Founders struggle every day to allocate funds and prioritize tasks.
Every morning you wake up and you have to decide what to work on today. As a founder you most certainly have too many choices to make; all of which feel important. With so many choices comes an intense amount of pressure as you know deep down in scary places of your brain that working on the wrong tasks can ultimately dictate success or not. Executing faster is not always the answer.
How do you craft the to-do list for your day? Do you just look at the fires burning in the moment? Do you divide the tasks by functional areas (product, marketing, fundraising, etc.)? Is there a 3-month road map that is used to set your priorities? (In my book Build The Fort, I discuss 3 months as an optimal timeline for planning in a startup.)
What if setting your task list based on fires, functions or the plan, is the wrong approach? What if there is alternative framework you should adopt that if executed correctly can improve your chances of actually building a company? What if you are organizing around the wrong mindset?
I fundamentally believe that every organization’s primary function is to convince someone (hopefully a target customer) of the organizations value to meet a need. Some call that selling. Some may refer to it as finding product/market fit.
I would posit that you should organize your tasks around these basic questions:
1. Figuring out who to sell to
2. Figuring out what to sell to them
3. Figuring out how they want to be sold
4. Figuring out the messages that optimize buying
5. Figuring out the best channels for delivering those messages.
Questions #1 and #2 are either interchangeable or are dealt with simultaneously. Regardless, this list of 5 questions, that must be addressed, are difficult for a startup team especially if this is new ground. Sometimes the answers are not answers (temporary or false positives). Sometimes the answers are elusive.
It is why the most valuable asset a startup can buy is TIME. Everything always takes two times longer than you think.
Your one overriding task as a CEO is to gather the resources necessary to answer these questions in as short amount of time as you can before energy, commitment and money run out.
So, what are you going to do today? Figure out where you are on these questions and allocate resources in order to buy your self enough time to find the answers.
This article first appeared in INC.COM – find more of my articles there.