mentioned earlier that a start-up of one it's a tough and lonely proposition to do and arguably you could say that the success curve is a little more elongated than one with multiple folks but what are you doing to kind of surround yourself with those kinds of folks? We talked early on and at some of the earlier episodes last year about politics and bcc'ing emails and all that kind of stuff.

We don't have to go into it now but right now if I'm going to start-up and I don't necessarily have those types of folks, what can I do to get it? How can I navigate those waters to showcase folks that, "Hey, maybe I'm stuck and we need to break out of this otherwise we are faking it".

Chris Beall (04:04):

Yeah. I think that the trick to start-ups is like the trick to everything. One is tough, one person it's a tough business, right. I used to be as you know pretty serious rock climber mountaineer. That's a very, very, very dangerous game to do alone. Not only because there's no rope to catch you but primarily because you can't trust your mind and you think you can but where are you going to check it, right. Where are you going to check it? Where are you going to figure out whether you're doing something based on fear, on self-induced bravado, on you're tired you just don't want to think about it anymore so you're going to try it. It's a dangerous, dangerous world. Start–ups are a lot like that, we did an episode in which you brought up the Free Solo your pitch, right. Alex, up there climbing a El Capitan's-

Corey Frank (04:56):

El Capitan's, yeah.

Chris Beall (04:57):

Free Soloing it. Well, if you watch the movie you see that he's not really alone, alone in that endeavor, right. He's got people that he talks to, he's a kind of guy who can trust his own mind by the way almost but he's too smart to trust only his own mind. So he has other people to talk with and I think that even that kind of thing it's not the rope, it's the relationship that allows you to go. And what do you have to have? You got to have somebody who sees the world a little differently from you is on your side. And is sincerely going to come forward with their own enlightenment and their own ignorance and you can put the two together and you got a shot, you really do have a shot.

It's like trying to walk on one leg, it's just a problem. You're not really built for it, we're really built to go in pairs and go do things. You and I doing this show is a good example. I can do one of these by myself, you can do one by yourself, that'd probably okay but I don't think we'd be on episode God knows whatever we're on here, 70 or whatever it is by now. There is the covering of each other's weaknesses but there's also the knowing that there's somebody you can go to in order to get unstuck. Because if you really look at these flow states, at these three states, right. The flow, the stuck and the waiting, we don't need much help waiting, we can always find something to do, we just need to know that when we're waiting you need to find something to do, right. We don't need a huge amount of help in knowing that we're stuck as long as we're honest but it's hard to be honest once you start faking it.

And so when you have an external audience like a board of directors like you said or whatever... I remember when I joined this company something happened here which is I joined as a head of products and a few days later sort of the whole engineering team, which is fairly small up and quit. And a few days after that there was a board meeting. Well, between those two we didn't fake it, we actually did some things. We hired a couple of people, we read all the code. I spent a weekend, we read 300,000 lines of code. We built the system repeatedly, made sure we can build and start it, build and start it, build and start it, knock it down, kill it, start it again. That's the kind of stuff you want to be able to do in a live system that's servicing lots of people and went to the board meeting.

That's pretty tempting in a board meeting like that to fake it. "Hey Chris, you lost your whole engineering team, what's up?" I was like, "Well, what's up is, here's what we're doing, here's why I'm pretty sure that we can do things, start it, stop, keep the thing a live, here's what we don't know but here's the recommended course of action." But it is so tempting under that kind of pressure to either cave into somebody or-

Corey Frank (07:39):

Oh, for sure.

Chris Beall (07:41):

Else or whatever and so part of what you're hiring for or partnering with is somebody who has the drive, they got to have the drive without the engine this whole start-up thing is stupid you can't do it, it's just too hard.

Corey Frank (07:55):


Chris Beall (07:56):

Not to think a lot of people are going to help you. You got to have that big motor and the motors got to kind of be willing to turn by itself. You get up in the morning if you don't feel that every day and you haven't felt that every day since you were pretty young, don't do start-ups it just doesn't work out, it just doesn't trust me. But say you do, you've got to get another person with that kind of drive and then the next part about the relationship that's got to work is, you've got to have a framework for talking about being inflow, getting stuck. You have to have the words for it. You have to have words about things like, "When are we guessing?" You have to use words like ignorant.

The word I use today with Cherryl was I said and was talking to her and got Jon Campbell and I said, "We're just doing this like total idiot. We're just like dummies here. Obviously the thing to do is to talk to somebody else and here we are talking to each other. Let's not do this the hard way, let's go the person that we would be selling to, except we already sold to that person and talk to that person," right. Well, but you have to use the words if you don't use a word like, "We're being idiots here."

Corey Frank (09:06):


Chris Beall (09:07):

Then nobody feels safe coming forward and saying, "I feel like I'm a little stuck or I'm being an idiot or whatever," Right. You have to use the vocabulary of truth.

Corey Frank (09:17):

Well, and you as the leader, right. To be the first one to level a degree of humility that it's safe to be humble, it's safe not to know allows you to probably have that outcome's raiser level of clarity to say, "Wait a minute it's probably right in front of us, let's look elsewhere."

Chris Beall (09:38):

Yeah. And when I hire people this is throughout the whole process I always tell them this I say, "Look, you're going to love it here or you're going to hate it here. If you're going to hate it here let's figure out how to have you not join." So you wouldn't be talking to me unless you're qualified because people don't get to talk to me unless they're qualified. That's another process I don't go through that, that would be crazy. That's like qualifying on a cold call, right. The list got to be good or not good we're not going to find out if we qualify on the cold call, that's crazy. We got to set the meeting and let qualification happen in discovery. This is the same problem. So here we are now, we're in discovery and we're going to discover something, you're going to discover whether you want to work for somebody like me in an organization like this because we can't avoid that you're working for me.

There's nothing, no words are going to make it go away. I'm the CEO, you're stuck or we're stuck with me. We can't make me not be that guy, right. But I can tell you how it works and how it works you might love and you might hate, it's about a 50, 50. And you might love it because you'll think, "This is just what I've always wanted," you might hate it and think, "Wow, this feels really kind of exposed and maybe a little harsh." And one of the things I tell folks is, "Look, we don't really report to each other. This is not the strict hierarchy that's about you tell so-and-so what you did, they tell you what to do that's isn't here." We report essentially to our real boss which is the truth as we can ascertain it.

The truth is a pretty good boss and the truth will evolve along with us. So it's a boss that keeps up, it doesn't fall behind. The truth by its very nature will keep up with changing circumstances, changing markets, COVID can come along, you still can have the truth as your boss the day after the pandemic hits just like you did the day before. You might not be able to ascertain it so easily, you may have to go through more effort to find it but it's still the thing that we could report to. However I tell them, "When we're out of time and we got to make a decision and we're just out of time, we don't have enough knowledge to make the decision that's the definition of being stuck, we guess and here's how we guess, I guess."

I guess that's it. And here's the corrupt part, am the person who says that we're stuck and we're out of time, we don't have a... I declare the guess that it's totally corrupt I get it.

Corey Frank (12:02):


Chris Beall (12:04):

But it's a singularity and you have to accept that coming in and if I ask-

Corey Frank (12:07):

Risk it i guess.

Chris Beall (12:10):

And I'm guessing. Well, but first of all I'm going to call it a guess. We're not going to wrap it up and say, "Our analysis shows this, this consultant said this." Maybe we did an analysis, maybe we have a consultant but if we're guessing I promise you I will tell you that we're guessing and we delegate the guessing to me. And then I'm going to guess and we're going to treat my guess as a fact of the world as the truth regardless of whether it is or not. And that's your commitment when you come on board because the alternative is we can't get unstuck when staying stuck is fatal.

Corey Frank (12:49):


Chris Beall (12:49):

Staying stuck can be fatal. I don't know what to do and the right thing to do is to stop the car before you go off the cliff, you drive off the cliff.

Corey Frank (12:57):


Chris Beall (12:59):

So, fatal mistakes are the ones that we should try hardest to avoid through design, right?

Corey Frank (13:03):


Chris Beall (13:04):

Don't avoid fatal mistakes through diligence, always avoid them through design.

Corey Frank (13:08):

Always through design, yes and I think that's again the impetus of the show is the failure to dominate markets.

Chris Beall (13:16):


Corey Frank (13:17):

Always will lead, let's add this new axiom to the pile as well so.

Chris Beall (13:21):


Corey Frank (13:21):


Chris Beall (13:22):

It's an interesting thing. So the cycle time thing around going from... And using the words, use your words as they say to little kids. The word flow is a good word, we're inflow that's a great word. The word stuck is a great word it means something, it's a term of art it actually means we don't know enough to continue moving forward confidently.

Corey Frank (13:42):


Chris Beall (13:42):

Just a term of art, right. Waiting is waiting, we're just waiting, we're waiting for something. We need something because until we have that something we can't move forward. Now some people are always waiting because they think they need everything before they can do anything, don't hire those people. Such people are problematic, right.

Corey Frank (14:01):

And by the way I know the truth from what I hear you saying the truth is your boss.

Chris Beall (14:06):


Corey Frank (14:06):

But I know that come five o'clock, right. You have a different boss and that is your bride and it's her birthday today so we will be wrapping this up in a minute because I think Helen's birthday trumps the truth, Helen's birthday is the truth. We always talked about the next book after Market Dominance Guys, or the subtitle for the Market Dominance Guys' book was going to be called Pivot Jesus Pivot. But I think maybe the subheading the Pivot Jesus Pivot would be stuck inflow waiting and faking it in start-ups today. I'll tell you what that would be, that'd be a title then-

Chris Beall (14:43):

That'd be pretty good.

Corey Frank (14:43):

Tell me.

Chris Beall (14:43):

Ideal on the title, Pivot Jesus Pivot. I don't know if anybody gets that but if we were to tell everybody what the joke behind the punchline or whatever it is, is it's like If God were a VC he'd be saying, "Pivot Jesus Pivot."

Corey Frank (15:01):

That's right, "Not enough people are buying into your products."

Chris Beall (15:04):


Corey Frank (15:05):

"You probably need to take a look at it." So I love it. Want to tell you what Chris, this was supposed to be a two-parter and we'll continue the next part because what we want to springboard into what we talked about today about these different states in making progress also is tied into what we want to talk about next time, which is discovery calls. And discovery calls for a start-up because many of the aspects that you're talking about, about being stuck or inflow or waiting or humility or authenticity or status alignment is just as critical when we get to the discovery process. So I think that's what I'm going to look forward to next time on the Market Dominance Guys talking to you, again the surge of sales, the profit of profit and again my personal favorite, the resputing of revenue so till next time.

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