Get quick and easy wins. Your startup needs them.

“I worked 60 hours this week”, bragged an entrepreneur. With a wry smile his friend replied, “Well I worked 80”, as he let the word eighty hang in the air as a badge of honor I began to wonder about their teams. If you’ve ever been to a startup convention, you’ve seen this happen repeatedly.

There is nothing wrong with obsessing over your startup (in fact, if you’re not slightly obsessed, you’re probably doing it wrong), but there is danger in obsessing over the wrong things and ostracizing your team.

A founder can often work long hours because they see the big picture. At a high cognitive level, they should see the steps necessary for success. Employees can have a tougher time seeing that far so give them (significant) milestones to obsess over. This helps you to shorten the playing field for them. You’re their quarterback and you’re making the calls, it’s your job to help your team succeed. When milestones are reached you should celebrate together, after all, you are a team.

As milestone after milestone is met, you’re pushing your team closer and closer to realizing the big picture. It’s easier to sustain momentum then start from scratch. It’s the same way your car will use less gas maintaining 60mph then having to go from 0-60 repeatedly. This is just a natural law.

How have you helped your team keep momentum going strong?

P.S. Go Packers.

  • I really like this post, Paul. As an entrepreneur, but also one who works on a team, I can’t agree more the importance of milestones being reached as opposed to the CEO “working long hours”. It’s like football. You want to keep moving the chains and getting 1st downs. It helps the momentum of the team overall and helps the team realize the milestones they are making. As they move down the field, they come closer and closer to the touchdown.

    GO PACK!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Andrew. Very fitting football simile you snuck in there.

  • Quick and easy wins are important for a number of reasons, not just team morale. For a startup, the quick and easy victories are also very beneficial when looking for funding. Having a list of wins the team has already accomplished can be a make-or-break for an angel or VC. It helps answer the all important questions of: can you deliver on what you’re promising.

    Also, it’s important to realize that there are two different types of successes. First, there are the victories you have total control over such as shipping a product or opening a new location. Secondly, there are the victories that require a certain outcome from the outside world, like raising capital or getting a certain number of customers. A combination of these two types of victories are important. If you have both, it shows that you can execute your plans, but also that there is a market for what you’re trying to provide.

    From a morale point of view, the second type of victory is invaluable. It shows that people outside the team value what the team is doing. While it’s often the case that these types of wins are seen in the big picture context, and therefore not always filtered down to the team as a whole, it’s important to communicate the big-picture victories even if the big-picture isn’t seen by everyone.