Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham recently penned an in-depth essay titled “Do things that don’t scale” explaining why it’s important for entrepreneurs to do some “unscalably laborious” activities – such as recruiting users, focusing on narrow markets or being attentive to customer feedback – in order to get the company off the ground.
The post provided a snapshot of the many facets of a business that founders have to consider and take on when starting out. Whether you’ve just begun your entrepreneurial journey or are deep in the trenches of scaling your business, we’ve gathered ten must-read quotes from visionaries – spanning Steve Jobs to Sheryl Sandberg – to help you lead a successful startup…
1) Don’t just follow your passion, find convergence
Who said it? American entrepreneur and author of NYT bestseller The $100 Startup Chris Guillebeau has travelled to 193 countries – aka every country in the world – without ever holding a “real job”. Instead, he’s pursued meaningful self-employment in various forms, including importing coffee from Jamaica to blogging.
As we’ll examine it, convergence represents the intersection between something you especially like to do or are good at doing (preferably both), and what other people are also interested in. The easiest way to understand convergence is: the overlapping space between what you care about and what other people are willing to spend money on.
2) Work with anticipation, not anxiety
Who said it? One of the most oft-quoted people in the creative/entrepreneurship/marketing spheres, Seth Godin recently reached the milestone of 5000 posts on his hugely popular site, Seth’s Blog. Entrepreneurs are often under a lot of stress over their work, so how to deal? Godin has a couple of words of wisdom…
Excerpt from “Anticipation vs. Anxiety“:
When you work with anticipation, you will highlight the highs. You’ll double down on the things that will delight and push yourself even harder to be bold and to create your version of art. If this is going to work, might as well build something that’s going to be truly worth building.
If you work with anxiety, on the other hand, you’ll be covering the possible lost bets, you’ll be insuring against disaster and most of all, building deniability into everything you do.
3) Go beyond marketing, start “humanising”
Who said it? Umair Haque is an author, economist, Havard Business Review contributor and Group Director at Havas Media Labs. He’s avidly outspoken – especially on Twitter – about the problems plaguing our economy, building disruptive businesses, and mastering the art of living meaningfully well.
Excerpt from “The Shape of the Meaning Organisation“:
In the Meaning Organisation, the nerve center wouldn’t be marketing — but what you might call humanising… Marketing’s role has become simply to find slightly cleverer ways to convince “consumers” to buy more, more, more of the industrial age’s rapidly depreciating, mass-produced, joyless, drab clutter. By contrast, “humanising” is about helping people stop mutely, rotely (over)consuming, and start enjoying, improving, bettering; to help them maximise the authentic, long-run value they realise from a product or service.
4) Share your vision using “enchantment”
Who said it? Silicon Valley author and investor Guy Kawasaki was one of the first Apple employees, alongside Steve Jobs, responsible for marketing the Macintosh in 1984. Since then, he’s cofounded Garage Technology Ventures and written a dozen books, including Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.
Excerpt from an interview with website 99u:
The pillars of enchantment are likeability, trustworthiness, and greatness. Greatness refers to the quality of your product, service, idea – in other words, your cause. You can’t assume that people know how great your cause is. You need to share knowledge about it to help people understand it. The world doesn’t beat a path to your door even if you created a better mousetrap. The goal of enchantment is deep, long-lasting, and delightful engagement.
5) Think big, hire big
Who said it? Named one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People in 2012 by Time and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg is currently COO of Facebook. Prior to that, Sandberg was the VP of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, so she knows a thing or two about growing a business…
Excerpt from an interview with CNNMoney:
When you have a big vision, something that’s really big that can change the world – that’s the type of thing that excites and motivates people because they believe in what you’re trying to do. So hire big. By big, I don’t mean famous – I mean ahead of where you are. Overhire – hire people that are going to be more qualified, have more experience or hire people that are right out of school but who can overachieve in their current roles. I don’t think it’s the number of years in the workforce that matters, I think it’s hiring the people that you’re going to need then, NOW – because then happens so quickly.
6) To keep top talent, your company has to be run by ideas
Who said it? Tech and design deity Steve Jobs once compared Apple’s organisational structure to that of a startup’s. “We’re the biggest startup on the planet,” he said. So, what’s the key to managing and retaining sought-after talent in a company? Teamwork, trust and…
Excerpt from an interview with AllThingsD:
If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions. You have to be run by ideas – not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win otherwise good people don’t stay.
7) Maintain clear communication
Who said it? Jack Dorsey is best known as cofounder of Twitter and CEO of mobile payments company Square. Already, at the age of 36, he is estimated to have a net worth of $1.1bn. Having created Twitter, Dorsey sees communication as a key component in building a startup…
Excerpt from an interview with The Washington Post:
If you have two departments that are not talking, if you have two people who just can’t get along, that friction will manifest in the product itself, and your customers will see that friction. You are putting your company’s issues before your customers, which is just rude and selfish.
We make sure we design and engineer the company and the organisation as much as we do the product and the service we have built.
8) Find your rhythm and avoid burnout
Who said it? Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo, is one of the most successful business people in the tech world. Previously, she was an executive and key spokesperson for Google. “Work-life balance” is an idea that many new entrepreneurs struggle with, but fear not, because Mayer has some interesting things to say about the topic…
Excerpt from an interview with Bloomberg:
I don’t really believe in balance, but I do believe in finding your rhythm. I don’t think it has do with three square meals a day, time at night at home or eight hours of sleep – I think it has do with resentment. Because what I think fuels burnout is this notion that, “Wait, I sacrificed this thing and it honestly meant too much to me”. I think you can work arbitrarily hard for long periods of time but you need to know yourself well enough that you can avoid resentment and burnout.
9) Do things that don’t scale
Who said it? Renowned investor, programmer and writer Paul Graham cofounded seed accelerator programme Y Combinator in 2005. Before that, he started the first software-as-a-service company Viaweb, which was acquired by Yahoo in 1988. He also frequently publishes essays online about entrepreneurship.
Excerpt from “Do things that don’t scale”:
A lot of would-be founders believe that startups either take off or don’t. You build something, make it available, and if you’ve made a better mousetrap, people beat a path to your door as promised. Or they don’t, in which case the market must not exist. Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going.
It’s not enough just to do something extraordinary initially. You have to make an extraordinary effort initially. Any strategy that omits the effort – whether it’s expecting a big launch to get you users, or a big partner – is ipso facto suspect.
10) Be self-aware
Who said it? Richard Branson, the British business tycoon behind The Virgin Group, founded his first business venture at the ripe age of 16. Since then, he’s built eight separate billion-dollar companies across eight industries. He’s also the author of Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You in Business School.
From an interview with Entrepreneur:
I’ve found that knowing your business and yourself can also help you to know when to follow your instincts, so you can find the courage to move ahead and ignore the advice of naysayers.
Featured image – flickr user technotheory
Chris Guillebeau – flickr user jenlemen
Umair Haque – flickr user psd
Seth Godin – flickr user Joi
Sheryl Sandberg – flickr user celanr
Guy Kawasaki – flickr user Robert Scoble
Marissa Mayer – flickr user Georgi Monsertino
Steve Jobs – flickr user James Mitchell
Paul Graham – flickr user Robert Scoble
Jack Dorsey – flickr user david_shankbone
Richard Branson – flickr user Edgar Neo
For related posts, check out:
Fake it ‘til you make it – 10 of the most dangerous pieces of startup advice
Will you really be proud of having your inbox at zero? 10 tips for entrepreneurs to put the “life” back into their work-life balance
The top 10 startup founder blogs every entrepreneur should follow