When you are building a company, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the number of things that have to be done just to keep your company running. Between accounting, paying bills, signing contracts, financial planning and payroll you might find yourself spending half of your time just on operations. If you have never done these kinds of things before you might spend all of your time learning and doing them until you get proficient. It can be fun to learn and makes your new business seem like a real business.
The problem is that none of it matters.
Not even a little.
No company has ever been acquired because it paid all its bills on time, had flawlessly accounting ledger, perfect financial planning or impeccable contracts. Those are just the table stakes to play the game.
Absolutely the only thing that matters to your new company is whatever makes you different. That difference is what separates you from the competition and makes you stand out as a better solution. That difference makes you better. It is your competitive advantage (See Never Play Fair) and it underlies everything from your sales pitch to your strategy. If you do raise investment or get acquired, it will be because of that difference.
You should spend 100% of your time investing in your differentiation. Make it better. Make it obvious how you are different. Think of it like a wedge that you are using to split the market wide open and keep hitting it. Be relentless and focused on winning through your differentiation.
This extends to “feature parity” as well. If you look across all your competition and create a feature comparison matrix (See Only the Paranoid Survive), there will be a lot of features everyone else has that you lack. You could spend your time adding those features to get even with the competition, but what does that get you? If you look exactly like them why would anyone choose you? You should understand those gaps but invest in your differentiation.
What about all those operations that your company needs to run? Outsource. Pay people to do them for you. Don’t think of it as a cost, think of it as an investment. Every hour you pay for them to review contracts, pay your bills or run payrolls is an hour you can invest in your company’s differentiation. You are buying time, which is a rare commodity for start up companies, and investing it in the only thing that matters.
If you succeed, your differentiation will be so clear that it will be easy to create marketing materials, sales pitches and investor presentations. That differentiation will be how you recruit employees, close partnerships and build value. The message of your company will be told through your differentiation because that will be the story of why you are the best in the market.
Even if you pay your bills late.