Money Follows Speed – 6 Principles a Startup CEO *MUST* Understand – or Face Disaster
As someone who used to struggle with procrastination for many years, this is a topic that’s very familiar to me.
I’m not going to offer anything new or ground breaking here – chances are that if you’ve been an entrepreneur for a while then you know all of this already. But even then it’s important to keep reminding yourself about these principles.
As you may have guessed – the article is mostly about speed. As funny/controversial as it may sound, speed is perhaps one of the most important aspects that distinguishes successful people from unsuccessful ones. Keep reading to find out why and how to benefit from this knowledge!
Ground rules for dealing with procrastination and getting things done.
The Number 1 thing that kills speed is procrastination.
In this article, I will not talk about time management, ToDo lists or any other topics like this. While I’m not at all saying that they aren’t important, I do consider them of strictly secondary importance, as no matter how good tools or systems you use, you are guaranteed to fail if you don’t fully understand and appreciate the main set of principles concerning time.
Principle 1. There’s never the “right” time
During my 11 years as an entrepreneur, by far the common excuse given to me (and by me!) for not doing something is “It’s not the right time for this”.
What makes this excuse interesting is that the people giving it honestly believe that it truly isn’t the right time. They don’t want to (consciously) procrastinate – they just believe it will be better to take care of the task in question later.
Most of them can also perfectly explain their statement. “We can’t run a big promotion on a Friday because people are already in weekend-mode”; “We can’t begin a large project now as there are so many clients to serve at the moment”; “I can’t start planning a client party because I don’t have a weather forecast yet” – you get the point.
What the majority of those people don’t realise is that there is likely NEVER going to be the right time.
There are ALWAYS going to be negative factors present, and often enough – there are going to be even more of them present later. For this reason, you always need to consider getting the thing done NOW – even if the “stars are not properly aligned”, and more often than not – you will find that it actually was the best time for it.
Principle 2. Perfectionism is a disease!
Seemingly coined in 2008 by Dr. Christine Carter, Ph. D. (UC Berkley), this is something that is so incredibly important to understand, but yet the majority of entrepreneurs don’t seem to grasp the concept.
Perfectionism is OK (and even necessary) in some areas – such as outgoing emails to clients, company finances and a few others. But in most areas, it’s nothing but an incredible time waster, which nearly always leads to major issues with productivity and deadlines.
Further to perfectionism resulting in an incredible time spend (often at no or little return), it also demotivates. Perfectionism – and the demand for perfectionism – creates fear, as well as a lot of disappointment, as no matter how perfect one tries to make something, there are always going to be little imperfections present, creating the illusion of “not reaching the goal”.
There is a good reason why the concept of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) has gained that much traction in the Startup scene ever since the term was first coined. In order to be successful, you have to do the absolute minimum that is necessary for your clients to pay you money. At least in the beginning, while your strategies and ideas are not yet fully validated.
Principle 3. Good things don’t happen to those who wait.
Good things happen to those who go out there and do it.
It doesn’t matter the slightest that you may have a billion dollar idea in your head (or even on paper) – if you don’t go ahead and action this idea NOW then you will make nothing out of it.
As already illustrated above, the “right time” will never come. Or if it does, then chances are that by then someone else has already done the same (or a better) thing and you’re late.
Principle 4. Idea is 1%, execution is 99%
Another extremely common misconception amongst aspiring entrepreneurs is that ideas are worth money (or equity).
Whilst a great idea may land you some connections, or “validate” you in front of a group of friends or other inexperienced entrepreneurs, it’s not worth much else. And what’s worse – even the connections that your awesome idea has landed you will soon change the way they look at you, once it becomes clear that an idea was all that there was, without any substance.
Neither Facebook, nor Google, nor Amazon, nor PayPal were results of great ideas. In fact, all of them were mediocre products at best. What separates them from the rest is EXECUTION. Execution is what determines whether an idea is going to take off or not – and similarly to how great execution can sky-rocket a mediocre idea, bad execution (or worse – no execution) instantly kills even the most fantastic idea.
For those interested to read further about the value of ideas, I strongly recommend an article by Richard Kershaw, entitled “BREAKING NEWS: Nobody Gives a Damn About Your Great Idea”
Principle 5. Long hours don’t mean a thing
Something that young entrepreneurs often don’t realise until much later in their career is that no-one could give two hoots about how long hours they work – not their business partners, not their clients, not their employees.
Unless you’re an employee, the ONLY thing that matters is the value you provide and the money you make for the company.
I’m not suggesting anybody to not work long hours – quite the other way around. But you need to take good care that your hours are spent productively.
The “but I had so much to do” excuse stopped working the moment you handed in your resignation letter and decided to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, as opposed to an employee.
As an entrepreneur, this excuse works against you, not for you. If you’re an entrepreneur who has too much “stuff” to do to be able to make money and deliver actual value, then it means one thing and one thing only – that you suck at planning your activities/time. And no, “it’s not yet the right time to delegate all that stuff” isn’t an excuse either – see above.
Principle 6. There’s no-one to blame. Ever.
My final core principle related to speed is taking responsibility.
Blaming others is easy, taking responsibility is difficult. Every entrepreneur needs to understand that the vast majority of what we’re unhappy with is no-one else’s fault than ours.
There are no exceptions or “but”-s to this rule, either. Whatever it is, it’s never the fault of your client, the fault of your business partner or the fault of your wife or girlfriend – it’s your fault.
As an entrepreneur, you have the freedom (and the responsibility) to make decisions, meaning that if anything is wrong, it is always the result of your own decision, or the lack of it thereof. This includes big and difficult decisions, such as leaving an unproductive team of partners for something more lucrative, firing people, throwing a project that you’ve invested a countless number of hours into to the bin because it turned out to be financially unfeasible, and others.
To end this on a positive note, I want to stress that it’s actually not all that difficult to start following the above principles. It may seem daunting at first, but almost everybody has been there at some point in time – fighting with procrastination (those who haven’t – I envy you!)
The important part is to understand. Once you truly understand and appreciate these principles, execution is easy.
Last but not least – always bear in mind that whenever advice like this is given, the Adapt > Adopt > Improve principle applies. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you – unless it’s properly adapted, taking into account your unique situation, habits and characteristics.
Here’s to a prosperous 2014 that comes with much less procrastinating. Happy New Year!