“There isn’t enough time.”
“This event was off the charts”
Gary Vaynerchuk was so impressed with TNW Conference 2016 he paused mid-talk to applaud us.
It’s a common complaint. A familiar refrain reverberating through the startup world, picking up volume as it swells to a more-or-less deafening roar in Silicon Valley.
It’s “go, go, go” in startup land. And whether you’re just beginning to bootstrap or hustling to get funded, your time is your most valuable asset.
Still, the thrifty culture and informal atmosphere keeps many founders and CEOs locked in DIY day in and day out. But if you’re wasting hours each morning poring over numbers, sifting through resumes, or picking out picture frames, you’re doing yourself – and your burgeoning company – a disservice.
So surrender all but the tasks that you alone can do. Bite the bullet, shush your inner control freak, and hire out the following duties. Your to-do list will thank you, and so will your bottom line.
Office hunt and decoration
As Andreessen Horowitz warns, beware the “Edifice Complex”; don’t depend too much on your workspace to represent your success. Once you’ve toned down your ambitions of office space glory and are thinking pragmatically about your young company’s needs, you’re halfway there. But it’s not over yet!
Finding any type of space to rent can be a huge headache, especially for CEOs who may never have conducted such a search before. Instead of learning the real estate ropes yourself, bring in a professional who can lend expertise and find a spot to fit your parameters in a fraction of the time.
Before you move in, give the interior designer within you one short shot at a decorative vision. Want one blue wall to make the space feel serene? Plants because green is good for the soul? Get it all out – the metaphors and the practical must-haves, both.
Then – and this is important – type it up and send it off to a contractor with office space experience and an eye for design. Deliver your instructions, let the pros do their thing, and never think of it again.
75 percent of HR
Maybe you saw this one coming — the lecture on just how important good HR can be. But it’s not all about that, at least at first. The bigger issue for an early-stage startup is that onboarding talent and running the whole people part of your company is time-intensive and all over the skill set map.
So let’s start with what you should be involved in: talent and culture maintenance. Culture’s one of those nebulous ideals that looms large over the startup scene. You want it; your employees want it; everyone else wants to see it at work, underpinning everything that you do.
It’s overused, sure; like “pivot,” “disrupt,” or “space,” it’s diluted a little for each day it near-trends on Twitter. But don’t let its tag word status discourage you. Make sure each new recruit is an honest-to-goodness fit.
So CEOs, listen up. Your HR duties start and end with final-round interviews. Everything else – from posting jobs to signing contracts to managing payroll – should be left to an HR-suited app or an industry professional.
It’s possible – or maybe even a little probable – that you love to look at numbers. STEM fields-turned-founders and all that. Either way, you’re invested in your success and anxious about your finances. But that’s no reason to whittle away precious hours crunching dollar signs and spitting out cents.
In fact, spending time on financial anxieties or exhilarations brings along huge opportunity costs, especially for a skilled CEO, whose time is infinitely valuable to their startup’s success. If you’re tempted to tinker – or even if you aren’t – limit yourself to PNL check-ins. Your one big goal is growth, right? Feed it one big metric to match.
For all the rest, find yourself a good accountant or bookkeeper through Xero. Tell them of your self-imposed check-in limits, and keep yourself honest. It’s a matter of self control, focus, and time well spent.
OK, that header may be a bit harsh. The things you do to keep your household running smoothly are, in fact, all-important. You can’t have a productive work life if you don’t have a stable home life. But you can hire a little help to keep your domestic sphere ship shape and free up quite a bit more of your valuable time.
Two categories are at work here: household chores and outside obligations.
Household chores – like your basic cleaning, yard work, and organization – are a snap to hand off. And TaskRabbit makes your stranger requests – like assembling furniture or picking up dry cleaning – all the more manageable.
It’s outside obligations that you might think you can’t get out of. But the truth likely is that you don’t have time to help your grandma move or play handyman for your sister-in-law.
Sure, you should offer assistance from time to time, but when you’re feeling a time crunch try this tactic. Say, “Let me help you out. I know the perfect service for this, and they do such a great job. My co-workers swear by them. I’ll set it up, and you won’t have to do a thing.”
Then take 10 minutes and find the right person for the job. Pick up the tab too, provided it’s within reason. Use that windfall of time to take meetings, think strategy, and make strides.
Writing articles like this one
Chances are you’re an ideas person. You have a lot to say about your company, your community, and the world at large. And as a CEO it’s your prerogative – indeed, your responsibility — to be thought leader and public face of your company. But look, if you’re not a writer, you shouldn’t spend time wading through Word docs.
Instead, find yourself a content person – someone who breathes language and dreams words – to tease out the oomph in your opinions and advice. I’m lucky to work with Christy, PandaDoc’s Content Manager. She gives my ideas a beautiful shape and helps to save tremendous deal of time.
So tap your go-to writer – whoever that may be – and take a few minutes each week to sit down together. As you wrap up your check-in, hand off your full notepad and a few to-do items. Get your name out there and your ideas spun right, reclaiming hours per week all the while.
Read next: Get more done: How to delegate effectively