I was listening to an interview between Seth Godin and Tim Ferris. In the interview Seth classified the difference between freelancing and entrepreneurship. In a rough rewording, it came down to leverage. Freelancing is all about swapping your time for money. Entrepreneurship is about finding a need and filling it with a resource that isn’t you. That might be a new person, a new process or some new piece of technology. The key factor is that an hour of your time creates the output of more than one hour of work. This is another one of those things that’s ‘so obvious that it’s easy to ignore’. Things in this category tend to be hard to give clear direction on. There is no step by step to success. There are, plenty of ways to screw it up. This is about one of those ways that hits me in the face.
For me, the hardest part of finding leverage is how exciting it is to be in the trenches. Most times you got into whatever you are doing is that there was a hard valuable problem you felt needed fixing. True enough for me at least. The curse of being a technical founder is that solving that problem by building things is fun. You need to bury that desire for the benefit of the bigger picture. Learning this is one of the harder transitions I’ve had to go through.
In the theme of simple obvious things, there are several things that have helped me with this. One is transparent accountability. Every day, across the company I write down in public what my plans are. The people I work with know I shouldn’t be bug fixing unless it’s dire. Most of the benefit here is not from people calling me out. It’s knowing I need to put it on the wall. Another thing that helps is finding time to step back. It’s hard to find leverage if you are focused on the microscopic details. Make time by booking a slot in your calendar for looking at the bigger picture. The hard thing here is treating a meeting with you like you would a meeting with someone else. Don’t be late, give it your full attention and keep a good list of action items and follow up. Make it a mantra. Every day, ask what is the most important leverage you can generate. High Output Management taught me that leverage is key. Plan your day around that question, be brutally honest with yourself and you’ll be okay.