In the startup world, small teams are working tirelessly toward rapid growth–commonly while exhausted, underpaid, and juggling many roles at once. Admittedly, this is part of the charm of starting a company. Pouring yourself entirely into a project is liberating and purposeful, and even moreso if you find success.
Having said this, we’re not huge fans of wasting time. And unfortunately, many startups who “work around the clock” have a tendency towards inefficiency. Commonly, a forgotten focus and scattered team are to blame. You can grind it out all day, but if you’re working on the wrong things, there will be zero return. Worse, if you’re not working on the right things, you will simply fail.
This raises the question, how do you know if you’re focusing on the things that will make all your hard work worthwhile? Here are some simple, and proven-successful strategies.
Have weekly meetings.
It only takes a small break in communication to have everyone working on different stuff. Anyone on your team should be able to tell you what they’re working on, on any given week, with confidence.
Make small goals.
Ship by this date, complete this design by end of week, prepare for this demo, etc. When your sights are set on too large of tasks, the likelihood of misaligning a team is much higher. Make sure you’re focusing on intentional, measured steps towards progress. While the big picture is important, it will not be realized without accomplishing small goals.
Focus on metrics, and always keep your sights set on growth.
Try not to get stuck in the fluff–stick to your numbers. This gives you a clear way to measure and understand your growth, or lack thereof, as a team. We understand other areas need attention from time to time, but your primary focus should always be on growing the company. If all you’re looking at is rebranding, for example, it’s time to check yourself. Growth is #1, and focusing on metrics will keep you and your team on the fast-track towards it.
Don’t get wrapped up in PR, media attention, or competitors.
It can be exciting to get early attention from the press, on your company or product. But remind yourself that media attention is not the same thing as success (not even close). There’s nothing worse than getting pulled away by the hype, then being forgotten six months later because the team lost focus and your product dwindled. Other times, teams get distracted by concerning themselves with their competitors. Paul Graham says, “The only way to avoid having competitors, is to avoid good ideas,” so get comfortable with their presence, and stay focused on making your own company better.
Ask yourself: is this action adding value to our customers?
This should be a constantly recurring question, applied to each decision you make. If you’re not focusing on your users, you’re not focused on building a product that other people want, thus largely ignoring growth. And c’mon, we went over that already.
Having a startup means a ton of your time will be dedicated towards it. This reality makes it even more important to ensure that your time is being used efficiently, and that you’re sweating the stuff that will ultimately garner success for your team.
“Though the immediate cause of death in a startup tends to be running out of money, the underlying cause is usually lack of focus. Either the company is run by stupid people (which can’t be fixed with advice) or the people are smart but got demoralized. Starting a startup is a huge moral weight. Understand this and make a conscious effort not to be ground down by it, just as you’d be careful to bend at the knees when picking up a heavy box.” – Paul Graham, “Startups in 13 Sentences”