StartUp Operations

Startup Checklist:

1.    Have clear goals

2.    Identify and don’t tolerate problems

3.    Diagnose and get at root causes

4.    Design plans to get around them

5.    Push through to results

Building a Team

While 1+1 = 3, it is also true that 3 - 5 = 20X. Getting the right people in the rights roles is the key to succeeding. Complement strengths and compensate for weakness and give them the best technology. Make finding the right people systematic and scientific. Think through which values, abilities, and skills you are looking for. Look for people who have lots of great questions and have previously demonstrated themselves to be extraordinary in some way. Great collaboration feels like playing music together. Find people whom you are compatible with but who will also challenge you.  

Build your organization from the top down. An organization is the opposite of a building. Its foundation is at the top, so make sure you hire managers before their reports. Create an organizational chart that looks like a pyramid, with straight lines down that do not cross. Everyone should be overseen by a believable person with high standards. Make sure everyone has someone they report to. Spend the time and energy to get in sync with your team. This is worthwhile investment.

Culture

Create a culture where it is ok to make mistakes but unacceptable not to learn from them. Team spirit is essential, including tolerance of substandard performance. Strive to be excellent, radically open minded and constantly embrace reality. Study what happened to other companies that went through similar efforts. This will allow you to better prepare to face a similar situation in the future, potentially avoiding it altogether. Use double do vs. double check to ensure accuracy for mission critical tasks. Double checking has a much higher rate of errors that double-doing. Hold yourself and your team accountable and appreciate them for holding you accountable. If you’ve agreed with someone that something is supposed to go in a certain way, make sure it does unless you get in sync about doing it differently beforehand.

Establishing metrics:

Aim to have metrics that cascade from company leadership with responsibility at the company level, down through the departments, to the teams within them and finally down to the responsible party for each role. Great metrics come about by first thinking of what information you need to answer your pressing questions and then figuring out how to get it. They do not come about by gathering information and putting it together to see what it tells you.

1.    Know what goal you are trying to achieve

2.    Understand the processes for getting to the goal

3.    Identify the key parts in the process that are the best places to measure

4.    Explore how to create levers, tied to those key metrics

Dealing with Problems:

When problems arise, first, look to understand what caused the suboptimal result. Identify who is responsible for the outcome and look to understand whether the outcome was a result of an incapable team member or was their an issue with the process design or communication was bad. Be very specific about problems at hand.

Acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes. The main difference is that successful people learn from them and unsuccessful people don’t. Observe the patterns of mistakes. Distinguish between a failure in which someone broke their contract vs. a failure in which there was no contract to begin with. If you didn’t make an expectation clear, you can’t hold people accountable for it not being fulfilled. 

Pushing through to Results

While it might be more glamorous to come up with the brilliant strategy, most of the success comes from delivering on execution, like identifying and dealing with problems, and pushing hard over a long period of time. The greatest success you can have as a person in charge is to orchestrate others to do things well without you. A step below that is doing things well yourself. There are typically many paths to achieve your goal. You only need to find one that works. If you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want but not everything you want.

Brendan Daly