• Peter Mellen

Embracing the Founder F-Word in 3 Ways

The key to startup success can be boiled down to a single word.


Not just any word, the f-word.


This wisdom comes from a highly successful silicon valley executive and investor. His wisdom has been echoed in different ways by legendary entrepreneurs that include Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos. That single word is:


Focus.


It’s a wonderfully oracular insight. True at so many levels. Far more startups die from indigestion than starvation. Successful startups rigorously articulate what problem they are solving and for who. To reach product market fit they continue pruning, creating a well defined value proposition and streamlined minimum viable product.


It’s one thing to understand the concept of focus, however, and a completely different story to practice it. Startups constantly pull us to the urgent. As startup founders we operate in a strategic fog, constantly dealing with incomplete data and frequent emergencies. These factors conspire constantly to pull us off focus. We are confronted with a never-ending series of blind alleys, distractions, and dilemmas.


The essence of leadership is navigating through the strategic fog to find focus and clarity. It’s hard to do in the face of uncertainty and overwhelm, but there are some simple and non-intuitive principles that can help you consistently rise above the urgent priorities of your business and to get clear on your strategic focus.


  1. Talk to Peers: As founders we often confront hard questions that we can’t easily share with our team, our Board, or our friends and family. Talking with peers who are on a similar journey can open up new perspectives, reveal blind spots, and plug us into new ideas and expertise.


  1. Take Your Foot Off the Gas: When we’re stuck, our instinct is usually to push harder on the accelerator. We stay later and push our team harder, hoping that the next feature or marketing initiative will produce a different outcome. The problem with this approach is that we often end up narrowing our focus when we most need to expand it. Our stuck moments are often the perfect time to step back from the day-to-day of our business, open our creative lens, and explore new approaches and ideas.


  1. Meditate: Psychotherapist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl famously said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Meditation teaches us how to create space between stimulus and response, building our capacity for choice, resilience, and creativity. With even a single conscious breath, we become more conscious of what we are focusing on and gain optionality on where to focus.


All these approaches share one thing in common. They help us emerge from the weeds of our business to see the big picture. This ability to cultivate strategic perspective is an essential skill for any leader who is setting the focus for their startup.


By the way, cultivating a strategic perspective is hard, particularly for entrepreneurs. Our natural inclination is to work hard, keep our head down, and stick with the habits that helped us get to where we are now. When we share our journey with a group of peers, we dramatically expand our options. We get new ideas, accountability, partnership, access to professional networks, and many other benefits that are much harder to find when we try to make these things happen on our own.


For every entrepreneur, the f-word is an integral part of the startup experience, usually in more ways than one. As we become more conscious of our focus and refine it, we maximize our chances for startup success. Putting it into practice becomes easier when we connect with peers and cultivate strategic perspective.


For most entrepreneurs, a team of committed peers isn’t in easy reach. Netcito has a solution to that roadblock. We convene facilitated CEO forums for entrepreneurs that incorporate strategic perspective, connection, and mindfulness. Learn more at netcito.com.