Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the need for speed versus the need for focus at a startup.
Deciding whether to prioritize speed versus focus at your startup can be crucial to how successful you’re going to be. Overall, prioritizing focus will always trump speed. However, in order to prioritize focus on you need to know what to focus on.
In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about why focus and speed are really important, how focusing can affect your speed, how to tell when you should focus and when you shouldn’t and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About today’s topic
00:33 Why this topic was chosen.
01:20 Why focus and speed are really important.
01:48 How focusing can affect your speed.
02:14 How to tell when you should focus and when you shouldn’t.
03:54 An example of what to focus on.
07:55 How some founders tend to prioritize speed over focus in the early days.
05:42 How focus always trumps speed.
06:42 How focusing has helped Close succeed.
3 Key Points:
- Speed and focus are still an important aspect of your job.
- A lot of times when you’re very thoughtful, speed isn’t your biggest consideration.
- Most founders in the early days prioritize speed over focus.
Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to be talking about speed versus focus and this is one of those topics where one of us kind of knows what we want to talk about and the other one of us doesn’t. And in this case I know what we want to talk them about it a little bit and Steli is going to be surprised and then we’re going to get into a discussion about this just because it’s a super fascinating topic and it’s one that really is inspired, not necessarily fully sponsored, but inspired by this. A partner of ours that we brought on to basically talk about something, give us a some inspiration to, and it’s a brain.fm/startupchat is where you need to go and they are a product that it provides science backed music to help you focus, relax, and sleep. So you can guess why I was inspired on this topic. Now this is a topic I’ve talked about before a lot, so I’m going to jump right into it and say, Steli, this is the deal. I think that when you’re working on a business, regardless of what size or where you are in it, there’s two things that are really important: focus and speed, and you can say, “Oh, I’m in a larger organization. Speed is something that I don’t control or whatever,” but still speed is still an important aspect to your job regardless. And focus is also an important aspect of your job. And you can imagine that sometimes both of those things can be contradictory. And the reason I put those two things together is because I think the way I look at it is focus can either bring you a lot of speed and can make you quicker at executing or focus can actually distract you from going fast because you’re spending so much time or going so deep into something and you don’t need to. So how can you tell the difference between when you should focus and when you shouldn’t on something about your business or in your business? And then how do you decide whether it’s something you need to go fast on or something actually that you should go slower on because it requires more depth or requires more focus and that focus will ultimately speed you up. And one example I’ll throw out is engineering. So when I think about engineering and I think about wonderful things like technical debt, which is this idea that you are accruing debt that you’re going to have to pay down later on as you’re writing code because the code gets old, for lack of a better word, or the code. As you pile on more code into your software, you end up having all these, all this code and that code can be on top of each other. And if you don’t have the best practices around [inaudible] and ways that consistency around how the code should be written and how comments be made in the code and how certain things should be structured, you can end up having a very messy code base. This is going to even happen when there’s just one engineer working on it. I’ve had that happen. And this could definitely happen when there’s 10 engineers working on something or more. And so the part there that I really think about is we tend to really identify on engineering the things that we need to focus on and get right. Usually those are things related to the core parts of the product. So for example, in your CRM product at Closed.com, you folks are building something, in my opinion, on top of a pretty large contact database and that contact database is something that you’re probably pulling in and using in lots of different places in the product. And if you don’t focus on that part of your product and you’re stacking a lot of features on top of your product, you’re going to end up making it so that certain parts of your interface start loading slow because you didn’t spend enough time knowing and orienting yourself, orienting the software and the code around being able to pull up contacts really fast because every time a record is updated, it’s hitting the contact database most likely, right? And again, that’s a little bit of a basic way to explain it. And I see this happening and I know that triggered you because you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is has happened. Guaranteed this has happened” and in a lot of products it’s like that. So on engineering we focus on what’s the core of the product and and what do we have to get right and that might not be something that can happen fast. That’s something that has to happen really thoughtfully, and a lot of times when you’re very thoughtful, speed isn’t your biggest consideration, but you’re focused and you’re focusing in on something that’s a deep part of the product.
Steli Efti: I love that. I think that most founders or most startups in the early days, they focus on speed over … Well they prioritize speed over focus. And I think that’s, it should be the exact opposite way, right? They’re just try to get a lot done and get it done really, really fast, but they’re not always spending as much time being thoughtful on what is really, what really needs to get done, and what are all the distractions, all the things that are nice to have that we really shouldn’t be doing right now, right? So they get, they work on a lot of things. They say yes to a ton of areas. They go super broad, super early and obviously, if you have a massively broad vehicle, it needs so much power to get something really on the road. This is when you’re hyper-focus much easier to enter our market. So to me, focus always trumps speed. If you don’t know where you’re going, doesn’t matter what your speed is, right? I can go very slow if I know where I’m going and I’m like consistent, I’ll win the race, whatever that … What’s the story with the rabbit and the … What is really slow? The turtle or something. Wasn’t there a story?
Hiten Shah: There is a story. Yeah.
Steli Efti: There’s a story somewhere. Somebody knows what we’re talking about.
Hiten Shah: That’s right. Yeah.
Steli Efti: So I feel like if I am hyper-focused and I go super slow and you, like all kinds of focused, but you’re super fast, I’ll still crush you.
Hiten Shah: Yep.
Steli Efti: But the challenge is that you’re going to have a competitor out there that’s going to have both. You can have a competitive out there that is hyper-focused and has urgency and has speed, knows how to put, how to execute with speed, and when you have both things you have magic, like that’s when you’re crushing it in your execution. Now I’ll tell you, I’ll admit that I think the reason why we’ve been so successful at Close is that we’ve always been way more focused than a lot of other companies in our space. We’re very good at saying no to things. We’re very clear on who we are, what we need to do, and that focus has been our super power. When it comes to speed, we’ve been on on and off. We’ve had times where we executed fast and at times where we actually did it way too slow. And so for us, as a priority, as an organization, as a company, as we’re growing, is to add to that expertise and cultural experience that we have with being hyper-focused is adding a culture of more urgency and more speed to the projects and to the things that we tackle. So I think if you can get both, you’re killing it, but if I have to prioritize, always start with focus and then as a secret kind of power ingredient, add execution speed to it.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I really liked that way of thinking about it. I think you have to know what to focus on before you can go after it and speed is really about how you go after it. Oftentimes, too, you have to get started on something before you know where the bottlenecks are so you can speed it up and get it done faster. And a lot of this for me is things that you, are oriented around things you want to accomplish. And that’s why I started out with like, Hey, in a business context, there’s a lot of things you want to accomplish and if you want to really accomplish those things extremely well, then you do have to figure out what those things are before you can go figure out how you know how to do them really fast.” Then there’s also the sequence of things, which is what order do you do things in? And they’ll … That sequence isn’t always obvious, but there is a natural sequence to the things that you might want to accomplish, especially in a business because you’re not going to go be able to charge people for something without actually it being something of value, right, and you understanding what the value prop is at the very least. So I would add in the sequence as another aspect of how things get done.
Steli Efti: Yeah, I love that. Right, so we have some more recommendations for you if you’re like, “All right, cool. I get it. I’m inspired to become better at being focused and then adding speed to my execution. How do I do that now?” Well number one, listen to these two episodes that we recorded, the Startup Chat. Episode one is episode number 206, 2-0-6, How to Move Faster and Make More Things Happen in your Startup and then episode number 357, 3-5-7, It’s Not the Big that Eat the Smallest, It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow. These are two killer episodes that we recorded. Listen to both of them. It’ll give you a ton of ideas on how to be more focused to move faster. And then as the last thing, if you haven’t done this yet, you know we have a new sponsor brain.fm. Do us a favor, check out brain.fm/startupchat. Sign up for free, for free trial. Brain.fm is music that actually helps you focus, relax, or sleep better. This product is using science based back music that actually help you get into a flow state. The brain waves, it literally changes your brain waves and helps you hyper-focus. I’m using it. Hiten is using it. We’re both customers. I use it all the time as I have to get into a focus state of flow mind. It works. It’s killer and if you go to brain.fm/startupchat, you get 20% off. They’ll know that we’ve given them a shout out and that our audience loves the service as well. That’s good for us. Good for them. It will be good for you. We guarantee it. If you ever have any questions or any problems with the service, you don’t have to email them for support. You email, ask for support, right? The Steli and Hiten premium support for this. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org was steli@close.Com if you have any questions or challenges, but I’ve been using it for a good amount of time. You even longer than me, Hiten, and there’s no problems for you. You sign up for this thing, you tried a couple of times.
Hiten Shah: Right.
Steli Efti: To me, the very first time I used it within 16 minutes, I got into such a deep state of focused flow that I was like, “All right, this is it. I’m going to be using this all the time. This shit works. This is awesome.”
Hiten Shah: That’s awesome.
Steli Efti: All right, so that’s our shout out for the end of the episode and the big question, as always, with this type of stuff, if you have any questions and challenges and problems, don’t just email us for premium support for our sponsors, you could always email us, reach out, share your stories, or share your questions with us. We love to hear from you, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. This is it for us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.
Hiten Shah: See ya!