Johnson Cook

Energized. Seeking perpetual inspiration as entrepreneurial fuel.

Johnson Cook - Energized. Seeking perpetual inspiration as entrepreneurial fuel.

The Unhurried Startup CEO

 

Professional Startup CEOHave you ever watched a professional house painter work?

I’m always amazed at how fast they get things done.   Painting detailed trim, rolling, cleaning brushes… those pros can do an entire house in the amount of time it takes me personally to do a half a wall. Oh, and their quality is 50x better than mine.

But, somehow they never look hurried.  They don’t act hurried. They aren’t in a hurry. They just do their job and they are professional about it. Just so happens things move much faster.

I think Startup Entrepreneurs can be more professional about how we go about building companies. It’s a striking difference between successful serial entrepreneurs and first time startup entrepreneurs.

I’m not talking about the actual speed you move or how fast you build your company.   Speed is important. You can only be in startup mode for a certain period of time, then it’s game over.   But how fast you go and whether you feel/act rushed are two separate topics.

When you feel hurried:

- You rush through big decisions

- Your emotions are frantic… which affects your team… and your family… and your health

- Customers and investors will not be impressed with your professionalism

- You’ll lose perspective on the big picture

- You’ll exhaust yourself before the hard part of the race has begun

Unhurried is a mindset.  It is being confident that you know the plan ahead. You know the steps to take. You know how long they will take, and you know what levers and dials to push to adjust the speed of your company.

Some practical tips that help me slow down when I realize that I feel hurried:

  • Don’t check email first thing in the morning. Start with a cup of water. Then a cup of coffee if you’re so inclined. Then read a book… one that is paper and not connected to a device that will cause you to get ADD early in the morning to check email and deal with fires.  Start the day slow.
  • Miss a weekday in the office, just because. Whether it’s working from home or just putting the phone away and playing with the kids. It’s a nice rhythm breaker to step back and grab some perspective at a time when a hurried person would say “It’s impossible to break away on a day like this!”
  • Read as much as possible, and not industry specific books.   I’ve found so much calming joy in reading big picture books and stories of successful people.
  • Tell yourself often that you are lucky to have the problems that you have. You’ve already gotten farther than most people, just by starting a company. If you happen to have a team, even a product, and maybe a little bit of money… you’re in the top 1%, so you don’t have to injure yourself trying to get ahead.  Focus and be intentional.
  • If your calendar is as crazy as mine. Don’t hesitate or feel guilty about canceling meetings that have no purpose related to your primary mission.
  • One big thing per week.   A coach of mine several years ago helped me understand the value in having one main thing to accomplish each week. Not a 50 item todo list.

One more tip: I write this blog as therapy for the very reason discussed above. It’s less expensive than a shrink :) and is effective at keeping my head clear and energy focused.  This is a great way to keep perspective and start my day unhurried. Consider writing on your own if you are so inclined.

Do whatever it takes. Just don’t be in a hurry.

 

Category: Efficiency, Gumption
  • Christopher

    Thanks for the advice, Johnson! I have another example of a professional who works quickly but doesn’t look like she’s in a hurry. Since moving to Atlanta in 2007, I’ve been exclusively requesting the services of the same hairdresser: Nina at Hair Dreams. As I sat back in the chair the other day, I watched in great appreciation as she tailored her techniques according to the feedback she elicited from me. Her hands flew and made short work of the 2 months worth of unchecked hair growth I had been accumulating. For 14 years, she has been plying her craft – and I enjoy the experience because of the professionalism, warmth, and attentiveness I receive as one of their patrons.

  • Maria Joyner

    I’d like to add one thing: Wherever you are, be there fully.