Add the ‘Strategic Pause’ to Your Start-Up Toolkit

After spending four intense months in the Founder Institute program, I found it challenging to distill what I learned into a 5 minute presentation about my business. What I realized at that
moment is something I already know from my corporate experience.
There is something to be said about immersion learning and quick
execution, but it must be followed by a strategic pause.

One of the competitive advantages of a start-up is the speed at which it can execute on an idea. Because the mantra of the start-up culture is “Just Do It” and “Do it Quickly”, founders can loose sight of the importance of reflection. Given that the end of the year is nigh, now is a great time to remind my fellow founders that reflection can be just as important as action.

We have often heard stories of seemingly intelligent founders who are well funded but make colossal mistakes on what we consider obvious red flags (in hindsight). How many times have we heard of founders who come off the high of a successful sell only to flop at the next thing? Yes, we Monday Morning Quarterbacks can see their mistakes a mile away but it is easier said than done. Even a smart person with his / her head buried in the details of the business (i.e. in a hole) will make mistakes. Of course there are many reasons for a misfire but could a little reflection along the way help?

Talking to a veteran Silicon Valley executive recently underscored this point. He mentioned that over his 25 years of experience, rarely did he see successful founders take time to evaluate why they were successful. They assumed erroneously that “they” were the secret sauce and if they were successful once, they will be successful again. Believing that the same flurry of activities executed in their previous venture will generate a success for the next. Oftentimes not realizing what core factors made them successful in the first place.

In the corporate world reflection is called a ‘performance review’ or a ‘business review’ (or the like). The point is to have SCHEDULED time to understand what is working and what is not working over the month, quarter and/or year. It should become a standard operating procedure: plan, execute and reflect. Take a step back, evaluate and course-correct as necessary. Do not get caught up in the “do” mentality of the start-up culture that could cause you to loose sight of obvious red flags or key success factors that will give you a chance at success (or success
again).

Check out Business Insider’s 33 Major Fail Tales From Startups That Died to help you reflect on your year’s flurry of activities.

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