As a Founder of an ambitious tech start-up, you have to wear a lot of hats. A normal day can see you tackling everything from financial modelling to bug testing, pitching to investors, right down to manually triaging data from one system to another.
Regardless how boundless your talents may be, it’s important to always be conscious that it’s only natural to find a comfort zone in one specific area. We’ll call this your superpower.
As a Product Manager moving into a Founder role – my comfort zone is Product. It’s the rubric with which I solve problems, where I get into my “flow” zone and everything is easy.
As a Founder, your superpower can act more like a lead balloon if not kept in check. It biases you to one set of tasks above others, or it’s the tool you always pull out of the toolbox – even if it might not be the right tool for the job. This can lead to busy work, blind spots and missed opportunities – all things which can dramatically impact your growth, as a team of 1.
At BlueChilli, our GM of Startups Catherine Eibner puts it this way; “You’ve got to eat your frogs”. Frogs are the things you’re avoiding, because your superpower is blinding you. They’re the vegetable you don’t like on your plate at the end of the meal. They’re the messy task you’re cutting a path around, that remains on your to-do list for weeks at a time.
Recently at Guide App I wanted to start working with a new group of customers to provide content for our guidebooks. I want what they have ASAP, so I guess I was trying to find the fastest way to get that. My first instinct (superpower kicking in) was to hack together a proof of concept to demo to partners what we can do and wow them! What could go wrong?! Thanks to some sage advice, I’m now taking the time to go back to basics and deeply understand this new customer base, before moving to product tactics.
Tips from the trenches:
- Slow down – it’s ok to take your time to go back to the drawing board and do your research. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- Have a sounding board. Someone who is going to point out your blind spots.
- Acknowledge what your superpower is – and accept that it also comes with downsides.
- Get to know what your frogs are and make a habit of addressing them head on.
Claire is the Head of Product at BlueChilli, who’s recently taken the plunge back into the entrepreneurial pool to found her second startup; Guide App. She’ll be blogging over the coming months about the trials of tribulations of sitting on both sides of the fence – and reflections on doing it all again.