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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Staying aware of what matters

In a perfect world, the core organizational processes of a startup move harmoniously. Reality is rarely so neat. As diverse initiatives fight for limited resources, every decision an entrepreneur makes is a trade off. Spend the afternoon de-bugging existing code or calling new clients? Seek out a technical co-founder or get your deck in front of more investors?

In particular, early stage ventures face dynamic, uncertain, and interrelated decisions. New obstacles and opportunities surface all the time from every direction. Entrepreneurs must be prepared to change course at the drop of a hat just to survive. To stay on top, their pace of evaluation and realignment must be equally rapid. And thus, many businesses fail when infrequent or myopic evaluation prevents founders from staying aware of what matters. Successful entrepreneurs focus, spending days or weeks on productization or commercialization or capitalization, but they always stay attuned to the other pillars, ready to change gears as soon as larger risks or bigger opportunities appear on the horizon. As one small time entrepreneur turned CEO of a billion dollar publically traded company puts it: "Entrepreneurship is a vaudeville act, like spinning plates on sticks. The real secret is to know which plate is slowing down so you can put all your effort into speeding it back up.”
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