A month from now, Elon Musk’s trial is due to begin. It has been difficult to ignore his conflict with Twitter, which started as a love affair and soon turned into a fallout. How did matters deteriorate so quickly? Musk is one of, if not the most spoken of entrepreneurs these days. It doesn’t really matter right now if he made the right move by backing down from his agreement with Twitter. What’s more important for us entrepreneurs, if you ask me, is what we can learn from his conduct.
My name is Ofir Bar, an investor with over two decades of experience in worldwide markets, and a special interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. Like many other business enthusiasts, I have also been watching the clash between the two parties closely, and it has been fascinating. I believe that any investor can learn something from it. For this reason, I decided to dedicate this post to things that popped into my mind when following the Musk-Twitter farce.
Silence is a tool
No one can do EVERYTHING successfully. Not even Superman. Acknowledging your kryptonite is key. Elon Musk has achieved so many remarkable accomplishments, but he is still human, and therefore flawed. A shocker, I know. Musk’s weakness seems to lie in his inability to let go and accept failure from time to time. This quality may have helped him to skyrocket so far, but the Musk-Twitter case proved it can also backfire on him: He signed the Twitter purchase papers, and later declined, justifying his conduct with very feeble explanations.
This has not been the first time Musk has caused a ruckus and acted in an irresponsible way. He may think that since he’s the wealthiest man alive he has the privilege to act to his whims without taking consequences into account, but that’s not the case. The cheesy saying is quite true: With great power comes great responsibility. Musk may have forgotten that. Or has he ever known this?
An entrepreneur has to understand that their public actions affect their image, and if this image is poor, new business is less likely to come one’s way. After all, decent people are more attracted to great leadership, and not necessarily to rich people. As evidence of that, as Twitter and Musk got closer to an agreement, many of Twitter’s hirelings started looking for other companies to work for. A significant portion of them left the company.
Being an entrepreneur is way easier when you have good intuition as Musk has. However, acting according to a gut feeling has little to do with impulsiveness. His decision to own Twitter instead of his original plan (to accept a position on Twitter’s board of directors as the biggest shareholder), seemed to me as acting on a whim. His hasty back draw from the purchase is evidence that he later understood he made a bad call. Don’t let his explanation about bots on Twitter mislead you.
It’s one thing to make hasty decisions, but an entirely different thing to create media havoc about it. As an entrepreneur who cares too much about public relations, Musk made sure everyone will know every detail of his battle against Twitter. Sure, he is a public figure, so there’s no way that buying a successful worldwide social media platform would go unheard. Having said that, every entrepreneur should master the art of poker face: acting without making a fuss, without drawing too much attention. Silence is a powerful entrepreneurial tool.
Elon Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur and a role model for many. No one can take that away from him. His conduct may not always be very ‘official’, but that’s one of the reasons he is so unique. With that in mind, he has made some crucial mistakes in the past year or so, and for us entrepreneurs, this is a great chance to learn how to manage business better. After all, learning from your mistakes is great, but it’s even better to learn from others’ mistakes. This way, hopefully, you’ll get on your yellow brick road a bit faster.