Relax. The success of a startup has absolutely nothing to do with effort.

I recently talked with a founder buddy who was close to burnout. After a year of stagnant growth, she was irritated, fatigued, and ready to give up. I’ve been a startup founder, CEO, and advisor for over two decades. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been pushed to the brink of mental and physical breakdown by the motto of working harder than everyone else.

But I also realized that there’s a big difference between hard work and results. So, before you make rash pivots out of desperation, consider which of those two possibilities you’re after.  One is a way up, the other is a wheel. Even hard work has limits.
I’m not here to minimize the value of hard effort in the startup sector. A startup’s survival depends on hard labor. New companies often fail because their leaders expect everything will work out in their favor. But let me be clear: hard effort alone will not make your startup successful. This is the trap I see many entrepreneurs fall into after their initial success. A lot of work got them here, so they believe more work will get them even further.

But here’s the thing: a company gets rewarded for harnessing invention, not dominating commodities. Long periods of hard effort should be avoided.
Every firm, new or old, will have outlier events that threaten to snare triumph. It might be a surprise competition, a huge customer prospect overstating your prospects of winning their business, or your best staff leaving for a better pay package.

All of this hurts, and it forces your company to scramble to stay solvent, much alone grow. But those were all tragedies in the making. You can’t be proactive in catching and minimizing events when you’re always looking down. You’re practically asking for them.
Long term, your goal should be to eliminate catastrophic incidents and the work required to fix them. Here are seven tips I give new (and some experienced) startup leaders to keep their heads down until the emergency button is pressed.

1. Build a solid team and delegate
We’re too busy to employ, too busy to delegate, and we wind up in a downward spiral of work until the whole system collapses. A great team determines your investability, productivity, and ultimate success. Don’t miss out on this chance because you’re too busy working.

2. Resolve customer issues creatively
Innovation distinguishes a scalpel from a sledgehammer.
Building a new firm or product takes more creativity than physical force. Getting into a creative mindset takes time and space, so embed it into your workplace culture.
3. Target your answer and market.
Instead of trying to please everyone, focus on your company’s strengths. Package those features for a market most likely to buy them. Quality over quantity yields better results in the long run.
4. Develop a competitive strategy.
Pay attention to your competitors, but don’t respond to their actions. Let them win some battles while your company innovates to win the war. A hasty, half-baked solution will just expose your flaws. Instead, think long-term and beat them up.
5. Be really wrong.
Shooters must fire. No matter how many times they fail. Don’t second-guess more than you act. Make errors and learn to apologize.
6. Internalize
You can’t hire the perfect individual for every role as your company grows from 10 to 100 to 1,000 employees. Automate, document, and most crucially, develop threads throughout your organization that favor exploiting efficiencies rather than ignoring them. The earlier you start, the less unpleasant it will be afterwards.
7.Stay calm when plans fail.
There will always be external factors that you cannot control. Customer feedback will always make you reconsider your entire model. You don’t have to respond to every customer’s requirement or request. Find the insight to know when to pivot and when to stay put.

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