If you are already on the hard journey of running a startup, most probably you are a very strong talent who is capable of doing a lot of things. Many of us are still running a one-man workshop and not able to make an important first step of building a team. This is particularly true for entrepreneurs who are engineers as well. They know how to do all the detailed work and have the habit of taking everything into their own hands. And the result is that they get overwhelmed and exhausted with all the details and their business can never escalate to the next level. If you talk to these people, they usually have very good reasons why they want to do everything by themselves. Most engineers have the natural tendency to DIY. When you do everything yourself, the efficiency is a lot higher because you are the strongest guy and there is no communication overhead. Some of the engineer-turned-founders keep the same tendency even after they have built a team. In this article, I will talk about a few important reasons why you shouldn’t do everything by yourself. It is based on my personal experience in my startup journey. Hopefully, it can resonate with some of the readers and help you make the first step of starting to build a team.
When you do all the detailed work by yourself, you can easily lose the macro perspective. Running a startup is totally different from a day job which only lasts from 9-5 every day. Being an entrepreneurs means endless work. If you are developing a product, you can always add new features to make it more perfect. If you do everything by yourself, all you can think about is getting things crossed off your long long to-do list. If you hire somebody to do the detailed work for you, you will have more time to think about a lot more higher level issues. For example, you will have time to think carefully about what are the product features which will give you the best return in terms of either sales or customer engagement. You will have time to develop a better marketing strategy. Many engineers tend to believe they don’t know how to do marketing. The actual fact is they don’t really spend much time on it at all. If you takes the patience to tackle marketing like a mathematical or scientific problem, you will be surprised to find that you are actually a better marketer than many marketing professionals. Marketing needs a lot of data analysis and takes a lot of time. If you bury yourself in product development most of the time, you will have no time for marketing and you will never get the hang of it.
When you are a long list of things to do, it is important to prioritize them and do the important ones first. If you do most things by yourself, the prioritizing process will not be rational. You tend to avoid or postpone things which are either boring, tough or time-consuming. But some of the boring job could be very important. Making the wrong choice could cost a lot to the competitiveness of your business. If you hand the job to other hands, you will be able to make a much more objective decision. If something is hard and critical, I usually assign two of my best guys to work on the same problem so that they can help each other and eventually work out a great solution. If I just leave it to myself, I will probably never get it done since my plate is so full.
When you hand over the development work to the team, you will be surprised to find that you are a lot smarter when dealing with the same technical problem. When the developers run into some problem and bring it up with me, I am usually able to pinpoint the cause of the problem in a few minutes. After solving the roadblocks for them, I will just ask them to continue working on the same task. Am I so much smarter than my guys? Not really. It is only because I don’t get overwhelmed with the detailed work that I can easily see the cause of the problem. If I take up the entire problem, I will be tired and exhausted. When you are tired and exhausted, sometimes, you can spend a whole day debugging a problem which you would know the cause of in a second should you have a clear head.
After you make the first step of hiring some guys to help you, avoid the urge to micro-control your guys. It will be exhausting for you and for your guys. In most cases, you will be the strongest guy in terms of technical skills in the team. Usually, you wouldn’t be able to afford to hire guys as good as yourself. If you get some guys not as good as yourself, accept the fact that they will work slower than you and they will make more mistakes. Don’t try to take things back into your own hands when you see mistakes and lower efficiency. Instead, have some patience and give them more time. Set up the right methodology and rules to ensure the quality of the work is acceptable after giving them a reasonable amount of time to complete their work. NEVER expect the quality to be as good as if you do it yourself. As long it is acceptable by the market standard, that is good enough.