11 Tips to Maintain your Sanity in the Startup Chaos
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“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Chaos is good. Chaos is desirable.

Sounds weird right? 

Well, I have been taught to find the positive in everything. I find chaos a positive sign that things are moving. Chaos is an indication of absence of inertia. And that is good. 

I started my journey as an entrepreneur, not out of passion, but out of need. A need to be there for my child in her growing years. And believe me when I say, nothing could be more chaotic than that. Developing a website for a client and managing a child was chaos at its peak. 

But I managed. Not just managed. Enjoyed every bit of it! There were peaks and troughs for sure, but when I look back I don’t feel an ounce of regret in deciding to embrace the chaos in the way that I did.

And here are my learnings lessons as an entrepreneur, for me it was motherhood at the side, for you it maybe some other challenge. What matters is maintaining your sanity, your zen through it all so that when you look back you feel pride and joy like I feel today. 

1. Know your Why

Startups are not always born out of passion.

This was a new lesson I learnt from this amazing book by Cal Newport – “So good they can’t ignore you”.

My entrepreneurial journey did not start with passion. It started with a need. And there is nothing derogatory about that. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing, knowing why you chose the difficult life of an entrepreneur is half the battle won.

Once you are aware of the motivation behind the decision, you will survive its chaos.

2. Change is good. Be agile.

I learnt this the hard way.

While working as CTO in Fintoo, I often asked the Board, “why do you change plans so often?”. It was frustrating because I had to pivot the goals of the technology team with the changing plans of the company as a whole.

Along the way though, I started accepting it since some of those pivots at the right time, resulted in revenue and corresponding profits.

Having said that, I will be quick to add that agile is a very misused concept. Agility surely doesn’t mean changing things at the drop of a hat.

Maintaining a healthy trade-off in deciding when to pivot and when to go on in the flow is a skill which comes only with experience. But once you master it, it is the number 1 way to handle chaos which comes with change.

3. Celebrate the small wins.

Every step you take, is a step towards your success.

Giving yourself and your team a pat on the back for every small achievement will go a long way in keeping your Startup charged and will keep the adrenalin at its peak.

For that, it is important that you define your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and work hard towards achieving the same in each phase of your product launch.

4. Cut your losses. Be frugal.

As an entrepreneur, you have to have the conviction to keep the purse strings tight.

Marketing expenses especially tend to go out of hand. Here’s a complete article on how you can balance out marketing expenses.

Also, a note of caution. Going to the other extreme where you find every expense unreasonable, would cause more harm than benefit.

A simple formula to use here would be to think about the benefit in terms of not just money directly but even time and energy sometimes.

5. Persist till it makes sense

We as entrepreneurs start with a dream. A dream to make it big.

A lot has been said about “Don’t quit”. And I support it. I support it with a pinch of salt.

Persistence and the patience to hold on is needed. Quitting at every small hurdle is not something that is advised.

However, at the same time I will be quick to add that knowing when to stop trying is something that every entrepreneur must know. It may sound awkward, i am going against the tide here by saying something that is not cliche.

But if your data says that the money draining out is more than you can ever recover no matter what maths you apply … still waiting for a miracle to happen would not be something that I would advise.

6. Embrace Technology

Technology has changed the way the world operates. More so, after the pandemic.

The sooner you adopt it for yourself on a personal level as an entrepreneur, the sooner you imbibe it into the culture of your organisation, the faster will be your path to success.

The bottomline here is that this is the age of working smart in addition to working hard.

The logic is simple, if there is a tool that can do a job for you, use the tool instead of doing it yourself. Learn how to run your startup in robot mode.

7. Informed Decision Making

Your startup success depends on the decisions you take as the leader. The decisions you take depend upon what your data tells you. So don’t make decisions out of the blue. Let your data tell you what to do. Data is your key to success.

When I say data, it could be your team, your marketing efforts, your customers, your revenue, your expenses, practically every aspect of your business.

The first step towards giving meaning to your data is creating an organised and centralised data store. And then comes having analytic tools which can give you sliced and diced views of the data. For e.g. which Relationship Manager did maximum revenue in this month will involve employee and sales data. Which product appeals more to customers, will involve a study of product and marketing data.

Data and tools to analyse the data will play a very important role in decision making which will decide the path for your Startup

8. Plan frequently

The wise ones say your should spend more time on planning than executing.

And I am a fan of that concept. Sometimes I go overboard though 🙂 . “Don’t plan too much”, said no one ever.

My firm belief is that planning is actually half executing. Half your job is done when you plan. And considering what I mentioned about agility above, planning needs to be done every time you decide to pivot to maintain agility in your business.

Being a fan of tools, I use Asana for all my planning activities, be it personal , professional – for myself and for the teams I work with.

9. Choose your team carefully

Your team is the driving force behind your success.

As the leader, you want to make sure you have a team in place as soon as possible. But mark my words, I am saying this from experience – the time that you would spend on hiring, firing and re-hiring is what will be the decisive factor in the growth of your business.

Better still, spend good time on interviewing each candidate (yes, make sure you as the founder, CEO, meet each and every person who is hired into the organisation at least for 2 mins if not more).

These are gems who stay till the end, no matter how rocky the boat. And remember gems are never born, they are created and you will play the biggest role in deciding who becomes this gem in your Startup.

10. Listen, Advice, Delegate

This is a tip I will never forget. Being the micromanager that I am, I ended up doing half the work for my team sometimes. And surprisingly even though half their job was done by me, they were never a happy lot. The real good ones want to do the work themselves, make their mistakes, earn their successes, they don’t want things to be handed to them on a plate.

The strategy that you should adopt as the leader of your business is to be a good listener to their problems, advice based on your experience and delegate the job as a whole to them with a footnote which says “At the end of the day, it’s your call how you do it”.

I learnt this the hard way, and that is the reason it is etched on to my mind forever.

11. Never Stop Innovating

Sometimes, I wonder why people make 5 year plans. Well, they do make 5-year plans because investors ask them to.

Considering I recommended planning a short while ago, I shouldn’t be saying this really. Make plans all you want, but never stop innovating because it was all etched on to an excel sheet and you don’t want to change it . It is an excel sheet for God’s sake, it was not carved on stone.

If you ask me, whichever Startups I consult, I see limitless possibilities in the growth of their businesses. Because my mind works full-time on visualising how I could make their products better and in turn make lives of their customers better.

And believe me when I say, the more you think what your business can do for your customers, the more ideas will come to your mind giving you boundless vision.

Hope I could throw some light on how you can balance out the chaos in your Startup using simple but efficient tips based on my experience of dealing with the same over 25 years of my career as an engineer, entrepreneur and coach. If you can add value to this in the comments section, my readers and I would be greatly obliged!

Feel free to connect to share your Startup Story with me