Confident or cocky? A quiz to measure your startup’s swagger

If you’ve been recruited to work at a startup, or are crazy enough to start one, chances are that you’ve dealt with issues of confidence.

Both in terms of your co-workers, or even yourself, it can often feel like riding a roller coaster: rising from the heights of overconfidence, plunging to the depths of under-confidence, and then just as suddenly back up again.

To help you determine just how much swagger you and your colleagues actually have in the tank, I’ve devised this 13-step self-administered questionnaire. It takes only a couple of minutes, so no need to overthink it—just answer quickly and honestly with a true or false, and then tally up your score of positive answers.

Note: after you take the test, you might speculate on the scores of others, like your boss, colleagues, and investors—even your significant other.

1. Communication:
One of the first things I do when meeting new customers is stand up and white board the issues they are facing so that I can help them better understand our company’s true value.

2. Competition. Our business is based on proprietary technology and is spearheading a new category, which is why we currently don’t really have any competitors.

3. Sales and marketing. Both teams need to do a much better job of getting us traction in the marketplace and growing revenue. In the end, it’s really a matter of educating the consumer.

4. Audience. High-level executives (ideally the CEO) are our targets. With all due respect to mid-level managers, we really need the attention and blessing of the top brass.

5. Luck. In terms of our business, hard work, contacts, and smarts beat timing, karma, and luck any day.

6. Valuations. The valuation of our company is totally justified. In fact, many investors will regret that they didn’t pony up earlier.

7. Awards. I honestly can’t figure out why our company isn’t on more “best of” lists and snagging more awards and high profile speaking opportunities. Frankly, it bugs me that our startup is not getting its props.

8. Coding. I’ve been coding since a really young age, and have little patience for people who haven’t picked up this core skill.

9. Degrees. I have more respect for entrepreneurs who drop out of college and go on to kill it than those who waste their time and money on higher education.

10. Impact. While I’ve been warned by our PR firm to avoid describing our company’s impact as “revolutionary,” in our case it happens to be true.

11. Friends. I hang mostly with people who are in the startup scene, since I have more in common with them. Who knows, we might be able to partner down the road.

12. Intelligence. While I wouldn’t go around announcing it, during business meetings I can’t help but notice that I’m usually the smartest person in the room.

13. Chill. Most people overreact and get all paranoid in business. I’m usually the type who reminds everyone to chill and that it’s all good.

It’s time to tally up your score…

1 to 3: You’re a throwback to the greatest generation, and your high level of modesty and commitment to feeding the needs (and egos) of others might be better utilized by working for an NGO in the developing world.

4 to 6: Your state of mind is probably ideal for a large and grounded Fortune 1000 corporation, so the startup scene might be a little much for you at this stage in your career.

7 to 9: You’ve found your groove, and what some might see as cocky or arrogant you recognize as the passion that will help you grow your business.

10 to 13: You’re in close danger of breaking the scales, pushing past cocky straight to narcissist. If this describes you, maybe you should run to the couch for some psychological counseling. If you work for one, or are married to one, it might be time to bail.

The Bottom line: A little bit of swagger is good, if not necessary. It’s the idealism, charm, and bravado that we have come to love and respect—and expect—from our favorite entrepreneurs.

But too much cockiness is a total turnoff. Like dousing yourself with too much perfume or cologne, it’s obnoxious and self-defeating, and very few people will be real about your need to dial it down. While having too little swagger doesn’t give you enough juice to get your venture off the ground, having too much might just torpedo the entire operation.

Here’s to you finding the optimal balance!

Interested in workspace? Get in touch.