A Candid Conversation on Leadership with James Eberhard of Fluid Truck

James (Jimmy) Eberhard is a serial technopreneur and recognized visionary in the tech space. He’s the founder of Fluid Truck, a groundbreaking peer-to-peer truck sharing platform offering 24/7 access to an array of vehicles.

We had a talk with him on the show and man! was it exciting. So much that we talked about applies to the startup, and if you’re in that space, it’ll be fun to read what I gathered from our conversation.

1. Dance to the beat of your own drum 

“There’s no point in changing who you are. Be straightforward, be who you are, be authentic”

James Eberhard

I saw a picture of Jimmy at an award show where everyone was suited up, but there he was, at this seemingly formal party in flops, jeans, and a tee-shirt! Is he a rebel? I was curious…

The founder of Fluid Truck quickly responded to my question about conforming to corporate norms: Never change who you are from the beginning. Don’t try to conform to someone else’s standards out there. He admitted to having been somewhat of a rebel growing up, insisting that it’s important to remain authentic.

The Takeaway

It’s easy to LOSE YOURSELF in all the action!

Don’t change who you are unless it’s for the better. If you try to put on a fake face, everyone will read it as a weakness. As a result, people stop believing in your leadership style because they feel you are not authentic.

2. Humility to admit when things aren’t working 

“You have to be willling to look yourself and your team in the eye and say, this isn’t working…”

James Eberhard

Sometimes your ideas will hit a wall, and if you lack humility, it might take longer than it should for you to realize when things aren’t working. Such arrogance leads to startup failure because it means that founders are unable to pivot fast enough.

There’ll be days when things don’t work, and as a wise leader, you should recognize that it’s not about those situations but how you react to them.

Humility as a founder means you’re able to get out there and do what needs doing. It could be scrubbing the toilets or making a sale… If it needs to be done, do it. Don’t take yourself so seriously as a company founder. Go out in the streets, get your hands dirty and make sales.

You must also realize the importance of empathy to everyone (team members, customers, investors) because, in Jimmy’s opinion, arrogance only works for a while. 

The Takeaway

Leadership is recognizing when things aren’t working out and having the audacity to admit it to your team and interested parties. It’s not wrong to hit a wall; the colossal problem is when you try to act like you’re making progress when you’re stuck. Strong leaders know that transparency is the best way to keep things on track, so if you’re one, be humble enough to be the driver of success.

3. Radical Candor

“Hold people accountable. You gotta be stern and call people out when they are wrong” 

James Eberhard

Success comes from working together as a team to drive alignment, focus, and hold people accountable. It can be uncomfortable to be stern at times, but that’s how to grow your people effectively. 

Keeping things to yourself isn’t an option if you’re trying to run a business. Teams need proper direction if they are to perform as you expect them to. If someone screws up badly, find a diplomatic way of letting them know because it’s the best way to build a team that genuinely OWNS it.

The Takeaway

It’s interesting how much founders struggle with telling things as they are to team members. There are many reasons you’d cower away from facing people with the hard reality, but I hate to break it to you – all leaders have to do it sometimes.

The only saving grace is to develop a diplomatic way of packaging your message so that nothing gets lost in emotions. 

4. Money isn’t that important! 

“Its not about money; its about building something that’s bigger than who you are.”

James Eberhard

The co-founder of Fluid Truck believes that you get to a place where it’s not about money as a founder. Where its more about building something bigger than you, something that is contributive to society.  Goals should be to make the world a better place, looking at money as a mere consequence.

The end goal for startup founders should never become cash. Yes, it makes things better, but that green can blind. Be sure to have more than money on your mind else you fall off the track chasing it.

The Takeaway

Dedicate your life to something useful and let money become a byproduct of your deeds. It’s more satisfying to know that what you do has a meaningful impact on someone else than it is to amass wealth.

5. It’s okay to ask for help

“When there’s a problem don’t try to take it all on your shoulders”

James Eberhard

There is so much pegged to startup success, including pride. People rarely speak up when their startups are going down the tubes. In many cases, the public only realizes there is trouble when you close shop. Jimmy says you should take an honest approach to things.

To emphasize the value of transparency, he shared the story of a friend who lied about a similar issue but got tired of the lying and finally opened up. When he did, people came to his aid.

You cannot try to take it all on your shoulders because running a startup is immense pressure. When overwhelmed, feel free to talk to your team, investors, and anyone who matters; to help find a solution.

The goal for founders should be finding the right people, being transparent with them, and driving alignment with them.

Resilience is the most critical trait for a startup founder, bearing in mind the challenges that keep knocking. Success isn’t guaranteed, but you must keep pushing even in the face of naysayers. People will put some serious doubt in you, but if you believe in something, don’t stop pursuing it on anyone’s account. 

Wrap Up 

Good leadership means rising to the occasion and directing people rather than managing them. It takes time to master a leadership style that improves your business and empowers your teams. Founders must hone their leadership skills if they want to see their visions come alive. To hear more of our conversation with Jimmy of Fluid Truck, feel free to watch the episode and share what you think.