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The Advice I Give to All Early- Stage Founders

Posted On March Tuesday 9, 2021

If your startup is in its early stages and you often find yourself scratching your head to find the answer to one key question: “What should I be doing next?”, you’re not alone.

There will be moments when you feel everything around you crumbling, and often you will give up. At these times it’s important to have a go to person, someone who’s done it in the past and will provide you with the advice and fuel to keep going. While looking for a publisher for her first book, Arianna Huffington was rejected almost 35 times. She went on to start one of the biggest news aggregators in the US, the Huffington Post.

I guess in my experiences, there are three key pivotal factors that drive the answer to the question of what you should be doing next that should help you on your journey.

Hire Right

One of the most powerful things you can do to boost your organization’s productivity is hiring the right talent. You must always be on the lookout for the right people to do the right things for you. When you’re just starting up, the right strategy to follow would be to look for people who can start taking some of your workload. If you’re spending 10 hours a week generating leads and on sales calls, you need to ask yourself if that’s the best use of your time as founder. If you find someone who can come in and start taking small loads off you, for example take up lead generation for you, there’s nothing like it. There’s only 24 hours in the day and you need to decide where you want to put it.

Do not be a perfectionist

If you spend time in a silo putting in a ton of new features to your product without getting actual feedback, you’re going in the wrong direction. You will find that most of the early influencers of your product are those who are glad to be a part of the new product experience, regardless of the fact that it still needs fine tuning. So your initial build-ship-iterate cycles should be super short, and your focus should be to improve the product for the next set of users. Remember, it’s always okay to pivot from your current focus area.

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

  • Michael Jordan

Don’t go Bankrupt

As soon as you finish a funding round, spirits are high and people get their heads down to focus on the operational aspects of the company. As a founder, you cannot afford to not think about how you’re going to spend every last dime from the funds generated, and also when you’re going to need another fundraising round next. You need to be paranoid about cash on hand at all times. Remember, your employees will stay with you only if you can pay them!

Often, founders think that they need to wait until the last moment, do everything they can before they plan a fundraising round, in a bid to get a higher valuation. The one thing we’ve learnt this year? A lot can change in six months.

Conclusion

As a founder, you need to be able to have a guiding vision of where you want to go with your startup, like a north star. You need to be able to communicate the vision and north star with every employee in your startup through various channels, be it an all hands, or personal 1x1s, or team meetings, or standup meetings. You need to imbibe your vision into your workforce and make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

Most important of all, the joy is in getting there.