The Naked Business: A Newbie Perspective

22 FEB 2010

By Shashank Deshmukh

Welcome to part two of our series on the Naked Business, where each member of our team shares their thoughts from within our growing startup. Doug has asked us all to reveal some of the shortfalls and inefficiencies we all occasionally suffer from as well as our successes and accomplishments in an effort that the S4S community can benefit from our experiences.

Having started this year and being a relative newbie to S4S, I’ve had the fairly unique perspective of both being an outsider and an insider. I first heard about the work Doug was doing last year and was inspired by the S4S cause as well as its outstanding events. School for Startups has a really strong brand backed up by solid event sessions and of course Doug’s awesome presence, all delivered on an ongoing basis through our hard working team.

Coming from a more traditional small business, I’m new to the startup way of working. The biggest change for me is that there is so much to do that we often have little time to plan. This can, of course, be both a strength and a shortfall. We are able to achieve what we set out to do on a shoestring because we are great at doing. What we’re working on now is trying to give ourselves more time to plan ahead. We’ve been able to get by so far on doing, because we are all great communicators. Everyone on our team is always in the loop, and so everything moves forward at blinding pace. The challenge I suppose, is keeping this fast pace sustainable as we grow.

In a few short weeks, I’ve learned a lot from the way we do things here. Becoming a good doer, as opposed, to simply a thinker or a planner involves discovering a natural level of compromise for your tasks: “I can either do it fast and make errors or do it right but take time”. Finding that balance is a learning process, and I think it is essential to be comfortable with this tradeoff at all levels in an entrepreneurial organisation.

The nature of always having tasks up ahead that require attention, means that we often have to pay careful attention to priorities. Priorities are great for when we need to get stuff done, but they also need careful balance too. With too many high priorities, nothing gets done, but too many low priority tasks left lingering and they can all become critical at once!

For those of us who use GTD systems or simply To Do lists, its important to accept that a To Do list is just a framework for our day. Something will inevitably come along and change our plans, so we learn to be flexible. One tip an old mentor recommended to combat those lingering tasks on your list is to block out time well ahead for non-urgent tasks you know need to get done by a specific date and specify the criteria well ahead of time to ensure its done right.

We all have tasks that we believe are personal priorities.  This can be for a variety of reasons. We enjoy the task, we think its a necessary use of time, or it may be valuable for personal development. In the startup environment however, these beliefs can have a real impact, simply because every task you do, or fail to do has a direct effect on other team member’s workloads. So when we work, we carefully listen to concerns and try to prioritise work in teams, ensuring that everything is focussed towards the aims and goals of our organisation. I think this is a great way of working.

One of the biggest factors we all have to face each morning is an inbox brimming with unread messages. The advice here is pretty simple: Attack your inbox or drown! One tip is to set up smart filters to help you sift through unimportant stuff automatically, cutting down the time needed to process tasks. Sometimes, we do miss the occasional requests for slides, a detail on an event page or a minor follow up, but we are constantly working on tightening up the way we work to curb these occasional blips. This includes the way we handle email queries to make sure our communication with contacts is personal as well as manageable from our end.

So, with all these lessons learned, does this mean that we are now a perfectly tuned entrepreneurial machine? I’d say we’re getting close! Its impossible to stay on top of absolutely everything without being crippled for time. But every day here at S4S, we do all try our very best.

I’m keen to hear about how the S4S community manages their tasks and time within entrepreneurial environments including any helpful tools you guys use, so feel free to drop us a comment below or start a discussion in our forum.

In the meantime, stay tuned for part three of The Naked Business. You can follow us on Twitter at @s4startups and @s4stv. You can follow me on @sdeshm.