I don’t mind criticism when it is private and communicated with a motivation to help. In fact, I’ve been very grateful in my life for harsh private advice that helped me change my course.
I know I have a ton of weaknesses. That’s why I try to learn so much and work so hard. And I’ve got a long ways to go.
But anonymous public criticism, or behind the back complaining, is both cowardly and unproductive. I am not sure if it makes the critic feel good inside, or feel smarter or better than the person they are tearing down. I certainly don’t understand it or like it.
The other day I blogged about talking with your customers. I love talking with customers and am doing a lot to get feedback from dozens of LDS Media customers, where I am currently CEO.
Someone posted this comment (pretending they were Dan Taggart, my friend and business partner):
Try making a profit for once in your life. Look in the mirror and see how scattered you are.
Most anonymous criticism is completely uninformed. Is this critic trying to say I’ve never started or run a profitable company? This is absurd. (The scattered part I plead guilty to. That is what you do in an incubator. You try a ton of things and see what works and then do more of that.)
The worst anonymous public comment ever made about me (maybe there have been a lot worse ones in private!) was this post to f—company back on Dec 26, 2000 just days before it became public that my brother Curt was going to leave the company (he had been serving as Chairman). This must have been posted by an investor or insiders, because the Chairman change was not yet public. Here was the post:
re: Thoughts on your founders? Dec 26 2000 11:03AM EST
The founders of MyFamily.com are Curt Allen, Dan Taggart, and Paul Allen (not to be confused with Microsoft’s Paul Allen). Curt and Paul are brothers.
Curt Allen has the most business sense of the three. As of this writing, he has been asked to step down as Chairman by the MyFamily Board . . . . He used to be Chairman & CEO of Folio. Folio was built by Curt’s father and turned over to Curt to run before being sold to OpenMarket. Further back in his professional career he worked for Hewlett Packard. . . .
His exit as Chairman in December 2000 will essentially end his influence over the day to day operations of MyFamily.com Inc. Look for Curt to resurface not at MyFamily’s potential offshoot, but at another Utah software startup.
Dan Taggart is currently on the board but is no longer affiliated with MyFamily.com in an managerial capacity. He was the VP over Ancestry when he left the company 1 year ago. Prior to MyFamily he was President of Infobases, a religious CD manufacturer with strong ties to the Mormon church. Both at Infobases and Ancestry his success was strongly derived from the Mormon economic base: an economic base that is small, but is strongly supportive of products that focus on the theological standards of Mormonism (Ancestry-Genealogy, InfoBases-Mormon Doctrine).
Dan is trying to erect his own company that will help Internet start-ups with their business cases. . . .
Paul Allen is still with MyFamily.com as the VP over the MyFamily website. He has made a living off the success of Dan Taggart and Curt Allen. He formerly worked at Folio with Curt and at Infobases with Dan. The positions he held at both companies were created especially for Paul. Paul is affectionally called “Corky” by some external investors. This is a reference to the character played by the mentally impaired actor Chris Burke on ABC’s “Life Goes On” television series. This is a fitting reference for those who have met Paul. He is key player on the “MyFamily show”, but is embarrassingly inept at putting cohesive sentences together in front of his audience and is only affiliated with MyFamily because of his family connections (not his skills). He is pulling down a hefty salary for someone of his qualifications and limited capacity. Expect Paul to exit soon since both Curt and Dan are no longer working at MyFamily. He will presumably pop-up at either Dan or Curt’s start-up companies.
I’ve deleted the worst things said about Curt and Dan, but I feel at liberty to include word for word what was said about me.
This was certainly a kick in the face at a time when the company I founded was being taken over by outside investors and the management they had chosen, as well as some new management from Third Age Media, a company that MyFamily acquired in November 2000.
Many facts in the post are completely wrong. My father didn’t start Folio. Curt did. Dan and I started Infobases and Ancestry, so my job wasn’t given to me because of my family connections. When Dan was President of Infobases, I was CEO. (We actually flipped a coin back in 1990 or 1991 to see who would get which title.)
I continue to create my own companies and my own positions at those companies.
But maybe some of the post was accurate.
My high school counsellor told me I was “inarticulate” after my Sterling Scholars interview and I missed out on getting the Spencer W. Kimball scholarship (I was one of 24 finalists in 1983) at BYU for the same reason. My interviews were lousy.
I am sure I was nervous and inarticulate in some board meetings, so somebody really latched onto this and had some fun with it, at my expense and at the expense of Chris Burke, who is a wonderful person with an amazing story.
There were only a very few people who had insider information who could have posted this insulting comment, and I think I know who did it.
Things like this in the harsh business world cause me to repeat to myself the words of a popular song, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.” That is my business theme song.
My advice to everyone is this: don’t believe anonymous public criticism. If a person is a coward, they are also probably a liar, and are tearing someone else down to gain some personal advantage. Never trust anonymous.
P.S. If you want to say some nice things about my improving teaching, speaking, and presentation skills, I would appreciate it, because I have been practicing a lot. 🙂
(Note: I have not been associated with MyFamily.com since February 2002 as an officer or director. So my opinions are personal.)
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