Have you read Dear Founder?

The world has shrunk in size and gotten more interconnected. Doing business across borders has never been easier, and the internet gives everyone quick access to the tools they need to succeed as a solo entrepreneur. In a nutshell, it’s a golden age for entrepreneurs. However, the majority of new businesses fail at the first barrier. So, what exactly is going on here?

Here’s the thing: even if you have the best concept in the world, you’ll still fail if you don’t follow a few simple business standards. In the end, it’s the most basic and ubiquitous blunders that kill so many startups. When you first arrive on the frontlines, it’s not a terrible idea to act like a greenhorn and seek advise from a grizzled veteran or two.

That’s precisely who you’ll meet in Maynard Webb’s book, Dear Founder: experienced business minds who’ve seen it all and know the startup industry like the back of their hands. Their fundamental field manual for founders, on the other hand, isn’t merely a survival guide. Start implementing their advice, and you’ll be well on your way to prospering in one of the most interesting fields around.

First and foremost, many startups fail. This is backed up by statistics, but it also makes intuitive sense. After all, there’s only so much money, time, and assistance available. A few firms achieve meteoric success – imagine Google or Facebook – while the rest scrounge for scraps.

That isn’t meant to discourage you, but it is crucial to remember. If you want to succeed, you’ll have to work really hard and make wise decisions. Are you still up for it? Now is the time to answer that crucial question and establish your objectives. Having a clear understanding of your objective will help you get through difficult times, whether you desire to make a lot of money or change the world.

You should also make sure you’re fully dedicated to your endeavor before getting started. Remember that adversity is almost unavoidable. Sticking to your guns, especially when the situation appears bleak, is the key to success. The said, you should assign a couple of numbers to that commitment so you know when to eject it.

For example, you can claim that you’re willing to invest $200,000 of your own money in your firm and that you’ll remain with it for a year. If you realize you have little to no chance of making it after a year, it’s generally a smart idea to stop before you end up wasting your money.

Finally, keep in mind that, while you’ll be reliant on your own resources, you’ll be far more likely to succeed if you have the help of others. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that your friends and family are on board with your project and are aware of the dangers. You don’t want your relationships to suffer because your life will be hectic, unpredictable, and full of lengthy shifts!

Fundraising is necessary, but it is a difficult task. It’ll seem meaningless at times, and you’ll feel like Don Quixote, the wild Spanish knight in Cervantes’ namesake classic who charges down windmills he mistook for giants. But here’s the thing: if you’re having trouble raising funds, it’s possible that you’ve forgotten a few basic fundraising rules.

Finding the appropriate relationships is crucial to raising funds. That implies you’ll have to be picky when it comes to compiling a list of potential investors. So, how does this work in practice? To begin, make sure you’re targeting folks who are familiar with your sector. You don’t want to call investors who specialize in the music sector if you’re launching a pharmaceutical product, for example.

That’s because you’re looking for people who can help you with guidance, experience, and access to their network, not simply money. The best investors open doors for you, so instead of approaching everyone with a checkbook, concentrate on finding a small number of true industry specialists. That way, things are likely to go considerably more swiftly.

So that you know who you’re trying to persuade, you’ll need to make sure you’re giving yourself the best opportunity of succeeding. It all boils down to two factors: careful planning and strong listening abilities. Let’s start with the basics: planning. When it comes to fundraising, proper planning is crucial. You’ll want to arrive at meetings knowing exactly where you are and what the money you’re asking for will get you.

Ideally, you’ll accomplish this far enough ahead of time that you don’t have to make your pitch while you’re already in dire need of money. It’s also a good idea to request a sum that corresponds to your startup’s current stage of development. If it’s still early in the game, for example, you should generally make your request simple.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re paying attention to investors, even if they say no. If the tenth possible investor tells you that your product isn’t fully developed, you’ll want to take a break from fundraising to consolidate your company plan.

It’s natural for you to be protective of your firm as an entrepreneur, after all, it’s your baby. That can be a problem, too; like an overprotective parent, the desire to micromanage every last aspect can be overwhelming. However, this is eventually ineffective. Running everything yourself may not only exhaust you, but it may also put your cherished firm at risk.

Fortunately, you may utilize a variety of simple techniques to boost your employees’ productivity without always hovering over them. The idea is to foster a culture of excellence in the workplace. It’s all about properly communicating your objectives and motivating employees to attain them by rewarding success. Remember to be generous; if your team accomplishes 80% of what it set out to do, consider it a success.

A great corporate culture is also proactive when it comes to problem-solving. You’ll have to lead by example in this situation. Encourage others to bring their concerns to you, and earn their trust by going above and beyond to address them. Ideally, you’ll assess the issue’s importance the same day it’s raised and take actions to resolve it within 24 hours. Put those two policies in place, and you can be confident that your employees will become more self-sufficient, freeing up your time for more vital activities.

And here’s the good news: your firm is significantly more likely to thrive when your employees display initiative and autonomy. Working with clients like Yahoo and eBay taught author Maynard Webb this lesson firsthand. Take one notable example from his experience at eBay as a manager. Webb’s crew was facing a major logistical challenge. Users’ sales advertisements were pouring in at such a rate that the company’s infrastructure could not keep up. It took 24 hours for new posts to be properly indexed and visible online. Customers who had paid a premium for better visibility were understandably upset by the snarl.

Normally, resolving such a major technical issue would have taken up to 18 months. Webb’s squad, on the other hand, was accustomed to working independently at this stage. It was, after all, an important part of the eBay company culture he had fostered. As a result, they decided to handle the problem themselves rather than sending it up the chain of command. They’d constructed a totally new indexing technique in six months, and the bug had been fixed!

Webb understands how difficult delegating tasks can be. Take, for example, one of his supervisors. His team was producing excellent operational results, and his sales figures appeared to be excellent, but his subordinates were continually criticizing his inclination to micromanage personnel. The manager was fatigued, and the team was irritated by the lack of autonomy among its members.

Finally, the manager made the decision to cease micromanaging. When the author later inquired about the status of his project, he replied that he had no idea. He’d given the work to his crew and walked away from the situation. That isn’t exactly a brilliant example of outstanding delegating, is it?

So, what constitutes effective delegation? The most important thing, after all, is to strike the correct balance between managerial oversight and responsibility. You want to ensure that your project is carried out properly without stomping on your employees’ toes. To accomplish so, you’ll need to figure out which team members are the most capable and eager to complete critical duties, as well as properly convey your objectives. The second stage is to make sure you’re checking in on a frequent basis to see how things are going and recognizing positive performance.

Isn’t it easier said than done? Not at all – in fact, there’s a simple tool you can use right now to help you delegate work more successfully. The RACI Model is what it’s called. This is how it goes. When it comes to delegating responsibilities, there are four things you should ask yourself. First and foremost, who is to blame? This is where you’ll name the individual who will be in charge of making calls. He should be as far down the chain of command as feasible; else, you’ll be micromanaging him!

Then there’s the question of who approves. This is the person who will have final say over the team member you’ve designated as responsible. This is usually the delegator, which is you. Who is consulted in the third place? It’s all about identifying people who don’t have ultimate say in the project but whose participation is critical to its success. Finally, consider who is well-informed. Stakeholders are persons who are interested in and affected by the decisions that will be made. Remember that it’s always preferable to tell more people than fewer when in doubt.

When Webb was being interviewed for his first job, an IBM position, he was asked how he felt about firing someone. Webb said that he thought he’d be able to do it, but that he didn’t think it would ever be necessary. The interviewer burst up laughing. Webb would quickly figure out why.

There’s no avoiding the fact that some people aren’t made out for certain jobs. When you ask the average manager how many people he’d hire again after watching them work for a few years, he’ll probably say that 80 percent of his decisions were correct. That leaves the remaining 20%, who are serial underperformers who should be replaced.  

When it comes to subpar employees, established businesses have a little more tolerance because they’re usually large enough to carry some dead weight. Startups, on the other hand, are an exception. They can’t afford to spend a penny on someone who isn’t contributing because they have lesser budgets and resources.

That’s why, when there’s no other option than to let someone go, it’s critical to act quickly and promptly. Unfortunately, many managers hesitate when presented with such a critical decision. That is a problem. Have you ever heard the expression “a bad apple ruins the barrel”? Underachievers, on the other hand, have the opposite impact, demoralizing high performers who dislike having to cover for someone who isn’t doing his fair share.

All of this can be avoided by acting quickly. You might even be able to save the employee: a supportive intervention at the right time can help him get back on track. If that isn’t possible, you’ll have to take out the figurative axe and chop him down.

The best approach, though, is to avoid that awkward circumstance in the first place by taking your time when it comes to hiring. Consider hiring new individuals as if you were handing out a limited amount of Super Bowl tickets; you’d want to think carefully about who deserves them, right? Take into account intangible traits such as a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty and deliver exceptional customer service if two applicants are nearly evenly matched on paper.

Check out my related post: What is your career path?

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