Building a company from the ground up is hard. Throw in having a toddler and a newborn and you just increased the level of difficulty. This is my current situation with Squadlytics but with simple tweaks to my working habits I brought a lot of happiness to the mix which makes it much simpler to tackle challenges. It’s the same reason why we play music when we run. It’s way easier to keep going at something hard if you’re finding some fun along the way.
Pick something you love
It sounds obvious to say that you should like what you’re doing but this is really important in the early days of a new project. There’s a 99% chance that you’ll have tough times at the beginning. You have little feedback, there are no revenues and your budget is dwindling. You will wonder what the hell you’re doing. Or you’ll take a delightful holiday break (happy new year y’all!), and will have to find the motivation to pick things where you left them. Why not drop it and do something easier instead?
Some people are lucky enough to find pleasure in the act of building businesses, regardless of the problem they’re solving. I’m not one of those people and having a great affinity with the domain helps remove a lot of friction in my case. I’ve always been interested in the dynamic of teams and I’m fascinated by metrics. So even if I’m facing a complex issue I can still find satisfaction in working out a solution — just because it’s something that I’m curious about.
On the other hand if someone pitched me a new venture in the insurance industry I’d be more wary of taking that opportunity. I’m sure I would find some great things to do, but when sh*t hits the fan (and it will at some point) it will be much more strenuous to find the energy and motivation to push through.
Don’t bring work back home — take real breaks
We all have limited budgets and the rule time = money is felt strongly when you’re working on something that has yet to produce returns. Each hour you take to build a product or feature feels like money slowly but steadily jumping out the window. The stress of seeing your budget running out can be suffocating.
A temptation is to start trying to expand your budget by working extra hours and adding your weekends to increase your chances of success. But this is a bad form a hustle and instead of being able to ship faster you will quickly run out of brain power and do garbage work instead. Working 16h/day is an easy way to get to the point where it’ll take you twice as much time to get to the same results, while also feeling like you’ve lost your soul.
I’m quite happy to see a change of wind in the tech industry with people advocating strongly for healthier working habits. Exercise, sleep, time with family and friends are necessary if you want to perform well and stay creative.
Seek feedback early — don’t overthink it by yourself
If you have a business idea, and especially if you feel it’s a great one, you should get feedback on it as soon as possible. There’s always this fear that someone is going to steal from us but in reality it rarely happens. People are already busy doing their own stuff and the hardest part of building a business is not coming up with the initial concept, it’s your ability to execute and turn thoughts into a tangible product.
Getting feedback early has many benefits:
- It can save you a lot of trouble if it turns out that your awesome concept was, in fact, not so great.
- You’ll strengthen your business case and will be able to identify core issues early.
- Positive feedback will make you happy and will help you keep going.
There’s a much greater upside to chatting with others than risks. It’s more likely to boost your confidence than making you feel like you are giving away your opportunity. So, the next time someone asks you what you’re up to don’t hesitate. Talk about the problem you’re trying to solve with confidence (you can still keep the secret sauce for you).
Get partners — even for short stints
I’m by definition a solo founder. But that doesn’t mean that I work by myself, there’s simply way too much to get done.
It’s incredibly valuable to bounce ideas off someone else and that’s one of the strongest argument to get a co-founder. But if you haven’t find a full-time partner there are still many ways to get significant contributions without putting your cashflow at risk. There are talented people around the world that are really interested in helping others solve problems. If you split work in small enough units you can most likely book someone for a fixed period of time during which you should absolutely treat them as part of the team. This is a simple way to manage budget risk while accelerating the value creation process.
Contribute back to the community
I’ve benefited a lot from reading the experience of other teams and entrepreneurs. On top of my head I’d recommend the following to start:
One thing that has really changed things for me was to start contributing back to the tech community. I’m still working on my imposter syndrome, but every time I’ve shared my experience I’ve seen 3 great things happening:
- It takes my mind out of the daily tasks and forces me to organize my thoughts.
- It feels awesome when I’ve been helpful. I feel useful.
- It connects me with a larger community.
It’s a bit of a balancing exercise as the time taken to write, teach or mentor would be time taken away from building your product. But it is nonetheless a good investment — after all you’re probably building something to help others so this is just another way to reach that goal.
(Cover credit: Jimmy Chin/National Geographic)
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