Starting up is not easy!
And most startups make that classic startup mistake that dooms them to failure and oblivion!
Starting up, is essentially the fine art of choosing an undiscovered destination. And then building a boat with your own two hands to get yourself there! And the best part of this entire journey, is that no one can really teach you how to do build this boat.
You have to figure it out the hard way.
So, everyday, founders learn to build their boat and chart their path!
They learn about the market, about its potential, about prospective customers and early adopters and why they do what they do or buy what they buy! And they learn to do all this at breakneck speed, because time is money! And money is non-existent and traction has to be build before it runs out!
But what is truly ironic about the startup journey, is that IF you complete the first phase – Bootstrapping for traction – successfully, then you have to unlearn absolutely everything you’ve figured out so far for the next phase – Scaling up!
And this is where most founders trip up & fail to make the transition! This is where they make that classic startup mistake – of clinging to control by trying to do everything themselves instead of delegating & growing quickly – which can make the difference between your startup growing quickly & surviving long enough to make an exit!
Bootstrapping vs Funding
Bootstrapping is another word for doing-it-yourself!
When you’re bootstrapping, money equals life! So you hoard it, ration it, obsess like Scrooge over every paisa you have to spend. You stay up nights doing things yourself – building your website on wordpress after watching a youtube tutorial, designing your UI on powerpoint, even learning to write code (much to the dismay of your developer) and out of all that unpaid slave labor, a startup is born.
Then you get funded & have to learn to spend investor money to scale up!
The journey of scaling up – of trying a hundred things to find the two or three that really work, of making costly mistakes that burn money and cause you equal amounts of heartburn – is scary to say the least. And that’s mostly because you’re burning investor money in a desperate attempt to scale and grow at an exponential, not-normal rate of growth! The responsibility of it is paralysing and terrifying!
And that’s when you realise that scaling up is all about delegation!
To grow and grow quickly, you need to be more adept than a 10-headed Ravana! You cannot do it yourself! You need people!
Ideally good people who can do things better than you can! Great people who will join your startup at a fraction of what they would ideally like to get paid! Fantastic people who can help you do those hundred things that need to be done faster and better than you could ever do it yourself.
Yes, you need to learn to delegate! And that’s where it gets sticky.
Do-it-myself or delegate?
Every task becomes a trade-off.
Do I do this myself?
Do I hire someone who can do it as well as I can? (And there’s a lot of ego that gets steadily deflated here because, face it, most web designers are going to do a much better job on that website than you did!)
If I hire someone, what if this startup fails and they lose their job?
Do I really need this resource? Am I sure I’m not being wasteful?
And so on & so forth!
And then sooner or later comes the inevitable epiphany…
If I spend all my time doing ‘this’, then who’s going to take the responsibility of taking the startup to the next level?
Who’s going to create the vision, build the team and deliver on the dream?
Chase the dream.
Dreaming is a hard job.
The dream has to be perfect in every respect, down to the last detail! And bringing it to life is even harder. And every dream can only come to life when many hands work on it!
So, take a step back and release that offer letter or handover that project. Let them make the first inevitable mistakes (try not to wince in front of them) and then encourage them to get up and try again.
There will be mistakes made! That is a given. But it’s not like you didn’t make them when you started out, so be patient and hang in there!
Have faith in the team you hired. Know that you hired them because they are better at that particular domain than you are. Resist the urge to get in there and micro-manage! Trust them to do their best. And give them the time they need to bring in the results!
And that is your true job! To dream that dream. And give your team the firepower and cover they need to win the battle! And if you are successfully able to do that, then you would have avoided the classic startup mistake & transitioned into a viable business!