What elements are required to develop a thriving company? That’s the question Scott Belsky -- Adobe’s vice president of products and co-founder of online portfolio startup Behance -- sought to answer recently in a lively talk at AlleyNYC, a coworking space in New York City. According to the entrepreneur and investor, striking a balance of creativity, collaboration and actionable insight is key to a startup’s success.
This, of course, is easier said than done. To learn some of Belsky’s tangible tips for successfully launching a long-lasting startup, read on.
1. Recognize your limitations.
Entrepreneurs are often perfectionists, but starting a business requires mastering the art of delegation. Top-tier designers such as Calvin Klein always have a number-two person who makes sure everything runs smoothly, Belsky says. "Nobody talks about that person, but they all have that person.”
Savvy, creative founders know they can’t do it all. Instead, they recognize the gaps in their own experience and skillsets and hire people who can fill in those parts of the puzzle.
2. Take the long view when hiring.
To Belsky, a startup’s people are always more important than its product. Launching a company is an exercise in uncertainty -- products often go through multiple iterations and service-oriented companies frequently need to pivot in order to survive. The only way to weather this storm is to have a strong team by your side.
"You will often be wrong, or at least 50 degrees off,” Belsky says. “But with the right set of people, you just can endure it -- and with the wrong set of people you don't."
3. Don’t let strategy replace execution.
While logistics are important, if your team spends more time figuring out how to get from point A to point B than accomplishing actual tasks, you have a problem.
“I don’t really like process,” Belsky says. “I feel like in many ways process is like the excrement of misalignment."
In his 10-plus years as chief executive of Behance, Belsky’s learned that overly complicated strategies often stem from a lack of confidence. Instead of papering over a problem with more processes, he recommended taking a step back, and giving the decision room to breathe.
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4. Don't copy the competition
For most entrepreneurs, the quest to improve their products or services never ends. In moments of doubt, it's important to trust your vision and not compare yourself to your competitors, advises Belsky. What works for them may not work for you and your specific audience.
5. Follow your own blueprint.
The media depiction of a successful founder is an entrepreneur whose company has experienced monster growth -- according to Belsky, this is far too narrow a definition. To his mind, the entrepreneur who is careful, measured and isn't afraid to "kill their darlings" come out on top.
When your emphasis is only on making money, it’s easy to lose sight of what is most valuable, like your employees. "You just start to worry about the money," he says, "and not about the product or the people.”
Related: Putting People Over Profit in Business and Life