daily articles for founders

Running a startup in the UK (or with a UK subsidiary)? Get in touch with my company, GrantTree. We help with government funding.

The one-minute entrepreneur

"So figure it out," Harry said. "I have confidence in you. Not total confidence, but if you can't do it, tell me that, and I'll try someone else, or do it myself. If you have a really good idea - for both the ridiculous story, and how to convince Rita Skeeter and her editors to print it - then you can go ahead and do it. But don't go with something mediocre. If you can't come up with something awesome, just say so."

Fred and George exchanged worried glances.

"I can't think of anything," said George.

"Neither can I," said Fred. "Sorry."

Harry stared at them.

And then Harry began to explain how you went about thinking of things.

It had been known to take longer than two seconds, said Harry.

(awesome source)

The book "The One Minute Manager", despite its facetious title, had a positive impact. This is not because one minute is enough to spend with the people you're managing (I'm sure not even the author believed that), but because a great many managers don't even spend one minute doing it. Explicitly spending just one minute telling someone they did a good job is a hell of a lot better than just making a mental note and saying nothing.

Most entrepreneurs that I know are can-do, action-driven types. They need to be like that in order to overcome the humongous inertial barriers that get in the way of getting anything done. If you're the kind of person who prefers to sit back and think about stuff, entrepreneurship will be quite a challenge. The default in the world of... humans... is that nothing happens. It takes hard work, energy, focus, determination, impatience, in short, an urge to make things happen right now, to make anything at all happen.

There's a reverse side to this, though: it causes problems; two in particular.

The first is a tendency to make decisions that are half-baked. Now, I'm not an advocate of spending too long making decisions. Entrepreneurs succeed by getting things right 70% of the time, while making all those decisions quickly, when other people might spend days, weeks, or even longer searching for the perfect answer. But that's not to say that every decision needs to be instantaneous and gut-driven, or that every decision should be made hastily.

First, some decisions are actually worth getting right. Knowing which ones those are is half the battle of becoming an experienced entrepreneur, but a good general guidance is how easily reversible the decision is, how long you'll have to live with it, how much work is attached to it, and how much it influences the shape of your business. Generally, if you're going to be stuck with your decision for the next 6 months at least, and it will swallow up two months of coding time, it's worth spending a few hours gathering data and thinking to raise that 70% a bit higher.

Even if the decision is nowhere near that important, if there's any work at all attached to it, try to spend at least a minute thinking about it, rather than deciding instantly, with no thought whatsoever. One minute is not that much. Don' be a zero-minute entrepreneur.

The second problem caused by making decisions very quickly is that when we need to make a quick choice, we tend to only consider solutions that we know already. A programmer will fix every problem with more code. A manager will create more processes. A designer will fix the design to eliminate the problem.

However, the best solution is not always the one you know. Every problem may look like a nail at first, but if you spend a minute thinking about it, and consider other possible types of solutions, you may realise that a screwdriver may be better suited.

A good set of questions to ask yourself during that one minute is:

  • Do I actually know what the problem is?
  • Do I know the extent and impact of the problem?
  • Who is the best person to fix this problem?
  • Does this problem actually need to be fixed?

Most of the time, you'll know the answers to these questions, and they'll help you to make the right decision. If you simply can't answer one of those basic questions, however, maybe you need to spend one more minute (or even a little longer) figuring it out before making the decision.

More from the library:
Don't drink your own kool-aid
How to reply to an angel investor intro
Swinging for the fences