As a founder, you probably hear more often than you care to that there is no substitute for effort while building a startup. Effort, generally, is going to equate with time (which, as known by everyone who has ever been successful, is augmented, not replaced, by working smart, as we discuss in The Startup Playbook). This is why the effort required to build a successful startup leads to one of the biggest founder sacrifices – time. There’s never enough of it and you’re going to have to allocate it wisely. You’ll need to put many hours into the business to make it a success. Some of this will happen during every business day, but even businesses that are open from 9 to 5 each business day and closed on holidays will require after-hours time. In the end though, some part of your life or business isn’t going to get what it needs. It will take its toll.
You’ll need to make sure that the books are done, equipment is purchased and functional, and you’ll spend time networking for customers and partners or talking to mentors / business advisors. Not all of that will happen during the business day. It may happen after hours or it may very well happen on the weekends. And, if something goes wrong, the amount of time you’ll need to spend on the business will increase. Don’t set yourself up to be disappointed – expect that it will all take a tremendous amount of time.
And to think that the time requirements of the startup won’t bleed over into your personal life is naive. No matter what you do, there are only 24 hours in a day. At first, you’ll try to just sacrifice sleep, but it won’t be enough, Successful entrepreneurs learn how to balance the needs of the various parts of their lives over time, but no one formula is going to work at all times or work for more than one person.
Every person is different in how they want to manage their time, but whatever your path, figure out how to optimize it. Remember that companies are a long term play and you’ll want to pace yourself for the journey (you’ve probably heard that startups a marathon not a sprint). Of course, you’ll want to work incredibly hard to make sure that your business is a success, but also not burn yourself out.
Some things to think about when you are working to help you optimize your time:
- Prioritize your tasks – make sure that you are working on the most important items that are going to move your business forward the fastest.
- Focus – avoid multi-tasking. Get one thing done at a time and get all of your energy focused on that one task. And, then move to the next one.
- Delegate when you can – if there are others on your team that can do the work, you need to get them to do it. You’ll want to learn how to delegate as many tasks as you can and learn how to manage them. Over time, this is the way that you will scale yourself and the team.
Founders are often consumed by competitors, but in fact the most important competitor that startups face is time. Use your time as well as you possibly can.
If you would like to learn more about the sacrifices that founders make, check out our post on the financial sacrifices founders make and read all about them in our book, The Startup Playbook, where we discuss the topic in detail.