If you are starting a startup and find yourself spinning your wheels with seemingly unimportant details and therefore can’t get any “real” work done, you’re not alone. If you’re like me, you feel overwhelmed with tasks that don’t appear to provide a return on your time investment. For example, I spent two hours buying a new printer because the one I bought nine months ago doesn’t work anymore, and the company’s support desk says I need the receipt, but I don’t have the receipt…you get the idea. Sheeeez – that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back during which I could’ve been calling prospects or marketing or something. This story happens to all of us.

5 tips for crushing the details

  1. Find your “Miss Carolyn” ASAP:

    In 2000, one year after I’d started my sales industry research firm, First Research, I hired a college intern–Carolyn–who I nicknamed, “Miss Carolyn.” (I don’t know why, but it seemed to fit). She had a eye for the details and had the ability to manage them about twice as fast as I could. Her mind moved fast. Her feet moved fast. Her fingers moved fast. Fast forward to 2006. By this time, First Research had 30+ employees and because she was so good at managing details, Miss Carolyn had been promoted to Director of Operations – a highly compensated job on the management team. She was critical to our success because her ability to efficiently manage a greater number of complex details was a huge factor in our ability to grow fast. Details matter, and you can’t escape them and still become successful. Find your Miss Carolyn ASAP.

  2. Don’t confuse unimportant details with “real work” (They’re often the same):

    Too many founders believe they’re inefficient because the work they’re doing doesn’t appear important on the surface. But in reality, while the work is tedious and slower than it should be, it is critical to success. Let me give you an example. One founder was recently howling he’d spent two hours on the phone with his CRM provider because the startup’s leads weren’t tracking properly. “This is ridiculous! I can’t spend that kind of time doing this and expect to grow. I need to get REAL work done.” My response was, “Hold on. Managing this detail is how you grow. Many founders would get frustrated and quit. You didn’t. You got it done. That is real work!”

  3. Do important details first. Period. End of story:

    This is a learned ability, and you have to nail it. Issues that directly affect customers come first. Prospects and employees are a close second, or maybe a tie. White noise (like random people’s opinions, media, and people taking your time who have little impact on your business) comes last. Have the confidence that some details of lesser importance may never get done. That’s fine.

  4. Maintain a list:

    I know, suggesting a list is cliché and obvious, but I’m amazed at how many founders don’t do it. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be with you so you can relax and know it’s there. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself batty trying to remember what you have to do.

  5. Impatience is a virtue:

    When it comes to getting details done, don’t be patient because they will pile up and distract you. Instead, rip them to pieces and run over bureaucracy to get them done. You have to make decisions fast to get details done.

To succeed as a startup, you must grind like a big dog—all day long, all week long, all month long, all year long, three years long… When you start a startup, several factors drive success: good judgment, focused sales and marketing, and a viable product, just to name a few. But the founder’s ability to get stuff done is probably more important than anything else.


Sign up to get more great insights directly to your inbox.

As a special bonus, you'll also immediately get access to my inside analysis of what made 172 diverse companies achieve take-off revenue growth.

Leave a Reply