134. How To Start A Startup: Operating Your Business For Growth & Success

11 important lessons from this lecture:

00:00:09 Assuming that you have already:

…now you want to build a company. Building a company is much more difficult than building a product because people tend to be irrational, and you’re trying to take all of these irrational people, put them together in one building, and then live with them up to 12 hours a day while you get them to cooperate.

00:00:52 Building a company is essentially like building an engine.

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It’s extremely complex and complicated with a lot of moving parts, yet once you get it drawn on paper it looks pretty, organized and easy to implement. But as you build your engine, the end product usually doesn’t come together quite so gloriously.

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Eventually you plan on creating a self-sustaining, high-performance machine that won’t require 24/7 upkeep and constant monitoring

00:02:20 Triaging is “the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.” Everyday should feel like there is a new problem, otherwise you’re probably too predictable and not as innovative as you could be.

Some problems look like problems, but are actually nothing more than an irritation that will eventually go away or sort itself out, such as employees annoyed about common everyday interpersonal relationships and moods.

Some problems may present themselves as colds, however if not diagosed properly, may become fatal over time.

Is it a cold or a life threating sickness?

00:03:21 There is a difference between editing and writing. The most important tasks of an editor are to:

  1. Simplify, simplify, simplify. People cannot keep track of a complex set of initiatives, so you’ve got to be able to distill them down to 1-3 things and use a framework people can recite to anyone at any time.
  2. Clarify. Find and address the ambiguity. This involves asking a lot of questions.
  3. Allocate resources.
  4. Ensure a consistent voice. Top news publications, regardless of the article, time, or author, maintain a consistent voice throughout it’s issues. Everything from your press release to your website and blog posts, social media, packaging design, etc. should feel like it has come from the same person. At first you’ll feel tempted to be that one person and do all the copyediting yourself, however as your business grows this will become impossible.
  5. Delegate. Writers actually do most of the work in the world. Editors aren’t doing the writing. The problem with delegation is that you’re still ultimately responsable for everything you delegate.
  6. Edit the team. You may never recruit a ‘perfect team,’ and even if you were to, eventually somebody will leave and the team will be thrown off balance. Your goal is to maximize the probability for success when you create a team. Hiring more engineers doesn’t automatically mean you get more engineering work done. More designers doesn’t mean more design output.
  7. Insist on focus. People want to be involved in multiple projects and work on varied tasks, however it is through specialisation that a company is more efficient and productive.
  8. Focus on metrics & transparency. Create an intuitive dashboard for your company and then monitor how many employees use it. An effective dashboard should have as close to 100% of your employees using it as possible.
  9. Pay attention to the details. Don’t worry about building a billion dollar business, this is the by-product of something more important. If you get all of the details right, the business will take care of itself. If the details are user-facing, they obviously need to be monitored. The harder part is paying attention to the details that the user may never see or even know exist.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on:

00:09:59 Task-relevant maturity refers to the level of competence a person has in performing a task which is delegated to them (specialization). The more times a person has handled a particular task, the more freedom you’re comfortable giving that person to complete the task. Conversely, the more inexperienced a person is at handling a particular task, the more instruction and constraints you’ll want to give them.

00:10:32 You shouldn’t have one management style. In fact, your management style should be dictated by the employee(s) you are managing.

00: 16:04 There are two basic types of employees: ammunition and barrels.

  1. Ammunition – these employees are good at doing things and getting the job done. These employees are important to the success of your business.
  2. Barrels – these employees are good at focusing and shooting the ammunition. These employees are crucial to the success of your business because they can take an idea from inception to production and because no matter how much ammunition you have, you need the barrel for the ammunition to be useful. Barrels are VERY hard to find, and when you find one of these kinds of employees, make them a priority. Find barrels and then stock them with ammunition.

How to identify the ‘barrels;’ the people to promote in your company:

  1. Watch how they handle simple, stupid, mundane tasks such as having cold, fresh smoothies delivered to a group of hard-working engineers at 9:00 PM every night. Expanding the scope of responsiblity of your employees until they break shows you how much responsibility each person is comfortable with and ensures that that person is being used to their full potential.
  2. Watch which person in your office has the most people approaching his or her desk, particular people that aren’t responsible for. In a working environment, people approach people who they believe can help them. If one employee has more and more people approaching him asking for help or guidance, then that person is perhaps a barrel; promote them and give them more responsibilities.

The next issue is maintaining the correct ratio between ‘barrels’ and ‘ammunition’ in your company. If you have 50 engineers and you’re the only ‘barrel,’ then you might as well only have 10 engineers because you’ll have 40 other engineers fighting for your time, demanding signatures and approvals, and in the meantime they won’t be getting anything done.

00:31:44 Your office environment and layout are very important to the success of your business. You and your employees are spending +40 hours a week in the office, making decisions, brain storming, hosting clients… An ugly or uninspiring office can do extraordinary damage to your company.

In fact, investors may even decide whether or not they’re going to invest in your company just by the layout of your office because they can extrapolate how hard employees are working, how productive they are, how inspired they are…

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in the talk How To Introduce Your Pitch So Others Want to Invest in Your Brand that the first few seconds of your introduction are the most crucial when convincing investors to put money into your startup. This also applies to your office space.]

Questions & Answers

00:35:32 In Youtube’s humble beginnings, it wasn’t sure whether or not it would be successful. Roelof Botha at Sequoia predicted Youtube’s success because he observed that everytime he would go to one of his portfolio companies, half of the office would be sitting at their desks during lunch watching Youtube videos.

00:36:59 When it comes to promoting internally, if you promote ‘the best’ graphic designer, or engineer, or salesman in the department, people are more ready to respect him or her as  the boss because they can learn from him or her. Management skills can be learned later.

If, however, the general manager is there not because s/he knows how to do the job, but because s/he knows how to manage the people who do the job, this changes the context of the manager’s authority.

00:44:10 Write down your list if priorities: prospection, recruitment, R&D, raising money, etc., short- and long-term, and then look at your business calendar to see if your meetings and where you spend your time match your priorities. Often times, you’ll find that what you’re spending your time on doesn’t line up with your priorities.

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