Think like a start up

By: Terence Mauri

‘Fast learners win’. Eric Schmidt, Google

What does it take to launch a start up? Are you ready and focused to seize opportunities and move yourself forward quickly?

I wrote this blog to answer these questions and help you thrive as a startup not tomorrow, or next year but today. Read it, share it and use it for inspiring action in yourself and others. As Steve Jobs said, ‘we’re here to make a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here’.

As a coach and start up mentor, I’ve had privileged access to many boardrooms, meeting rooms and conferences around the world from London, Stockholm to Dubai and California. This has given me a unique insight into the hidden qualities of the startup mindset. These individuals, no matter what part of the world they are in display a passionate curiosity about the future and a desire to make things happen – fast. They have clear purpose and are highly adept at managing themselves, especially under pressure. They show bravery and are not afraid of failure or saying no. Most telling of all, they have a burning desire to grow as human beings and achieve full potential – in everyone. Here’s the surprising truth. It’s often easier to make something 10 times better than it is to make it 10 percent better.Google bosses Larry Page and Sergey Brin exemplify this by inspiring their team to look for ten-fold improvements – a technique they call ’10X thinking. Imagine the power of using ‘10X’ to multiply gains for your own start up.

We love startups

Let’s play a quick game. Why are the numbers 480, 168 and 960 significant? 480 is the number of minutes in an 8 hour day. Not much when you consider the avalanche of emails, meetings, interruptions and constant battle for attention. 168 is the number of hours in a week. According to one global survey by Accenture on productivity, over 80% of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘they often felt there weren’t enough minutes in the day to achieve everything’. In Japan, this chronically stressed and un-focused state is known as Karoshi – death at your desk from stress.  We are literally running as fast as we can and yet there is a missing link somewhere. Known as the ‘smart trap’, what we know is simply not translating into action. It’s time to start thinking like a startup.

This leads to the final number – 960 which is the number of months a healthy human being can hope to live for in some parts of the world. If you’re reading this article you’re probably one of them. Put another way, it’s about 80 years of age. Remember, we sleep for around 300 months.  Whilst I don’t wish to depress you, the bottom line is if we’re lucky we have around 700 months to make it happen. Have I got your attention? Good.

Building a startup is not easy. Like modern day explorers ascending K2 or reaching the North Pole, it demands what the Finish call ‘sisu’ – an amalgam of resilience, courage and fierce tenacity. It takes ‘sisu’ to stand at the door when a big angry bear is on the other side. That bear is your competition, a fear of failure or lack of focus on what really matters. I recently met the founder of a fledgling start-up who exemplified this ‘sisu’ spirit. He stated, ’I believe the ability to step up and deal with failure in a fast changing world is a must-have for realising your dreams and potential’.

Look around you. We’re living in exceptional times. Everyone must grapple with not just change but the speed of change. Whats App, the messenger service captures this super trend. Founded in 2008 by co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, it was recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion and yet only has 55 staff. To put that in perspective Sony has over 165000 staff and a market cap of $18bn. Airbnb, (Airbed and Breakfast) the online marketplace for spare rooms is another example of the velocity at which small becomes big. More than 10 million people have stayed in Airbnb homes since it launched in 2008 and it is already valued at over $1 billion – the type of growth entrepreneurs and VC’s drool over. In 2014, Airbnb is widely expected to overtake the InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide as the world’s largest hotel chain—without owning a single hotel.  For many, individuals and organizations alike we’re living in a perpetual state of beta. Take home message – you to learn faster, fail smarter and risk braver – and quickly.

Startup Founder

We live in a VUCA world. This stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It presents tremendous risk but also unprecedented opportunity for a new start up. I’ve identified 5 hacks or what I call ‘smart cuts’. These are practical actions to accelerate growth and give you the edge today.

  • Hack 1 – start with focus! It’s time to focus on focus. Remember – when you say yes to something you say no to something else. Decide what really matters then ring fence and put it to work. Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO says ‘I want to do one thing only and do it really well’. I recommend the ‘1-3-5’ system. Start with 1 which represents the single most important priority of the day. Only after completing 1 should you move to the next 3. These are the next most important priorities. Finally move the last 5. This simple tool can help you stayed focused on what really matters.
  • Hack 2 – Grow your posse! We are hard wired to connect. The world’s first Professor of networking at Cass Business School, Julia Hobshawm says ‘networking is a must-have skill to not just survive but thrive today’. Networks should be both broad and deep. They can give your start up access to ideas, opportunities, funding, support that otherwise you would not have access to. Find a mentor. Start up a learning circle. Attend a start-up conference. The key is to have plan for knowledge networking. Check out www.leanin.org
  • Hack 3 – Eat problems for breakfast. Steve jobs was a master at using the power of constraints to force new ways of thinking. It means seize limitations and then transcend them. Most of the magic happens just outside our comfort zone. This requires courage but also the ability to conquer fear and embrace failure as one half of success. Focus on possibilities not problems.
  • Hack 4 – Learn faster.  Read up. Build your own heroes network of people you admire in business and life. Success leaves clues. Check out a new TED talk (www.ted.com). Have a curiosity for new experiences and never stop learning. This hack is about cultivating a life-long commitment to learning. It will also help you anticipate what’s ahead on the curve that no one else has seen. Opportunity! www.getabstract.com is an excellent learning hub.
  • Hack 5 – Make it happen. Ultimately the distance between talk and results is action. Hack 5 is about speed and what I call a high ‘say do’ attitude. This means you turn talk into action – quickly. My formula for start-up success is simple. Decide what’s important, prioritise it, protect it and execute quickly.

To sum up, thinking like a start-up is the number one hidden driver of success. In the age of digital distractions, it’s all too easy to lose focus.

Are you ready to start up?

Author

Terence Mauri (@terencemauri) is a coach and start up mentor working with ambitious leaders around the world. A regular speaker at conferences he’s built a fledgling community of over 55,000 followers on Twitter to date. On November 14th, he’ll be speaking at ‘Hacking Happiness’, a London based conference on Human Potential, Performance and Wellbeing (www.hackinghappiness.com). You can also catch him on November 10th for his webinar Step Up: How to lead yourself and inspire others (sa.am/talks/step-up-how-to-lead-yourself-and-inspire-others).

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