I wrote this post a while back, but it never made to the top of my priority to be published.
I’ve made a ton of mistakes. You needn’t. Take this with a pinch of salt or throw this out of the window. A series of not so fortunate events in my life gave me some time to reflect.
Building a company is nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster ride. Too many things fail, and success is an extreme state of elation. The adrenaline rush from the initial days wears you down and you have spent more time with your co-founders than friends and family in five months. You might see tension building up in the vision, execution or maybe even in commitment. You might need to wake up from the optimistic projections you once had. The show must go on.
Here are the difficult little lessons I learned building one.
Bring consensus into discussions and meetings
Part of the job I didn’t realize, is to act as a mediator for learning and discussions that may have a potential effect on the future of the company. Everybody is learning every day and each pep talk and brainstorming can convert to some real actionable item – that can positively change the tangent of the company.
Your company’s budget should have only two major expenses
Salaries and marketing. Spend time deciding that. Anything else that’s significant is a point of concern.
Prioritize decision making to the most important things
I am constantly flooded with questions and decisions. Should we mail person ‘x’? Should we publish this? When are we turning on the experiment? How much are we planning to spend for this campaign? Is this font weight fine? This OS library does not help us with the image manipulation. Can we buy the paid version? There are days when I don’t work at all and all I do is answer queries.
This sometimes overwhelms me. Work piles up and most of it has to be delivered to keep the wheels and cogs running. To solve this I had to ruthlessly prioritize my decision-making. I don’t spend time picking up clothes. It’s just x or y type t-shirts. By ruthlessly prioritizing decision making, I save time and mental freedom. But I still have to do groceries.
Learn to delegate perfectly. You cannot do everything
Part of the reason you need to hire the best is get people who can own up and deliver 110%. The first 10-20 people decide the future and they are most likely your future VP’s. You need to trust them and delegate.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Start focusing on the culture you need to see
Zynga was product management focused, Google – engineering, Zappos – customer centric. Now is the time to start building that culture.
Cucumbertown’s operational costs and forecast was a mess of an Excel workbook. Innumerable sheets interlinked, comments all over the cells, complicated formulas based on exchange rates, liabilities, taxes etc. Made my life horrible. I wanted numbers on top of my head to aid my decisions the moment I have an idea or value proposition. When Ankit got to see the mess of how I managed the show he taught me GNUCash.
I can’t tell you how important it is to learn double entry accounting, managing accounts between the US bank and Indian banks, keeping books tallied gave me an overall view of assets, expenses and liabilities.
Spend time with family. Build harmony
We entrepreneurs are obsessed with the work we do. We have our spark of ideas and impromptu moments. But this has a toll on our physical and mental strength. There are people in our lives who love and care for us. A startup is replaceable. Our family is not. Our friends are not. And our lives are definitely not.