𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗩𝗮𝗹𝘂𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗦𝘂𝗯𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻
Updated: May 27
Most founders equate progress with adding revenues, employees, and customers.
That mindset flows into a pressure to increase our activities, OKRs, projects, meetings, etc.
I often find myself telling ambitious founders to do less in order to move faster.
"Simplicity boils down to two steps:
identify the essential, eliminate the rest."
– Leo Babauta
Rather than spreading attention and resources too widely, focus to impact revenues, employees, and customers. Let's explore this further.
Revenues. Startups spending faster than their earnings may find trouble raising more capital, especially in the current environment.
More importantly, reaching profitability increases cash flow which then gives founders more options involving less dilution.
Employees. In my first startup ride, we grew like crazy for three years until being acquired by First Data Corporation.
Every person hired was impressive. The amazing recruiter used research, standardized tests, and role-specific exercises to predict impact.
The outsized contribution of one eager employee is so much more valuable than several employees waiting for commands.
Customers. Some startups pour a ton of money into customer acquisition, before confirming product-market fit, only to hemorrhage them soon after.
Some startups take any client before clarifying their ideal fit, then spend time and effort on distracting clients which prevent their growth.*
Additional Ways to Subtract
Offerings. You may be tempted the sell more options, but this is self-harming if the offerings are weaker because you are spread too thin.
Instead, start with one incredible product or service and keep asking what users want next.
OKRs. You may think that 6 OKRs are better than 3. Given resource and time constraints, however, your progress will be limited on all of them.
It’s better to accomplish 3 OKRs in a quarter than to keep discussing 6 OKRs for a year.
Projects. There are so many exciting ideas which we want to convert to projects. However, at some point too many projects = fewer results.
When you have a new project, commit to starting only when another project is completed or sidelined. Also, consider delegation if possible.
Meetings. They may be necessary sometimes, but we often use them for accountability and info-sharing which could be done asynchronously.**
Review all your meetings quarterly, remove any ones where you are not adding or receiving significant value, add only new ones after you subtract existing ones.
With messages, have the subject line cover exactly what you want.
Create a Stop Doing list. Like the To Do list, build a plan to subtract projects, tasks, and events based on your priorities.
Link this post in your calendar to appear monthly or quarterly. Decide on three ways to subtract before the next reminder.
Key Takeaway: Recognize the huge pressure of adding and appreciate how subtraction can help you to do more by doing less.
Photo by Etienne Girardet who can be found here
This post was inspired by the Hidden Brain podcast Do Less
* To learn more, read To Move Forward, You May Need to Fire a Client
** To learn more, check out Meetings - A Struggle
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