Want To Take Care Of Business? Stop Multi-Tasking
“I've heard a lot of different theories about how things get done. I'm interested in this topic, so I pay attention and see how the theories hold up. Here's the best one: a combination of focus and personal connections. Charlie Rose said this to Paul Graham, who told it to me.”
With that, Y Combinator partner Sam Altman started off his blog on “How To Get Things Done.” It's a straightforward concept and yet, at the same time, seems hard for some people to grasp — especially new entrepreneurs who often have a lot of tasks on their plates. For those types, Altman says the key to taking care of business relies on self-control.
“Most early-stage startup founders do a bad job of getting the company to focus on just two or three critical priorities—they chase whatever shiny new object appears that day,” Altman said on his personal site. “This is somewhat expected—the sort of people that start companies generally like doing new things, not executing relentlessly on the same things. But restraint is critical.”
Y Combinator is the start up accelerator that has helped over 500 companies develop their businesses. There are big players in the tech industry, something Altman should know about as someone who started a company as a sophomore at Stanford University that eventually raised $30 million in investments. He was building a company then, but now he's simply providing advice on how to do so.
“For whatever reasons, many founders love to spend time on anything else—worrying about the details of corporate structures, interviewing lawyers, doing a really good job bookkeeping, etc. All of this pretending-to-run-a-company gets in the way of actually running a company.”
For the trigger happy, “can't keep their hands off of new projects” type of entrepreneurs, Altman says the best thing that can be done is working on improving their business, products and relationships with the people they are serving, whether it be customers, members or users.
“The best startups we fund come to office hours to talk about their product, how to evolve it, how to grow faster, and excited to show us new features their users want. The worst come to talk—again and again—about everything else.”
Furthermore, it's no surprise that, like 31-year old CEO Derrydean Dadzie, Altman emphasizes the role of relationships in bolstering a successful business.
“The best hires I've made or seen other companies make are usually friends or friends of friends,” Atlman says. “Partnerships and sales also rely heavily on personal relationships, for many of the same reasons. It's easy to not spend enough time on personal relationships—it seems in conflict with focus. But it's an important exception. It's also one of the most enjoyable parts of work.”
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