Does Your Team Know What Success Looks Like?

Shot of a group of businesspeople high fiving in an office

When Jason Nazar and I launched Docstoc years ago, we got 30,000 unique users on the first day.

I was ecstatic. I remember how my team of engineers and I were all high fiving each other, with big smiles on our faces. Then I walk into Jason’s office and he had a very different reaction. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hey, we got 30,000 unique visitors on the first day.”

Jason: “Yeah, we got 30,000 users on the first day.”

Me: “Yeah, we got 30,000. That’s great!”

Jason: “No, we got 30,000. That’s horrible!”

Me (scratching my head): “What do you mean? No one knew about the website yesterday and we got 30,000 uniques today. That’s great!”

Jason: “No, you don’t understand. We got only 30,000. That’s way too low.”

And then it hit me: We never really defined what success for the launch would look like. So we both looked at the very same facts — 30,000 uniques — and came to very, very different interpretations of what it meant for the business.

You’ve probably had a very similar experience at some point in your career. It’s not that you failed to deliver on the project goals. It’s that the bottom line expectations were not clearly defined. Someone, maybe you, didn’t define what success looks like. And if you don’t define what success looks like, how do you know when you’ve succeeded?

So many times when we plan projects for our businesses, we think through a mountain of details — the timeline, the budget, who’s doing what, and how we’re going to follow through after launch. We consider every little task that needs to get done and who will do it. We then manage it carefully, sprint by sprint.

Except, we often forget to go through one of the most critical tasks of all — agreeing on what the bottom line success will look like, and how we’re going to measure it.

Here is another, more recent example. At unGlue, we decided to build a new feature called Steps for Time, which rewards kids for physical activity like walking, running or working out. The more you walk, the more screen-time minutes you can earn.

You take your dog for a walk, you can earn more time. If you walk to school, you can earn more time. I loved this idea because parents are always trying to encourage their kids to be more active.

And so we decided to develop this feature. We decided on what it would look like and how it would work. We considered all of the steps needed to get the feature shipped. I worked on a PR strategy and a marketing launch plan.

Later, as the data come in, I remember meeting with my product lead. He’s telling me it was a huge success.

And I said, “What do you mean? It was not successful at all.”

He says, “What do you mean? We hit the goals. We hit the milestones on time. It looks amazing. It behaves beautifully. The users who are using it, love it! It’s a huge success!”

And I’m telling him: “What do you mean? We got almost no PR for it. Fewer than 5% of the users are using it, and we didn’t get any noticeable increase in app downloads. It’s a failure.”

And that’s when I realized, once again, holy shit, I fell into the same trap. Even though it was clear to me what success should look like, I didn’t clearly communicate it to the team. From where he stood in terms of responsibility, the project was a success. We hit our product milestones, and we launched on time. It looked absolutely amazing and people who used the feature did love it.

But from my perspective and from the business standpoint of getting A LOT more users to sign up for unGlue, it was a failure. It didn’t move the needle at all. We were both right, of course — looking at things from our own lens.

There are things we both could and should be celebrated. We completed the project on time. It looks amazing. People love it. People are using it. We should absolutely be proud of it and celebrate it, even if it’s not a huge business success.

However, we all needed to agree that this was not a good outcome for the business, as measured by the number of new users it drove. It didn’t change the metrics that were important for the business. If we had come to this understanding, we could have avoided, we could avoid having an argument about opinions and agree on the facts.

With the Docstoc launch, we had some things to celebrate. And we also had a lot of room for improvement. Yes, we were able to launch the website without a hitch (well, maybe a few…), but we also didn’t hit our biggest milestones for site visits. Both of these realities are true.

The vision of success for the overall business is a critical piece of information that is often not clearly communicated to everyone. So the leadership is disappointed and frustrated while everyone else is celebrating. They’re scratching their heads, asking: Why is everyone giving high-fives when we just wasted all of this time building something that didn’t make any difference whatsoever to the business?

Successes and failures should be shared across the company. But when success looks like failure to one team and failure seems like a success to another, then you’ve all made the crucial mistake of not setting the right expectations.

Make sure to clearly define what and how success should look like and share it with the team every time you meet. Bottom line: it’s hard to reach a goal that is not clearly defined.

Own The Problem, Lead The Solution

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where a major deadline wasn’t met. A sales goal wasn’t reached. An important deliverable wasn’t delivered.

People were waiting on you. You fell behind schedule. You or your team got distracted with other urgent matters. For whatever reason, you just couldn’t make it happen.

And then the house of cards collapses on itself. There’s no getting around the fact that you didn’t deliver as promised. You’re up shit creek without a paddle.

What do you do in this situation?

The first step is to avoid falling into an emotional state of mind, which we’re all prone to do at times like these.

Feelings of disappointment, despair, anger, and loneliness will likely surface because we are all emotional beings. Thoughts like “How the f*** did this happened?!” or “How do I dig myself out of this hole?” are normal, but you must move on.

You need to move to a more logical state. It might require a day off, working out at the gym, or even taking a few shots of your favorite liquid (just don’t overdo it!).

But do whatever it takes to avoid having an emotional overreaction. You can’t solve the problem unless you have a calm, clear mind.

The next step is to take ownership. That may not be so simple because sometimes our natural reaction is to find an excuse or to blame someone else when something goes wrong.

It might be your team’s “fault” for not working hard enough (“We all agreed on the plan! Why didn’t you stay late every day to finish it?”). it might be your boss’s “fault” for not communicating the priorities better (“The CEO keeps coming with new ideas and changes direction every week!”) or not being more clear about the process (“If we had more time for planning and feedback, we could have avoided this situation!”).

This kind of behavior started when we were kids. We never did anything wrong — things just “happened.” The lamp broke, but I didn’t break it. The teacher gave too much homework, so I didn’t have enough time to prepare for the test. And so on.

This mindset made no sense then and we shouldn’t fall into this trap now. I’m not saying we’re behaving like kids; I’m only saying that we find comfort in this false mindset.

The worst thing you can do is focus on finding fault. Trying to figure out who’s to blame won’t lead you to the solution.

You need to focus on ownership. You need to take responsibility. Whether you’re the team leader or an individual contributor (which means you’re leading yourself), you’re responsible.

The first step is to say: I own this. This is not where I want us to be. I’m not happy about it. I will own up to this mess, but I will also own the process of fixing it. It’s on me. I will lead the way toward a solution.

When you offer accountability in this way, what can the other person say but “OK, good! let’s get going”?

By being humble and honest, you have diffused the situation. By being accountable, you put the focus on working toward a solution rather than trying to place blame.

The first step is to say: I own this. This is not where I want us to be. I will own up to this mess, but I will also own the process of fixing it

By contrast, a lot of people focus on coming up with “reasons” for their failure. Saying things like, “Well, if we didn’t change priorities every week, we could have made our deadline” or “If you read my email updates, you would have known we were falling behind” only lead to more battles and more pushback.

Of course, you might be right. Maybe the CEO did change his or her mind every week. Maybe you did make it clear in status meetings and emails that you were falling behind. But none of that really matters now.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the long-term fixes should come later. You have to separate tactics from strategy at this stage. Your job right now is to figure out the tactical solution to your situation. The strategy part can wait.

Neither you, your boss nor your team can deal with both of these things at the same time. First, put out the fire and get things on the right track. Later on, you can focus on the systemic issues that led you into the problem in the first place.

If you’re an ambitious, hard-working, high-achieving individual, you will undoubtedly find yourself in a situation where you can’t deliver on your promises. You will disappoint your team, your boss, your investors, your board, and yourself. It will happen. You will fail.

And it’s not because you’re lazy or not smart. Quite the opposite, actually. People who are high achievers often push themselves beyond their own abilities. It’s how they grow and become better at what they do.

Just understand that life is one long school. Everything that happens to us is a teachable moment, whether we succeed or we fail.

You’re always going to face those dark times when everything is going to shit. What’s the most productive way to deal with it? It always starts with being accountable and taking responsibility. It starts with diffusing the situation by owning up to it.

You can’t change the past but you can create the future: Own the problem and take the lead to find a solution

8 Leadership Skills

8 leadership Skills

Trying to define leadership is like defining music. Trying to improve your leadership skills is like trying to write a song. There is no recipe, guidebook, or formula; it is much more art than science. You can sure learn the basics and some good fundamentals but at the end of the day, it’s about practice, learning from mistakes and learning from others. I never had a legendary mentor (Yoda was too busy) or a teacher that changed my life. Not surprisingly, very few of us have that. The way I keep improving my leadership skills is by learning from everyone and anyone around me, skills, behavior, habits, mistakes, how they speak, how they present, and so on. I have learned from my own mistakes and from the mistakes of others around me. You don’t have to have a mentor just open your eyes, learn and be ready to change. Here are some ideas I find important and some lessons I’ve learned.

Always look at the big picture

We usually start with the big picture, with the dream, with some huge aspiration. The challenge is that slowly and without noticing we’re getting sucked into the nitty-gritty tiny details, perfecting our idea, re-analyzing everything and suddenly we risk going astray without noticing. Try driving a car and only focus on ten feet in front of you. You’re most likely going to smash your car into bits (so don’t try it, just trust me). There is a reason why we focus on the road far ahead while driving. Always look far and try to see the big picture. The trick is that there is always a bigger picture that is eluding us. There is your current project big picture. Beyond that, there is this year’s big picture. Beyond that, there is your career big picture. Beyond that, there is your life big picture. Beyond that, there are things that are bigger than you. The current project seems pretty small details now, isn’t it?

Pay attention to details

Of course, only looking far will get your nowhere as you’ll stay with the dream. At the end of the day, it’s about the details and getting things done. Read emails all the way, find the typo in the copy, ask if that line on the design should really be there. Go back to it again and again examining it from every angle possible, and making small improvements, iteration by iteration. Nothing is perfect but you can sure get close.  The key is to balance seeing the big picture while paying attention to details. A good ratio is 90/10, where 90% time spent on details and 10% spent on the big picture

It’s all about the people

It drives me crazy when leaders and managers refer to employees as “resources”. Computers are resources, pens are resources; people are not. It may be just a figure of speech, but for me, it shows disrespect and lack of care. Leaders should care about the people they lead, care deeply. As the saying goes: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Don’t pretend to; people are smart enough to see through phony behavior. You may be a great businessman, a great salesman, a great speaker, but if you don’t care about the people you lead, you are not a leader, you’re just a person taking a walk.

Mistakes are inevitable 

Over this weekend I heard someone describes this concept in the clearest way. He said: “At any given moment you are in one of these three states: you either just made a mistake, are in the process of making a mistake, or will make a mistake soon”. Just live with it, don’t worry too much about it but learn to recognize your mistakes, admit it and learn whatever there is to learn from it. Being afraid to make mistakes only holds you back. Embrace it, acknowledge it, learn from it, and move on!

Be brave and speak up

Be vocal, be open, be direct and be respectful. Nothing good ever came from people who kept things to themselves. I know this quite well since for a period of time I did keep things inside in some foolish hope to keep the peace.  As Bernard M. Baruch once said: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”. If you need more encouragement, listen to the song Brave by Sara Bareilles and just let the word come out.

Find your style

Don’t try to become like the leader you think you should be or the leader you admire. Leading is not about some persona, it is about doing the right things for the right reasons and inspiring others to follow you in that journey. You can do it just the way you are, with your unique style and way of leading. I like humor and use it all the time, I like knowing people personally and what makes them tick, and I like pushing things the limit. That is my style. What is yours? Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.

Don’t get stuck in the past

We all know we need to learn from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others. We all know we need to learn from the past and remember it. However, it is also important to leave the past behind. Sometimes we do or say things (or don’t do or say) that haunt us for a long time. Sometimes we miss opportunities, and sometimes, bad things just happen. Learn what is to learn, then let it go and move on. As Holocaust survival once said: “What was, was. What is, is. And that’s that”. If he can, you can too.

Believe in yourself

In the movie “Pretty Woman” Richard Gere tried to encourage Julia Roberts to believe in herself more, to which she responded with: “The bad stuff is always easier to believe”. Movies aside, it is the truth. I have seen it with others and I have seen it with myself. I have always been my own worst critic and most times things are never good enough. If funneled incorrectly it can and will drag you down. Turn it around, celebrate who you are, improve where you need to improve and march forward with your head held high. You can be your own critic if you’re also your own biggest fan. Believe in yourself as others do, they can’t all be wrong. Remember, “It is never too late to be what you might have been”.

The first ten seconds of a job interview – The Caveman Brain

Intro

In my previous blog post Do’s and Don’ts of a Job Interview I described the importance of the first ten seconds of a job interview from the interviewee’s standpoint. In this post I will dive into the importance, limitations and traps of the first ten seconds, but focus instead on the interviewer’s standpoint.

The Caveman Brain

Have you ever noticed that when you talk with people you have never met on the phone, you always try to picture what they look like? You try to imagine what their face looks like, if they are tall or short, slim or heavy, if they have dark or light hair, all based on their voice. Of course, when we actually meet the person we usually realize we were completely wrong. What happened was your brain tried to classify the voice into a collection of labels, such as: height: tall, skin color: fair, hair color: brown, weight: somewhat heavy, background: maybe from New York, and so on.

Your brain is doing this because in our early evolutionary stages, for the last tens of thousands of years up until the last few centuries, we needed the ability to make quick decisions based on very little information. You literally had to take one look at someone and decide if he or she was a friend or a foe. Can you trust him or her in a deal? And by “a deal” I mean trading a sheep or a goat. It is much easier for our brain to make decisions based on small number of factors, so we learned to classify anything and everything, and we continue to do so to this very day.

We look at people and make snap decisions about them. We decide that they are fat or thin, black or white, American or foreign, straight or gay, Republican or Democrat, etc. Our brain quickly classifies people all the time, whether we want it to or not. We’re often not even aware of it. I call this part of us the Caveman Brain.

What this has to do with me?

You are probably thinking that this has nothing to do with you. When you’re interviewing someone for a position at your company, you are a professional and experienced interviewer, with a list of questions, tests, and clear criteria for an ideal candidate. So what does this have to do with you?

The reality is it has everything to do with you, because we are people not machines. How many times in the past when you interviewed someone did you get a “bad gut feeling” about him or her? How many times did you “sense something is wrong”? How many times could you “not put your finger on it, but…”? This is our Caveman Brain hinting us towards what it concludes is the best assessment of this person.

Remember that it has nothing to do with intelligence or experience, it is a deeper and more instinctual reaction, like fear, that you can’t control unless you are aware of it. With that in mind, let’s talk about how the Caveman Brain affects the interview process.

The First 10 Seconds of the Job Interview

Our Caveman Brain quickly categorizes anything it sees into small sets of classifications and informs us of its decision, and this happens within the first seconds of seeing our interviewee. Of course for some it takes longer than ten seconds and for others it takes less (they call themselves “intuitive”). The point is that very quickly, before the intelligent part of the brain has had any time to collect substantive information, our Caveman Brain already made a decision and told us about it. Before you asked a single question, some part of you already classified the person, already put them into a neat little box and labeled them.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying we’re all bigots that make snap decisions about people based on their appearance and other shallow factors. I’m just emphasizing the fact that the instinctive safety mechanism nature embedded in us many, many generations ago is still there, and we need to be aware of it when meeting new people.

The goal of a successful interviewer is to reverse the order of things: let the intelligent brain think and collect information, so it can make an informed decision and then let the Caveman Brain add some “gut feeling” to the mix.

Put on a Blindfold

Think of yourself as a judge on “The Voice” TV show, where candidates are judged on their talent before their appearance is even known. I don’t suggest literally covering your eyes, although that would be interesting (should probably try it one day) but rather mentally blocking yourself from focusing on the exterior. Be mindful of the fact that some part of you will want to immediately analyze and categorize the person in front of you, and blindfold it. It’s not simple, but with practice you can do it.

Discuss Anything but the Interview

Take the first few minutes and discuss anything but the interview, talk about the weather, traffic, a movie, etc. It will put the interviewee at ease which should put your Caveman Brain at ease as well. I, for example, go to the waiting area and walk with the candidate, offer the interviewee a drink, chit-chat about something for the first two minutes.

Start with the Intelligent Brain

Some people do just the opposite; they move directly into the interview. They will wait in their office, briefly welcome the candidate and jump right into business. This approach, although it sounds cold and impersonal, has a great advantage: you put your intelligent brain in the driver’s seat from the get-go. It’s harder for the other person, but as the interviewer it’s much easier since you don’t need to shift gears/brains. Again, because this is much less personal make sure to be extra nice.

Post-Interview

Think about the candidate and the interview for a few minutes after the interview is over. Once the person is not in front of you, the Caveman Brain is no longer in charge and the Intelligent Brain is in the driver’s seat. Think, analyze, process and write your thoughts down. Talk with others who interviewed the candidate about their thoughts, and evaluate other perspectives.

Final Thoughts

Doing this is hard, I know, but it’s much harder to find really good people. Now that you know about the Caveman Brain you’ll be more aware of it and hopefully take its suggestions with a grain of salt. There’s nothing wrong with your gut feeling, after all it helped your ancestors survive for generations, just don’t let it drive your business while the Intelligent Brain sits in the passenger’s seat.

 

Microsoft Windows 8. Is it A Game Changer?

Like all of us, I’ve been using Microsoft Windows forever. Thank to Bill Gates, Windows became a fact of life. We know that a computer is built from parts like a CPU, memory and a hard disk, hardware you must have in order for the computer to work. Microsoft made sure that you  must use its Windows operating system for it to function. It did more than that, it made sure that no matter where you buy your computer: Dell, HP, or even build it yourself, you must use their Windows operating system. Now, that is a nice market to have.

It wasn’t an easy ride for Microsoft, and there were many competitors along the way: IBM with OS2, different Linux operating systems, and of course Mac OS. But Microsoft kept the status quo, partially because of competitors’ mistakes, good products they created (sometimes, not always), and people’s tendency to stay with what they know. But the main reason that everyone wanted Windows was software. Everyone needed software because everything was implemented as software. Every game, productivity tool, utility, chat, email, etc. (and there were millions to chose from) had software you needed to install, and they all run on Windows. Other OSs had only a tiny fraction of the software built for them, which is why everyone flocked to Windows. The masses would not think about buying a Linux OS because it could not run their favorite game and Word. It was a market Check Mate.

But in the past few years things have changed. The Internet evolved, became faster, reached more people, and new types of sites were created. Not just for consuming content but for sharing content (aka, web 2.0) and lately for productivity and collaboration. You can now do everything online, you can chat, check your email, create documents or spreadsheets, work on your photos, play tons of games and everything in between. If you think about it, what software did you install on your computer lately? There are only three categories that still require installation: Anti Virus/Security, Office, and sophisticated games (i.e. Call of Duty). Everything else you can do online. There are other niches like Photoshop and movie editing but for 99% of consumers, that short list is pretty much it.

So, if everything is online do you really need Windows or just a browser? This exact question is what Google wants everyone to ask and Microsoft dreads. With less than 45% browser market share and dropping Microsoft is not even situated to control the browser market. Google was smart and fast to promote their Chrome browser, which is biting at Microsoft’s IE market share like nothing we’ve seen in the past. I guess when billions of people come to your website each day you can promote your product pretty effectively.

Microsoft was late for the smartphone market and is now in a long and expensive uphill battle. Even though Windows 7 phones are very good and not just another icon based smartphone, it’s a hard sell for the iPhone addicts market. Google is coming fast from behind with Google Docs and Spreadsheets, conquering the Microsoft Office market share and not just on the consumer space, but also in Microsoft’s backyard, the Enterprise space. Microsoft was also late for the tablet/slate market and is working extra hard to catch up with the iPad. While Apple just released version 3 of the iPad (read my though on it here), Microsoft’s slate is still in the works. To top it all off, Mac sales are at an all time high and, if it was once, too expensive and all around strange to buy a Mac, more and more are flocking to Apple stores and buying one. It feels like Microsoft is under attack on all fronts and is losing ground. Not an easy situation to be in.

The question we need to ask is the following: is Microsoft the type of company that, when major challenges arise, will make tough choices and come out on top?

I believe so. I’ve been paying close attention to what they are doing and I strongly believe they are making a comeback, and it’s called Windows 8. It’s not just another OS with nicer icons and cooler drop shadow effects. Microsoft is making some brave decisions here that, no offense, we’ve seen coming more from Apple than Microsoft. Windows 8 is significantly different from anything else currently in the market with its Metro style, navigation and user interaction. They are basically betting the house on this one and they know they can’t lose. Playing with my Windows 8 tablet (slate) I was fairly impressed. It’s very different from anything else out there and its something we haven’t say about a Microsoft product in a while: IT’S COOL! It’s designed in a way that tech babies as well as dinosaurs can understand, which is very important to Microsoft. They have about 500 million Windows 7 users that they hope to convert to Windows 8. They integrated a store into the OS and are working hard on getting as many apps as possible ready for launch. Windows 8 will work on all computers from tablets/slate to heavy servers, which is a huge advantage to developers and consumers alike. Since Apple brought the importance of installing applications back from the grave, I believe Microsoft will take that approach with a thunder. This time, Apple simply followed Microsoft’s gameplay not the other way around. Apple only called them “Apps” instead of Applications or software, but Microsoft invented the concept.

Doing a pivot in a startup is easy, turning a ship the size of Microsoft is hard, slow, and risky but it looks to me like they are doing it right and with a lot of though. I would not bury Microsoft just yet; more likely start buying Microsoft stock while the price is low, before Windows 8 hits the shelves.

The New Power of Parents on the Web – Soon

The proposed California bill SB 242 below attempts to change the way minor’s information is displayed on social websites as well as what rights do parents have, which is quite earth shaking.

The bill will allow the parents of any kid under the age of 18 to request any social networking web site like Facebook to remove ANY personal information from the site, within 48 hours upon request. In addition it prohibit from displaying any personal information for any minor under the age of 18 without consent.

The best part of is that the bill will impose a civil penalty, not to exceed $10,000, for each violation.

Ouch!

Social Networking Internet Web Sites Privacy – SB 242 Corbett

Are We Better People Because of Green Products – Not Really

Are We Better People Because of Green Products – Not Really

There is a know assumption that people that are more environmentally friendly, drink from reusable cups, don’t use paper, and buy Hybrid cars, are better, selfless, elite.

However, the research below shows that that’s not necessarily the case. It seems that thinking about green stuff and buying green stuff is different. Simply put, people who buy green products cheat, lie, and steal more than people who don’t! The research state that: “mere exposure to green products and the purchase of them lead to markedly different behavioral consequences. In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products”.

So much for conventional wisdom.




Do Green Products Make Us Better People

The research can be found in Social Science Research Network and will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

Navigating the Challenges of Effective Outsourcing – Startup Uncensored #7

outsourcingThis month’s “Startups Uncensored” will be on “Navigating the Challenges of Effective Outsourcing”.  It will be an open and frank town-hall conversation discussing topics such as:

  • Outsourcing best practices
  • Do’s and don’ts of outsourcing
  • Top mistakes people do when outsourcing
  • What can and should you outsource? Architecture? Code? Support? Content creation? Testing? Other?
  • How to find outsourcing solutions?
  • How do you manage a remote team?

We are joined this month by James Siminoff, founder/CEO of PhoneTag and Aaron Hawkey co-founder and CEO/CTO of Cramster.  Both have extension experience in identifying and working with outsourced teams to build their technology companies.  Plus this month’s event will be moderated by Alon Shwartz.

These events are put on in conjunction with our friends at DealMaker Media. TO SIGN UP FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE

The event is free and is followed by a reception and mixer at the Docstoc Offices in Santa Monica by the 3rd Street Promenade. The venue holds about 140 folks, ALL PREVIOUS EVENTS WERE FULL WITH STANDING ROOM ONLY. If you are not one of the first 140 to RSVP and confirm, we will have a waiting list.

Thursday, May 28th 6:30pm – 8:00pm (Townhall)…. 8:00pm on, Reception
Cost: FREE
This event is capped at 140 attendees.
Confirmation will be required or your spot will be given up for our waiting list.

Santa Monica Public Library (Auditorium) 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

TO SIGN UP FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE

About Startups Uncensored

Startups Uncensored is a free monthly speaking series, townhall, and networking event for entrepreneurs and technology aficionados, hosted by Jason Nazar, CEO of Docstoc.com. These monthly meetups are centered around different topics meant to help startups build their businesses. The event, brought to you by DealMaker Media, contributes to the growing Los Angeles technology scene by bringing together various entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, social media experts, and professionals in the tech field. The format of the series typically includes a 45 minute presentation or panel followed by 45 minutes of questions and answers, and its co-hosted by notable CEOs and Investors.

Running a Startup without Losing Your Family

Prefix

This post is for everyone, married, singles, with children and without. I tried to focus on a few, non-common, lessons I’ve learned along the way. If you don’t have children but plan on having some in the future, please continue reading at your own risk. If you do have children, please sit down…

A starting Point

You really though it will be easier than this, didn’t you? You though you can do it all with time to spare. I can almost hear it “I can do/manage multiple projects at once, how difficult can it be?” or “I’ll just have to be more efficient” or “I will change!” or “my wife will help…” or probably all of the above. Instead, it became your life’s biggest underestimated challenge and you find yourself in an uncharted territory. It is very challenging to have a demanding job while raising a (mentally) healthy family.  I’m not going to tell you that it’s going to be easy or share some “tricks” I’ve learned that will make it all better and easy. There are no easy answers or 10 golden rules that, if followed, life will be rosy and simple. Than again, if you read this post you’re not looking for a simple and rosy life.

However, I will tell you that it IS possible. I will tell you that you don’t have to choose between your carrier and your family! You just have to adjust some things in your life, people’s expectations (including yourself), think about it as much as you think about issues as work, and make even more sacrifices.

Ready?

Balance

Think of your life as a triangle with the following sides: your family life, your professional life, and your personal life.  This triangle needs to fit into a 24 hours timeframe. You can’t increase one side of the triangle without shortening another. The first instinct we have is to believe we can cut our personal life to zero, but it really doesn’t work. Everyone needs some time for themselves, to charge batteries, to enjoy life, to take a break. We don’t even notice it we just end up in front of the TV or with friends or at the gym or at another conference, which cuts the family side of the triangle.

Once you realize the triangle of life and understand that every part of the triangle needs to be represented, you start understanding the need to balance. Many years ago, when my first son was born, my wife kept telling me I have to stop working seven days a week. I didn’t understand what she’s talking about and kept saying I’m only working six days, at most. So she started taking notes every day, when I left and when I came back, when I started working at home and when I finished. After a few weeks she showed me the list. I was shocked. I was working seven days a week, at least 12 hours a day. I didn’t even notice. I realize there was only one side to my triangle and I need to make room for three. I needed to balance my life.

Share is Caring

Many people don’t tell their husband or wife almost anything about their professional life. Yeah, there’s the chit-chat about office stuff and the usual “How was your day honey?” but with no real substance. Starting a business, working on a tough project or any other challenging effort impacts our life and resonates on the other sides of the triangle. There are no firewalls in our head; there is no switch we can turn On or Off when we get home. You can take your clothes off your body but not your mind off things.

The answer is to make everyone at home part of your professional life, your wife/husband, your children, your parents, everyone! The more they understand what it is you do and how important it is to you, the more they’ll help, the more they’ll empathize, the more happy they’ll be when you are, and the more understanding they will be when you’re not.

Once you start sharing you’ll realize how much you gain by it and in ways you can’t imagine. When I explained to my older son what is Docstoc and what I do, he was so exited he started thinking with me about new features and how to make the site better. Many times, before he goes to sleep we think together about new features, the product roadmap, and the features he wants. He’s ten years old.

Be More Efficient At Work Not At Home!

It is important to be efficient, to be able to achieve more in a given unit of time. If you prioritize your tasks in order of importance, you can usually accomplish half your daily list, if you’re good. If you finished your list for the day, you did something wrong… at work, it’s all about efficiency.

At home it’s NOT! You cannot and should not be efficient with your kids or your wife. The concept of “quality time” is nonsense, as you cannot efficiently play with your kids. You cannot efficiently prepare them for life. You cannot have an efficient relationship with your wife. If you need to finish stuff at the office better stay late that day and come early the next day. It’s better than coming “somewhat late” both days and spent seven and a half minutes with them.

Sleep

Our society made us believe that sleeping is overrated. We find ourselves sleeping less and less stretching ourselves to the limit. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy stretching myself to the limit but I also understand what it means.

The problem with sleeping less is that we use most of our energy during the day, at work. That leaves very little energy when we get back home. We’re tired and cranky and don’t really enjoy what is an important part of our life.

Dude, get some sleep, you’re a mammal, a human, it’s natural, you need it.

Get Energized – With Them

A lot of people get energized when they’re by themselves, with friends, hiking, running, reading, watching a movie, etc.  Think about doing some of these activities by with your family. I’m not talking about a family trip to Vegas or Hawaii. I’m talking about doing whatever YOU need to get energized but taking someone with you.

I really don’t like floor games, it’s boring and hurts my back. I do like hiking and biking, the air and the wind are great for recharging. So I spend less time playing Chatters and Ladders and more time hiking/walking/biking with the kids. Find what YOU like to do and see if you can fit your family with you.

Last Words

Someone once told me that you could either be a businessman or a family man. I believe life’s ultimate purpose and challenge is to be both especially if you want to make a positive change in the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur, a Rabi, or the president of the United States, you do better if you do both.

P.S.

If you’re lucky you’ll also have a loving, understanding, and supporting wife with endless patients that will help you along the way. I certainly do. Thank you Orit, I love you very much.