Sunday, August 21, 2005

Important VS Urgent

In any kind of organization, especially start ups and emerging enterprises, the tectonic plates of what's possible shear up against one another all the time. If you assume a leader's role, a lot of this is going to end up on your desk.

Few things are all or nothing, and I'm surely in the gray area on this one, but I will highly recommend working hard on this angle of your enterprise life.

If you want to keep it sustainable, you'd better have a plan for coming out alive.

Many new enterprisers think the chaos of start ups looks romantic. You've seen it on TV commercials... the entrepreneur harriedly swashbuckling through barking vendors and worriesome computer printouts, replete with jarring close ups of a clock and adoring gazes from customers, followed by a celebratory glass of wine with an ocean view of the perfect sunset. That shtick is wildly over glorified. If you find your enterprise is continuously under siege, afloat in details and rooting under receivables for cash flow, there is nothing romantic about it. In fact, you’re in trouble and it's probably your own damn fault.

Don't wait for your growth phase to get smart. Never think volume will fix problems. Volume magnifies problems, it does not fix them, my friend.

You need to start early and start smart. I talked about it in an early post. You need to build in good bones from the start. Good structures to support the good stuff you can do with your organization: data control, accounting, insurance, legal, shipping.

You don't need to spend a fortune. You can start out cheap and easy, but you absolutely need to build your enterprise around good bones for it to be sustainable. Without executing these areas carefully and early in the process, you’ll forever be sprinting through your enterprise life, never quite catching up.

Seth Godin is a good biz writer. I liked this piece from an article Seth wrote for the April, 2004 issue of Fast Company:

"Urgent is not an excuse. In fact, urgent is often an indictment – a sure sign that you've been putting off the important stuff until it mushrooms out of control."

Seth goes on to compare sprinting for your plane VS doing the harder task of waking up a little earlier. Will you live in drama and chaos, or will you prevent the problem?

This is a nice metaphor for what you need to think about as you approach your start up or grow your emerging enterprise.

Wake up early to the demands that you'll face as an emerging enterprise and a full participant in the global economy. It's not drama and blue sky. It's rights and privileges. Obligations and requirements. Don't grouse. Get smart.

You need to bulletproof your enterprise to the best of your ability as early as you can. Build in good bones. Accounting and insurance and legal and data control are boring as hell, done right.

Boring is good. I promise, you do NOT want to see excitement in any one of these areas of your biz life. Work hard, work early, keep it boring.

Many good people are waiting to help you, people supporting your effort from the vendor side and the customer side. Perhaps you'll involve angel investors or VCs. Out in the world, many people will want to buy your stuff. Many others will want to partner up and build you into their network, and you’ll do it vice versa. There has never been a better time to to create and grow new enterprises of all kinds.

Your ability to execute the details will define your effort.

It's your job to show everybody your enterprise is important. Not urgent.

Seth Godin’s article at Fast Company

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