Startup Lesson Learned: Shhhh, You Never Know Who’s Listening!

lesson learned - DasherooThis lesson learned isn’t one of those “if you’re always talking you never listen or learn” posts, although that is worth repeating. Nope, this “lesson learned” is more along the lines of “just shut up” when you are talking about other people, companies or deals. Sounds obvious, but I think we all slip into complacency from time to time.

Just in the past couple weeks, here’s a few:

  • 2 senior-level seeming guys talking over lunch about firing one of their VPs, referring to him not by first name, but by last name.  It’s an unusual last name, and a tiny bit of listening confirmed that they were talking about an ex-coworker of mine! Did I give him a heads up? You bet.
  • A friend of mine talking to me on the phone about his CEO. Nothing super negative, but he was voicing a little frustration while calling him by first name as he was walking near his office, rounded the corner and BAM! the CEO’s executive assistant was standing there smoking a cigarette. Awkward at best…a job lost at worst.
  • I was with a group of people at a restaurant talking about a potential deal with a well-known public company, based right here in San Francisco. Last names AND the company name got mentioned a time or two. I freaked out!

Lesson learned, or at least remembered? Use first names, not last or full, and never mention company names. There are ears everywhere, and one ill-placed comment can damage or tank a relationship or deal. Don’t do it!