When we first start our companies, many of us get a dose of what I like to call “startup euphoria.” We recruit everybody we can and after we raise funds, we spend it on things we never even thought about before. Our lives become filled with meetings. Pretty soon our schedules become packed. Our product finally launches and we must spread ourselves even thinner. After a while we burn out, and our company dies the slow death.
This is such a common occurrence in the early days of a founder’s life. While the beginning of starting a new venture is tough, many of us make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. This is mostly caused by us saying yes to everything, instead of no.
If you take a long hard look at successful entrepreneurs, you’ll see that they are both disciplined and focused. Evidence in that is seen in how many opportunities they turn down so they can put 100 percent into their companies.
Below are three cases where you should say no instead of yes:
1. Hiring too early
A common problem with entrepreneurs is spending way too much money too fast. Today, there’s an ability to get a seed round of funding with relative ease. But when founders raise money easily early on, they start taking it for granted.
The first pitfall comes when they hire people before they need them, as they think by doing so their startup can now be deemed a real company. They think they must have employees and that somehow validates they have a successful business. In reality, you should push as long as you can before hiring anyone else. Hiring people is expensive, not to mention the risk of them not fitting in with your culture can be devastating. This is a perfect instance where you want to say no until it really hurts not having someone to help you.
2. Taking meetings
The most precious resource you have is your time. As you start building your business, you’ll notice that everyone wants to try and use up the precious 24 hours that you have in a day. Your team will ask you to have meetings that run two to three hours, not to mention other entrepreneurs who want to get together. Don’t be mistaken, there’s definitely a time and place to grab drinks with fellow founders and go over war stories about your companies. But you need to limit the time waster meetings that kill your productivity.
Every day you should have a list of tasks that need to be completed. When people ask to meet with you, refer to that list as a guide. Ask yourself if by taking that meeting, will it cause you not to get a task done. If the answer is yes, you’ve got to say no or risk becoming unproductive and inefficient.
3. Starting new ventures or strategies
It’s surprising how many entrepreneurs I’ve met with who are starting three or four companies at the same time. To make matters worse, they all seem to be first-time entrepreneurs. What happens is because they can’t focus on one idea for too long, none of their businesses end up panning out. Also, when you are invested in too many things, it comes easier to let one go. Great entrepreneurs dig deep when things get hard, because they’re all in. Having a safety net of other businesses makes it hard for you to stay when things get tough.
Also, entrepreneurs tend to execute on too many strategies at once. An example is when founders start putting money into projects for their company that aren’t important, like spending money on PR when they are still in the founding stage. Getting into a major press outlet before you find product-market fit does you no good. So, don’t try building everything at once. Start with what you need to do to get to the next company milestone and say no to everything else.