Friday, July 3, 2009

Ten thoughts on what matters at a startup: Balance

Why does balance matter at a startup?

There can't be a large number of people who looked back on their life from their death bed and said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”. It's important to maintain some balance between work and the rest of your life. Even if you're lucky enough to love your work, which is almost certainly the case if you're working at a startup, being able to get away from it and do other things will help reduce stress. Moreover, you'll also get a little distance from pressing problems, which can help you see them in a different way and even discover solutions.

It's also important to maintain some balance between the perspectives of the various stakeholders that matter to your startup. To achieve a balance, you need to understand your customers, your users, your team mates, and your investors. Critically, you need to understand yourself and why you’re doing this. Without balance, your customers can pull you in a direction that isn't strategically important to your company, or your users can push for features that add more clutter than value, or you can push for features that your team mates know are extremely costly to implement. Balancing the various perspectives will help keep you on track.

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This is one in a short series of posts called Ten Thoughts on what matters at a startup. The thoughts started life as a presentation I made at VeloCity residence at the University of Waterloo. While they're far from definitive, and aren't a top ten, they've mattered to me in my software startup experience.

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