In Tuesday’s workshop at Launch Pad our Founders shared their experiences across the good, the bad and the ugly. That is, the wins they had achieved, the challenges they were facing, and the showstoppers that if not addressed would cause the lights to be switched off on this current adventure.
A single theme became apparent connecting all lines of discussion: how to practically manage working in the abstract.
Some of our SydWest Accelerator members are seasoned professionals. With this wealth of experience behind them, they had a lightbulb moment: they saw a problem that they could solve through a startup. They had the humility and wherewithal to seek the support of an accelerator program to increase their chance of success. In the session, they expressed the challenge of moving from “being a cog in a large corporate machine” where the allocation of work is either done for them or obvious due to their experience, to a feeling of having vast amounts of free time but not being entirely sure how to use it.
At the other end of the experience continuum, we have student entrepreneurs, who are balancing their studies and in some cases part-time work, with trying to launch a startup.
The thread connecting both groups and all of the Founders in between is “how do I structure my time in this area where I feel I am an absolute beginner?”.
In the workshop, Founders shared some of their successes, and it was great to see the camaraderie develop as they encouraged one another. Yet much like an elite athlete who is so focused on their end goal, that achieving a personal best along the way secures little more than a smile, a talking point was “I need to be better at pausing to recognise and celebrate the wins I have along the way.”
There was strong agreement that celebrating victories wasn’t happening enough. “I must do better at this – stopping to enjoy the moment.”
The commonality in the challenge of how best to use one’s time to progress a startup and how to ensure one pauses to mark key successes, is the need for practical steps to make both happen. As one Founder shared, the biggest daily challenge is “working in the abstract” on something that hasn’t been done before and knowing that they themselves must train to become the guide along that journey.
Scheduling may be the key.
Everyone works differently, but for me, if it is scheduled in my diary, it gets done. Some of the best relationship advice I have been given translates to startup success. From blocking time for “date night”, to looking ahead at a demanding period of work and ensuring some quality time is set aside for loved ones and family at the end of it. These practical steps get us from where we are now, to the place we aspire to for the relationships.
So being clear on what the business is aiming at and why, and then working back to now, sets the course. Then, plotting the milestones to keep the adventure on track, and scheduling times for reflection. If it all goes well, reflection will no doubt combine with celebration. If it doesn’t, the time has been set aside to critically assess how and why this happened, and what to do next. Interestingly, scheduling quality time for relationships is not just a principle that can be borrowed for startup success, but the two undoubtedly go hand in hand. For many Founders, the people they speak to most about their concept or company are their families. There is a great opportunity to ensure they are supported in their endeavour, but not in a way that is at the expense of these important relationships: “Sorry I can’t join you guys tonight, Mum had great news this week with her startup so we are going out for dinner together.”
This structure keeps the emphasis on creating the conditions for success, rather than chasing success itself. From philosopher Victor Frankl to NFL coach Bill Walsh, we know this is how winners win. Simple, practical, daily steps in how we manage our time help us to share and celebrate our wins, and keep us on track with a sense of progress and fulfilment.