StartUp Founders: Always Sweat The Small Stuff

November 26, 2023 4 mins read
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The details are not the details. They make the design.

Charles Eames

Dear Reader,

As a StartUp Founder, overlooking the small stuff is self sabotage; a blueprint for failure, it exposes your hand. These ‘insignificant’ details are the canary in the coal mine. (𝕏 Tweet This)

Startups are often perceived as homes of grand visions that frequently eclipse the essentials, the details. Yet, a fundamental truth stands clear: ‘If you can’t do the simple, you can’t do the complex.’ Excellence in the basics is not just a tenet of foundational success; it represents the care and thoughtfulness you are willing to bring to every facet of your venture – it’s a peek into your ethos. Past performance is, indeed, the best indicator of future performance.


StartUp Founders: Have You Lost Your Way? – When your startup feels like a chore, and your daily goal is just to make it to day’s end, it’s time to refocus.


Research is unequivocal: attention to small details in business operations is significantly correlated with overall company performance. This transcends mere task completion; it’s about embracing the full spectrum of leadership responsibilities. Every minor detail, spanning every aspect of your venture, becomes a critical component of both your personal and your startup’s identity.

As a founder, you’ll find that very little is within your direct control. I often discuss ‘clock speed’ as one of these few controllable elements – the rapid cycle of releasing, learning, iterating, and releasing again. The other, goes without saying, the small things. It’s about harnessing the power of control, ensuring that everything within your reach, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is executed flawlessly. Remember, nothing is beneath you, nothing too trivial, nothing unworthy of your time if it impacts how your startup is perceived.

Need a basic example? A pitch deck with a colored background but a non-transparent logo, resulting in an awkward white box. This isn’t just a design flaw; it’s a reflection of a founder’s oversight. It’s a quick fix you either missed or deemed unworthy of your time – both are concerning. Now, extrapolate this to your entire company. Consider another example: your response time to customer inquiries.

Founders love a good overcomplication, as if simplicity belittles their role, you cant be a founder working on a simple problem, that would make you a simple human, you can’t be a simple human pitching a simple problem to investors, you need “curing world hunger” level vibes. No you don’t. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” (LdV).

A challenging aspect for employees working closely with founders is our (occasionally) unrealistic expectations. A typo can halt operations; an image slightly misaligned can cause uproar. Detail orientation isn’t merely a preference; it’s an indispensable aspect of successful entrepreneurship. Whether innate or cultivated, spotting and addressing details is crucial. It’s about thoroughness, precision, and steadfast pursuit of excellence. Wouldn’t it be fab, if this is how people described you? Thorough, precise and steadfast in the pursuit of excellence!!!

Here’s the kicker: people judge books by their covers, so why not perfect your cover? Investors make snap judgments; customers form assumptions; employees seldom give the benefit of the doubt.

My screaming on handling the basics is rooted in a simple truth: If you can’t be trusted to manage your brand meticulously, how can you be trusted with a customer’s?

You can huff and puff all you want “do you want me working on this algorithm, or spell checking the website? You choose” – I did. The website. You MUST understand the gravity of this, I’ll repeat it for emphasis: if you can’t see the problem, you are the problem. And if you see the problem but choose not to solve it, you’re still the problem.

This isn’t a one-off; it’s a mindset. Every email sent, every feature refined, every piece of customer feedback addressed – these are the controllable elements that shape your journey. Neglecting these details accumulates organizational debt. Velocity in the direction of bettering them, creates a positive ripple effect, across your whole org.

And here’s my final charge to you: Just execute. If you’re missing the small things that everyone else sees, train yourself to notice them. If you see them, just do them. Save those time over target lectures for someone else.

To being unbearable in expectations…

— James

(LinkedIn | Twitter | Tiktok)

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