Distractions are everywhere. As above in life, so below in startups. As a startup founder or owner of a fledgling business, a key challenge you will almost certainly face in developing your company is the ability to steer clear of startup distractions; and finding the time to handle all of the really important tasks and responsibilities you need to take care of.
It’s true that a lot of contemporary entrepreneurs can tend to “waste” their time – and money – on insignificant distractions. The result is that you end up neglecting the things that really matter, such as product development.
So, how do you master the art of avoiding startup distractions and staying laser-focused on what matters to the future success of your venture?
Simple, really. All you need to do is take a step back, recognize those things that are actually the distractions , and deprioritize them. You know the ones; those tasks that are not blockers to your growth.
Of course nothing is ever as simple as it sounds. But here’s a few words of wisdom from our side to help.
What are some common startup distractions?
Irrespective of size or industry, every startup out there has to deal with distractions. That is a given. The key, as mentioned above, is to identify them, and then vaporize them BEFORE they turn into debilitating problems. The kinds of problems that threaten your growth and the integrity of your startup.
It may be hard to believe, but these distractions that can lead startups down blind alleys are typically common across the board. What I mean by that is that they don’t seem to distinguish between industries or size in general. Whether you’re in tech, ecommerce, healthcare, or retail, for example, the distractions can be expensive and steer you to failure.
Here are the top six distractions we’ve picked out:
1. Creating the perfect logo and website
Instead of focusing on getting your product or MVP out into the market and testing it with early adopters and getting feedback, it’s tempting to say “we’re not ready for that yet” and want to have your branding and website all done and dusted. This is a classic example of a distraction that can stop a startup from focusing on what’s important. Like what? I hear you ask. Product development, for one!
2. Pandering to fussy or needy early clients
As a fledgling startup, in the beginning it’s tempting to operate with a mentality which says that you have to do everything you can to please your initial clients, or early adopters; pandering to them like a butler and trying to fix and solve all of their individual problems.
Now, it’s one thing getting some useful feedback, and it’s entirely another to be letting such needy, or pushy clients be in charge of your product development roadmap. You may waste hours, weeks and even months by doing this. So, make sure you devote the right level of effort into pleasing your existing clients. Because your ability to scale up will not depend on them. It will of course depend on your ability to reel in new clients.
3. When networking becomes not working
As far as startup distractions go, this one is something we feel particularly passionate about. So much so, in fact, that we wrote a whole blog post about it. Anyway, in short, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Many startup founders and their team members . Don’t get us wrong, we love attending high-quality events focused on startups and building a successful business. In fact #ScaleupGreece is our very own initiative related to that topic. The point is to ensure that you manage your time in a way that you only attend the events you really need to; and don’t get sucked in to the FOMO (fear of missing out). Because a failure to do so means will lead to a lack of focus, having less time to work on what really matters; and spending money without any tangible ROI.
4. Meetings that should have been emails (or slack chats)
The famous phrase was created for a reason. It’s true! And especially in the case of startup distractions. A lot of founders and startups get caught in the trap of having meetings for EVERYTHING. From sales meetings, and investor meetings to daily standups, marketing meetings, and product meetings, it’s easy for a whole day to simply disappear. Yes, some of these meetings have value; but by and large, most of them do little besides distract you and your team from getting things done. And so, planning your time for greater productivity is of paramount importance; while you should always think twice before planning a meeting.
5. All things shining
The world of technology media can be extremely exciting. But if not kept in check, the tech media machine can be a top distraction for startups. You need to stay in touch with the latest developments. But, for many business owners and startup founders it becomes an obsession. The tech community news and social media platforms are constantly overflowing with new shiny things. Like new software development methodologies, new agile-scrum ways of working, the latest new tech stack, cloud service, API, or marketing channel. The list goes on. Make sure you and your leading engineers are not sucked into this vacuum.
6. Worrying about problems that you don’t have
As Baz Lurhman’s famous song ‘Sunscreen’ is at pains to point out:
worrying is about as useful as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.
Unfortunately, by default, the majority of startup founders spend a lot of time worrying about things that have not happened (and may never happen) yet. It’s one thing to have one eye on the future and trying to think a few steps ahead. However, if you overdo this then you are at risk of messing up your priorities and focusing on things that are not an essential part of your now.
Some final thoughts
What about startup distractions that are more internal. Like trying to develop your product while at the same time trying to scale up? This is a classic case of a distraction; one that stems from your internal dynamics of trying to scale up while developing your product at the same time. It can cause great frustration to your team members for different reasons. For example, your software engineers may be pushing to delay marketing launches and activities; all because of the fact that they may want to work on adding a particular feature.
This is where the leadership skills of the founder or startup CEO come into play. Whoever is leading the company needs to take the bull by the horns and decide what the main priority for the business is, at that point. Obviously some product features are going to be more important than others. But, any feature that is not considered “critical” to the success of the product can often be left out of MVP’s; or even “final” products.
Dedication is the key here. From all team members. In this respect, to avoid distractions and make the “right” decisions, young startups need to have a noise-free environment. That is, so they can focus on the right things and the right time.