from Tech Co Habits 16 Jan 16 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
While successful startup founders clearly have habits in common, one thing that sets them apart from other mere mortals — they don’t play by the same rules as their less-successful peers. These traits allow successful startup founders to create & sustain growth through all of the ups & downs that startups face.
1. Set Aggressive Goals. BOX co-founder Aaron Levie credits Box’s incredible year over year growth with being very ambitious with goals. In an interview with Inc., Levie says: “Probably the biggest value that I add to this company is reminding people to constantly push on the scale of opportunity —to realize that they can do something 10 times bigger, 10 times better, 10 times faster.” It’s easy for well-funded startups with near-infinite money and resources to Scale quickly, but this sentiment is valuable for earlier stage startups as well. For many startups, success may be only limited by thinking. The founder is charged with pushing reality of the company closer to the Vision, and they can only do this if they dare to think BiG in the first place.
2. Prioritize. Particularly in early-stage startups, it’s important to focus on the things that contribute to long term growth, not just the most urgent tasks. SaaS startup consultant Lincoln Murphy puts a fine point on the startup Time-management problem: “Because entrepreneurship is so centered around urgency…we often over-focus on the next customer meeting or feature release or conference…failing to optimize around our most precious resource: time.” A startup can turn into a series of fire drills, and this has very serious consequences for future growth. Murphy goes on to say, “Running out of money, not getting product traction, getting beat out by a competitor – all symptoms of not moving fast enough & losing out to time.” Founders that spend all of their time reacting to crisis get burnt out fast and have less time to think & act in the long-term interest of their startup. Successful startup founders know how to automate, delegate & prioritize the tasks that have the highest impact.
3. Collaborate. We think of startup founders as singular geniuses like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. While they may be the driving vision behind the brand & product, great companies are not built in a vacuum. Growing startups can jump quickly from 10 to 50 to hundreds of employees within a couple of years. No startup can achieve Scale without product engineers, leadership, sales & marketing + finance & operations. Especially in the early stages, every employee has a pivotal role to play in the success of a startup. Successful startup founders lead effectively through collaboration with their growing Teams.
4. Build Flat Organizations. Gone are the days the executive team being walled off in their private corner office. Startups need flat organizational culture with their office. As founder and CEO of LearnVest Alexa von Tobel puts it: “The LearnVest office is a huge open space like a trading floor—no one sits in a private office. This was an intentional move—I think it’s really important to have an open and collaborative workspace.” Equality in startups exist in many tangible ways. KIND founder Daniel Lubetzky uses the term “Team member” in lieu of “employee:” “Building a flat organization fosters equality & creates a workplace culture where ideas and can innovation flourish.
5. Don’t Multi-Task. Twitter founder & CEO of multiple startups Jack Dorsey credits his productivity with creating “themes” for each day. By segmenting his workflow, he’s able to give 100% of his energy to each theme each day. As Dorsey explains in Forbes: “The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, I focus on management & operations. Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing. You plan from there.” Studies show that focusing on specific themes or tasks for extended periods of time increase productivity simply because “shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 % of someone’s productive time.” The cognitive time it takes to switch from one task to another adds up. For busy startup founders, focus is paramount to success.
6. Work Less. We’re all familiar with the stereotype of a growing startup – long hours, frazzled founder who works weekends & vacations to drive his/her startup’s success. According to many experts in productivity, the success of any venture is not necessarily dependent on the hours put in. In fact, the optimal work week is just under 40 hours. As Saent founder, Tim Metz, puts it: “Looking at my own experience over the past 12 months, I’m starting to believe success might be a result of being less busy.” Even founder & CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg manages to keep his work week to a manageable 50 to 60 hours. Recently Zuckerberg also made news for taking two months off for paternity leave.
7. Sustain Success. These seven habits of successful startup founders are the result of conscious discipline and focus. Although these habits may appear somewhat contradictory, they suggest that founders who are able to lead teams, follow vision, & not get burnt out in the process. What makes successful founders unique is their ability to live an integrated life. What’s striking is their ability to do more – both mentally & physically – in all areas of their lives. To grow companies leaps & bounds, they must hyper-focus & prioritize when the situation calls for it, but to not let their company get in the way of personal time.
Comments: Can you think of any other Traits that would help a Founder to succeed?