Work on a shire horse not a unicorn startup

Life is too short to spend time on something you don’t love so concentrate on making your startup a shire horse, not a unicorn (although you might get that too!). Make your startup the best it can be, better than the competition and most importantly — profitable. Then you can enjoy your work/life balance (you never know when things might change). If you do this well then a unicorn may follow — but life won’t pass you by, you’ll enjoy yourself, earn some money and take holidays!

This approach will help when your first colleagues join and your leadership shadow starts to have an effect to create a motivated workforce.

Set your goals and vision, be relentless in your pursuit of these — taking on market changes/external influences/etc.. Keep your processes (yes you need these to ensure repeatability with growth), costs and product[s] lean — then it’s down to you to make a success (you know what success looks like as you’ve set your goals and vision — haven’t you?).

Having founded a few startups (I’ve had sleepless nights and battled cancer along the way — that’s another story) — I’m going to apply these goals to my next venture[s]. Specifically not chasing unproven ideas, I’m going to concentrate on an existing market and building a company that’s better than the competition. It’s a different strategy to many in the ‘startup’ space but a proven one in other areas.

I’m not saying that chasing funding and working all hours of the night and day is wrong (if that’s what gives you your kicks then go for it — be aware of the consequences and read this and this) — many of my friends have gone down that path. Be honest with yourself and about what you want — many of us rely on validation by others (chasing the big funding rounds/valuations/etc.), but you can have just as much fun along the way without the big bucks and you’ll get to see more of your friends, family and the World too — after everything isn’t that what most of us want and one of the biggest deathbed regrets?

  • I’ve spent most of my life in the UK — a shire horse is a working horse used for ~750 years before mechanisation — they might not be the latest and greatest by today’s standards but can you name a startup you think will last longer than 750 years?
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