Closing Thoughts and Next Steps
Today marks the last email of “The Crash Course Guide to Starting Up,” and with it, my daily presence in your inbox.
Not a single one of previous nine lessons can be considered an exhaustive playbook covering everything you need to know to launch a business—not only would this be an entire book, but it is way too different from company to company once you get into the details. My hope is simply that I’ve provided just enough of a foundation that you can skip the first two or three steps of research in every topic and get to the right answer for your own business much faster.
So, Where Do You Go from Here?
First, I recommend mapping out all these topics on a whiteboard and writing down a list of questions you feel need to be solved for your business related to that topic. Each topic should easily generate five to ten questions on their own, but they will vary based off of your stage and industry. These questions will serve as the guardrails for future research.
Next, talk to your customers. People do sometimes regret listening to their customers on specific points, but I know of very few people who felt like they spent too much time on this. It is the bedrock from which all future decisions flow. As soon as you’re done with the mapping exercise, schedule ten customer interviews.
Don’t forget to talk to others about your business too—entrepreneurs, mentors, or other friends whose opinion you trust. One of the most challenging things about being a startup CEO is that you have no less than ten completely disconnected but equally important problems swirling around in your head at any given time, and it’s important to get them out. By doing so, you can look at them from other angles, grapple with them, and typically come to more concrete conclusions than letting them get lost in the chaos of your internal monologue. Sometimes it just helps to vent. :)
To finish the course, I leave you with some closing advice:
1. The best piece of advice I ever got about starting up came from my dad when I was about twelve years old: “Assume that everyone on earth is unreliable and full of crap until proven otherwise. Except for me and your mother.”
2. It’s hard to be a truly impactful CEO working 40 hours per week, but don’t fall into the trap of believing you need to work all night, on weekends, and through holidays (it usually is less productive over time). Try to have at least one day per week that is totally sacred. Don’t work from bed unless you’re sick. And sleep more! You’re almost definitely not sleeping enough.
3. Just like you can accrue technical debt, you can also accrue “entrepreneurial debt” — where you mess up the culture, investors, or product strategy by taking shortcuts for immediate needs. Just like technical debt, it’s really hard to reverse, and not fixing it has compounding, non-linear effects.
4. Be well read, well rounded, well travelled, and, well, interesting! Your job as CEO is inspiring others, and the more you know about people, places, and things, the easier it is to make real, deep connections.
5. The most important story of them all — more important than any of the ones mentioned above — is the story the founders tell themselves about why their company needs to exist. This story very rarely changes or loses conviction. But when it begins to waver, there is very little that can be done to get it back.
Lastly, this isn’t the end of our relationship! As discussed earlier, asking for help is an important part of being an entrepreneur. You’re absolutely encouraged to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with occasional questions, requests for advice, or to simply say hello.
Best of luck with your future ventures, and one last time:
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