The first day of being 100% focused on your startup feels great! It really helps if you have a game-plan to structure the days of the first few weeks. Last week, I took the plunge to leave my employer, a safe and secure tech company that I had joined at 50 people, and left when it touched 500 and had been acquired for some cents short of $400 million. My days as an executive of a public tech company, where I managed a strategic team doing corporate development and product direction, was super-structured. Every day had the ritual of emails, calls with salespeople, meetings with various teams, 1-on-1 coaching sessions for my team, product reviews, market launches, analytics assessment, free lunches, the company gym, the weekly team meeting, the monthly company get-together, and so on. So how did I make the transition? Here are my learnings from Day 1:
Start Early — It’s super-tempting to think that, now that you’re at a startup, it’s ok to roll out of the house at 9:30 or 10:00, because, hey, you can always make it up late at night, right? My suggestion is to start earlier in the morning, because research says that early-morning risers are happier and healthier. I started my day at 5:30, probably 30 minutes later than I should have. I read the morning paper and got ready as if I leaving for work. I responded to all the emails that people had sent, congratulating me on taking the big step, offering their help, or asking when I was hiring. I even dropped the kids at school, and by 8:30 am I had a good 30 minutes to think about my first meeting of the day.
Touch Base With the Core Team — The vision for your product has got to be crystal clear to every member of the team, especially in the first week. We have a physical office space, but there are no desks or chairs, so everyone’s working out of home until we’re ready. At this critical time, you’re invisible to them and they to you. Make sure you check in with each of them to see if we’re all on the same page. I sent an email to our team, outlining the goals for the next 90-120 days. We had an email discussion, and then I called two people and we talked for 45 minutes each. There I discovered that we had a gap between what was in my head and that of one team member. So I now have a task to clarify a specific area of the product plan, that’s on the agenda for the weekly meeting.
Set Goals for the First 90 Days — Have 3 clear deliverables for the next 90 days. In our case, it was to build a free product, create both customer and investor decks, and hire more people. We setup a weekly meeting time, agreed on the logistics, and have tasks setup for that meeting.
Always Be Hiring — On my first day on the job, I met two potential hires for the company. Both are in-between gigs at the moment, and I have worked with them before. One was a former head of engineering, and another was my manager at my first startup (that later went public). These would be both great hires, both in attitude and skills. I spent time in assessing what was important to them first, and articulate what was important to us, at this stage.
Day 1 ended up being a reasonably long day for one that started at 5:30 – it was 9:30 pm before I put away the keyboard – and I felt that we had moved forward by setting clear goals for the team and laying the groundwork to attract brilliant people. Day 2 is going to be about the product and advisors – so more on that at the end of the day!
Day in a Startup series
The chronicle of our Silicon Valley startup:
Day #1 in a Startup – Always Be Hiring
Day #7 in a Startup – Share Your Idea To Acquire Customers Faster
Day #14 in a Startup – Making Friends
Day #21 in a Startup – Separation of Church (Web Site) and State (Email)