Conflicting advice can drive you crazy as you lead a startup, so use these simple management tricks.
Go big! Swing hard! Be fearless!
Rein in your vision! Create small wins! Iterate!
These two threads appear to run in stark contrast, yet any startup CEO hears this advice every day–some days from the same adviser. How do you rationalize these disparate thoughts and build a great company?
Turns out that you need to execute both. The real answer is, you need both strategies–or types of brains–even though they appear to be fighting. Let’s start with “going big.”
Obviously, you start with a big vision. I mean, really, who starts out dreaming of two customers and $10,000 in revenue? It is this initial seed that gets your heart pumping, and enables you to recruit new talent and persuade investors to get on board. I can’t even get out of bed without dreaming big.
The big vision also serves a critical role when things invariably get tough. When the product is late, or a key employee quits to follow her own dream, it is the promise of what’s yet to come that keeps the startup machine humming along. It is imperative that company founders use this tool sporadically, as it has an expiration date. And, used too often, your credibility wanes, and employees begin to doubt you and the company’s prospects.
The first year of your company is clearly the hardest, as you need to:
- Create basic legal documents
- Build out your product or service
- Acquire the first set of customers
- Deliver on the product and customer promise
- Find some space to operate in
- Hire employees or contractors
- Eat, sleep, and breathe
I give the advice daily to execute in three-month chunks, as time spent on figuring out what you need a year from now is wasted effort. You earn the right to get to the next three-month period by completing the tasks that you, the team, and your advisers determined were most critical.
Set a great strategy, create key tasks that support that strategy, and you will createbusiness momentum that will take you through year one and beyond.
To create a company culture that uses both types of brains, I recommend your entire team create opportunities to play with each type separately.
Here are a few thoughts on how you can manage these two brains here at INC.com.