When I was a kid, I thought I had it all figured out. All of the big decisions in life — what I wanted to do for a living, who I was going to marry, and where I was going to live — were easy to make. I was going to become a fireman, marry my next door neighbor, and live in my tree house.
As it turned out, I never got excited about running into a burning building, my next door neighbor grew up to look like Kathy Bates, and aside from a more promising mortgage payment, my tree house never became the sweet bachelor pad I had hoped it would.
That’s the problem with making big decisions when you’re too young – you don’t have enough perspective to know how your choices will play out.
Startup companies are the same way. They tend to make their big decisions too early in their formative years thinking that life will never change. Well, unless you plan on living in your tree house, there are few things you should consider.
The reality is that you won’t be here a year from now. Your vision will change, the needs of your staff will change, and once you’re up and running, you may not need that capital after all. The biggest mistake you can make right now is committing to a path that doesn’t accommodate your inevitable change in the coming months and years.
Write a Vision Without Restrictions
Imagine if Bill Gates were to have set the vision of Microsoft based on the condition of the company in its first few years. Sitting with a handful of people in the room, the biggest vision they could possibly imagine with that team may have been to service their valuable partner IBM by writing some great code.
Gates didn’t think that way. He didn’t let his present condition dictate the vision of the company. He recognized that Microsoft was capable of being a dominant player in the PC market, regardless of the fact that their present reality was much more modest.
Your vision should be set based upon what you want to become, not what you are today. Every major company starts with just a few people in a room (sometimes less) before it goes on to become a powerhouse.
Keep Big Titles out of Infant Hands
Another problem is creating executive team members long before you have any reason to have executives. If you have five people in a room and one of them took a few computer programming courses in college, you may be inclined to make them the Chief Technology Officer of your company. At the time it makes plenty of sense, since no one else could possibly fill that role.
After a few years, your small band of five turns into fifty, and now all of your technology decisions rest in the hands of the CTO, who’s about as qualified as a help desk operator at Dell Computer.
Instead of just handing out big executive titles in your first year, try calling people what they really are. Focus on the role they fulfill. It’s goofy to call a guy the “Chief Technology Officer” if he could never handle those responsibilities in another established company. Let duty dictate title, and assign peoples’ roles accordingly over time, not in the first year!
You’ll be all “Growz’d” up One Day
One day you’ll actually become the company that can execute on a huge vision, hire big executives, and raise massive amounts of capital without giving up much in return. Until then, some present-day sensibility will help propel your startup past its current limitations. If you’re going to think big, you’ve got to look way past tomorrow.