As a startup founder or CEO, you are expected to do everything, preferably by yourself. You have the idea, you build the product, get the business up and running, raise funding, promote your startup, find the customers, and do the sales calls.
All this takes up more time than you have. Then there’s hiring, all the administrative tasks, and then you have to connect and meet with a lot of people. How do you make time on your calendar and in your daily schedule for all this?
Well, to start with, you get a calendar. Lots of startup founders have their plates so full that it’s hard for them to ignore whatever pressing task is in front of them. If you want to get more things done in less time, start figuring out how to set a schedule and be more productive.
Take a look at these 10 productivity hacks that will come in useful for every startup CEO.
1. Block time on your calendar every morning for your most important and core business activity.
You can schedule specific activities such as sales calls, social networking, staff meetings for different times of the day. But the most productive time is early morning – as early as possible. Put the most important work that you have to get done into your morning schedule. Once you have that figured out and it gets done, you’ll find that your productivity for the rest of the day also starts going up.
2. Use incubation / accelerator space to get business support and services.
Business support and services provided by a business center can make it easy for you to get things done that you would otherwise have to do thorugh hard work or by spending your precious startup funding. For example, you wouldn’t have access to meeting, conference and training rooms and all the other facilities you need, if you are located in a small office of your own.
“It had all the facilities which a startup should need to start up actually. So we started at Evoma…Food is always there at Evoma. So you can either order from the coffee shop or you can go and cook yourself.” – Shekhar Sahu, Cofounder, HealthcareMagic.
3. Use cloud-based software to manage everything remotely.
You have to be in 10 places at the same time, and you can’t be holding fort at the office all day long. The only way to attend to all your meetings outside while still keeping track of what’s going on at the office is by accessing cloud-based software on mobile devices. Whether it’s accounting or sales lead management and distribution, you should be able to do it on the go.
4. Learn to do everything yourself before you hire.
You should know every function and process in your startup inside out. The idea is that you can hire employees to do things you don’t have time for, but you should still be able to step in and do it yourself if needed.
5. Learn to bootstrap before you start spending.
It’s sound startup strategy to come up with a proof of concept, demonstrate it, get feedback from mentors, investors and advisors, and then start spending to set up the business and commercialise your product or service. During this time, you have to learn to bootstrap and run your startup without spending any funding that you have or plan to raise.
6. Define roles and delegate.
If you’re going to hire some initial employees, they’re going to be just as swamped as you. Piling work on them without defining their role is just going to add to the startup chaos. What you do is you define all the roles that your processes need. Then you figure out what you and your cofounders can do by yourself, and hire staff for each role that you don’t have the skill or time for.
7. Use collaboration tools for project management.
The actual task of delegating tasks, tracking progress and providing your inputs can be made easy by using project management and collaboration tools such as Slack and Asana. Combine this with the third point above, to ensure that you and your team are using mobile-enabled productivity apps and collaboration platforms.
8. Learn from fellow startup founders and CEOs.
You have your own way of doing things, but it doesn’t hurt to seek inspiration from your peers and mentors. What are the habits of successful startup founders and CEOs who have done what you are doing now, and can show you easier and better ways to start, run and grow a startup?
Teju Ravilochan, co-founder and CEO of the Unreasonable Institute, quotes Unreasonable Fellow Daniel Rosen as saying that as a startup CEO, you have only three core responsibilities – lay out the vision, build a team that’s more capable than you, and give them the resources they need.
9. Build brand ambassadors instead of brands.
You can take a couple of years, easy, to turn your startup into a brand that’s known in your city. But it won’t take more than 6 months to become a well known global brand if you focus on reaching and ‘converting’ brand ambassadors. One influential evangelist who raves about your business and/or product is worth months of work by you and your marketing team.
10. Eat healthy, stay fit, and take time off every month to ensure you stay productive.
Startup founder burnout is a very real phenomenon. You need to eat a healthy and filling breakfast, and follow a regular pattern for staying fit, eating meals on time, and getting a good night’s sleep. It’s also recommended that you take time off for a weekend holiday at least once a month. Disconnect, turn off your phone, and take a vacation.