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The need to focus

In startups by satya

This is turning out to be a habit. After my initial post on the need for startup CEOs to have sounding boards and the one about funding, I find myself writing a third.

Recently, I have had the pleasure of interacting with and advising brave souls who have decided to give up their comfortable ‘BigCo’ careers and plunge into entrepreneurship. These conversations have reminded me of the need for startup CEOs to ‘Focus’, yes, with a capital ‘F’!

There are three ways in which I see the need for focus being an important part of the daily life of every early stage CEO:

  1. Focus on progress:If you are spending your time on anything other than taking your company forward every day, you are wasting your time. It is very easy to get involved with inter-personnel wrangles, long solo introspection sessions about the cap table and your ownership etc. None of that matters if you are not progressing with customers, your product or building your team. As some wise person reminded me, “100% of 0 is 0”
  2. Focus on your strengths:It is also very easy for a startup CEO, especially in the early stages, to believe that he or she should lead and direct everything. While this is more valid when you are boot-strapping the company and don’t have the revenues/funding to hire other people, it is not a very efficient model. You are an entrepreneur – try to find other creative ways for people who are specialized in certain areas (e.g Marketing) to help you. Spreading yourself too thin on areas that you are not familiar with is not going to do much good either for your health or for your company
  3. Focus on what you have started: If I could get a dollar for every time that I have heard early stage CEOs say “I will run a services business in the daytime to keep the lights on and build the product at night”, I would not need any funding in the future! I have seen countless cases where this approach has failed. Doing one thing well is hard enough – trying to do things in parallel is next to impossible. If you really need to run something else on the side in order to survive financially, you need to question your ability to stay the course with your startup.

My intent with the above points is not to scare folks off but to remind them that choosing to be the CEO of an early stage startup is not an easy decision. Without a laser sharp focus on the business, that decision becomes a wasteful one.

As always, comments and questions are welcome

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn