“Beware of Distractions…”
Of all the challenges that an Entrepreneur faces, I would rate “Distraction” as one of the most dangerous.
What makes distraction the most dangerous is that it comes disguised as different business opportunities/activities. It initially looks OK to spend time on them, but over a period of time, they slow down the entrepreneur and may even kill the business.
Distractions come in varied flavors that take away valuable time from building business.
From my experience, I classify distractions under the following 5 categories
- Strategic Level distractions
- Genuine “Operation level” distractions
- Investor distractions
- Self-Inflicted distractions
- Social Media & Vanity Metrics distractions
- Strategic Level Distractions :
When Product Sales are hard to come by, I resorted to other means to keep revenues. Ex: Take up a project here/there to keep the cash counters ringing. This over a period of time changed the vision of the Organization, ending in us forgetting our North Star goal.
We started as a Diagnostic Lab Software Co., did fairly well in year #1: got the product out, signed up a big customer. Then we got distracted, attempted to do other things and paid a heavy price in year #2. It took us another year and half to get aligned back to our true North Star goal.
Why? We had too many variables/distractions that happened at the same time.
Beware — when there are too many variables/distractions at the same time, it is a “near death” experience. Turning things around from that point is a herculean task.
- Genuine “Operation level” Distractions :
These activities are sometimes needed to fix issues, but they are not income/revenue generating for the organization. They take away a lot of time.
- At one point, we had to vacate our old office and had to look out for a new one. It took us close to 3+ months to find a new one that met all our needs. Putting together the whole time spent looking out, moving and setting up office caused a great deal of distraction and took significant time away from building our business.
- Transition from contractors back to employees: We initially had contractors. Later as we grew, we built our own team. This transition had its share of challenges & distractions.
- There are similar such examples of distractions that relate to compliance, Legal, IP etc., that are needed, but take valuable time away from entrepreneur in building the business.
- Investor Level Distractions :
This distraction being so big, it demands a separate category with its name.
- Activities involved :
- Writing to investors asking for meeting. Followups.
- Asking some biggie for an intro mail to an investor.
- Reading in media about some new business house setting aside a new corpus for India fund. Getting excited & writing to them.
For me some times, it was a mail from an angel/VC firm asking to know what we are doing. Before you know, the next few days goes in assembling your best deck, with data to support your business model and why they should invest in us.
After almost a year of this, we stopped going out of our way on this front. This resulted in us building business and a subsequent modest Angel Funding.
- Self Inflicted Distractions :
You have no one to blame for this except yourself. Some of these include..
- Participating in every startup competition available :
- Logic : Winning these events may get us a strong branding with the customers & connections to investors.
- Reality : Customers do not care what competition/award you won. They only care if you have a solution to their problem, at their budget, with a strong reference.
- Attending too many startup events :
- Logic : Participating in these events may help me connect to more investors, find co-founders, meet customers.
- Reality : May or may not happen.
- Social Media & Vanity Metrics Distractions :
There is a huge new industry that has cropped up out there that says that if you are not on Social Media, your business is not cool. So you spend time on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter measuring Vanity Metrics like “Facebook Likes”, the number of Twitter followers, Unique Page views.
B2B businesses in my view do not benefit much from this.
Summary : Overall, some of these kinds of distractions, at one point, posed a grave crisis to the existence of HealthMacro. We had lost our way. It took us over a year to come back to normal state.
Learnings : We now have decided that our obsessive focus will be only on 2 goals.
Any activity that does not align with these 2 goals, we call it a “distraction” and are brutal in not getting lured into this.
This is the tenth part of a series by the author. Find the previous post here.