In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about not dedicating enough time to your most important customers & team members.

As a founder, you have to decide what to spend your time, energy, and money on. This can be from customers, team members to investors. To be a successful founder, you need to decide what’s worth your time and what isn’t, and even more importantly, when to cut your losses.

So in this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why you shouldn’t spend too much energy on people that are not working out, how to decide how much time to invest in something, how to work with challenging customers and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

03:33 Why you shouldn’t spend too much energy on people that are not working out.

04:00 How to decide how much time to invest in something.

05:10 When to cut your losses with a customer. 

06:20 Why you should ensure that you spend most of your time with your most successful customers.

07:30 How to work with challenging customers.

09:34 The importance of understanding how to help your customers.

09:14 How most people put in so much energy in things that are not working.

10:44 How to decide what to spend your energy on.

3 Key Points:

  • There’s very few people who spend time on the right things when it comes to people.
  • If it’s a bad fit customer, it might just be a better use of your time to refer them to someone else.
  • Find your most successful customers and ensure you spend time on them.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about this phenomenon in business of spending most of your time with employees and customers that aren’t working out and neglecting your superstars. You’re rock stars, the best employees, the most successful people on your team, the happiest and most successful customers. So recently I had a conversation where this came up again, but it’s been a theme and it’s been on my mind for over a decade now. I’ve noticed this in my own businesses. I’ve noticed this in many other people’s companies where I think it’s natural that we all spend or invest most of our attention where there’s conflict, where there are problems, right? So if you’re managing a team and there’s somebody not working quite out at that well in that team, that person is going to consume a lot of your attention, a lot of your energy, a lot of your time and you’re going to coach them more, spend more time with them, look over more of their work, worry more about them, talk more to them. And maybe at some point you part ways, but you’ll give them a ton of your energy and time. And then the people that just crush it, the people that are kind of just superstars doing their own thing, over delivering on all the numbers, just showing that they don’t need, you know, they’re not struggling, they’re thriving, right? They don’t need a lot of your handholding. And with those people, oftentimes we just don’t spend any time with him. And maybe it’s even more dramatic in customers, right? The customers that complain the loudest that are the unhappiest you might take a plane fly to them, spend a lot of time one on one with them. Your team is going to worry a lot about them. There’s going to be lots of internal discussions about that customer, what to do and how to help them. And then there’s a bunch of customers that are just happily paying you full price, right? Never complain about a thing, never sending you an email, never ask for a discount or for a handout and you happily ignore these people or just don’t even realize they exist. I think that there’s a real cost to this, there’s a real downside to this in business. So I just wanted to chat with you a little bit about this. Am I crazy or is this really as common as I think it is and is it a problem or is it totally fine and should companies and startups and founders do anything about it? I’m just curious to hear your thoughts on this.


Hiten Shah: I think it’s a thing. I think we tend to want to fix problems and if someone’s not working out, we tend to spend more time with them in the hopes that we can turn it around. That is the majority of kind of the natural mentality that I’ve seen. I think there’s a lot to this. Probably most important, to go think about if you’re doing this today and if you are doing this today, like how do you just change it? Because spending so much effort on people who aren’t working out or customers are, aren’t working out means that you’re spending your energy on in some ways you can say negative things. And so time boxing that or being really smart about how you actually do that is a really good idea and it can help you think about exactly how you prioritize what you do. And if you don’t think about this, then you’ll just keep doing whatever you’re doing. I found that there’s very few people who actually spend time on the right things when it comes to people.


Steli Efti: Hey, you still there or is this dramatic pause.


Hiten Shah: I’m here.


Steli Efti: Ah, now you’re back. Now I hear you again.


Hiten Shah: Oh really? Where’d you lose me?


Steli Efti: I lost at, I think that a lot of people are not spending their time well when it comes to other people.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. What I was saying is yeah, okay. A lot of people are not spending their time well when it comes to other people because they end up going for the problems and attacking those. And so, one way to think about it is when you have a problem person, do you say, “Oh, we need to work with them to see how we can improve and help them improve,” Or do you say, “We need to work with them to find them a better place to be?”


Steli Efti: Yeah, I think that so there’s really like two things to this. I think the one is how much … When do you want to cut your losses on investing in trying to fix something internally versus empowering that somebody to be somewhere else, right? If it’s a bad fit customer instead of trying to morph and change your entire business to cater to that customer, it might just be a much better use of your time and their time to just help them recommend. Find a vendor that’s going to be the right fit for them. The same thing is true for employees. I think that, that’s a big, big component is just like what is the right amount of like investing in trying to help somebody and turn the relationship around versus when is there a point of no return where you just keep throwing good money after bad. And you should just cut your losses and you should just part ways. That will be the most productive and the most positive thing to do for both. There’s a flip side to it, which will be kind of, I think my tip, for this topic, which is to consciously … To like thoughtfully ask yourself what are some of our happiest and most successful customers and equally what are some of the most successful team members I have, and to ensure that you spent time with them, even if they’re not requiring it because there’s no fires, there’s no problems, there’s no urgent issues that they’re bringing up. And then when you spend time with them, you have to probably approach the time differently because just asking them, is everything fine? Do you need help with anything? It’s probably not going to be a good approach. They’re just more likely than not. They’re going to tell you everything is great and no, I think I’m doing really well. Right now, I don’t really have anything where I need help. If you ask people like that question and they reply to you, “Nope, everything is cool. And you go, “Well, then have a beautiful day. There’s nothing to discuss here.” I think you’re not going to get the most out of the relationship that you could. So sometimes people that are exceptionally successful, they are not used to asking for help or they’re maybe not, is used to utilizing other people because they’re so self-reliant. That’s part of why they’re so successful and why they might be doing and thriving so well in your company. But maybe those type of people. It’s not a, is there a problem I need to fix for you discussion, but it might need to be a, what is currently the most exciting stuff you’re working on? What are some projects you don’t have time for that you wish you’d have time for? What are areas that you really want to grow that you’re happy with your growth and what are areas that you kind of feel like you’re neglecting and you’d wish you’d be able to invest in more? And even if you ask somebody what are ways that I can help you if they tell you, “I don’t know.” Go, “Well, let’s think about it together. Let’s take 10 minutes and brainstorm. Let’s get creative. Let’s go wow.” You have to push them and nudge them usually a couple of times until they come up with ideas where they go, “Well shit, yeah, maybe you could help me with this thing. Now that you pushed me. Now that, we’ve been talking about this for a couple of minutes. Yeah. Now, shit you could. There is a problem where you could be useful.” These people sometimes need a lot more like nudging and a lot more help for them to even think through areas where you could help and in invest more in them and so just asking them, is everything fine? Do you have any problem? Anything I can help with? No. Okay, cool. Bye. That’s just not going to yield you real good insights on how to work with them. The same thing for happy customers. If you call a happy customer and you just go, “Hey, is everything fine? Is there anything we at company X could do to help you?” They go, “You guys have been amazing. We’re so happy. No, everything is fine.” That’s nice to hear. But those kinds of people sometimes if you nudge them a little bit and it doesn’t have to be like you for sure have to be unhappy, there’s something we fuck up. Just tell me the truth. Like it doesn’t have to be that way. It just has to be like, all right, so what is working really well? What could we do to help you there even more? What are the areas that you really like the way we work with you? Could we improve on those? Could we double down on those? What are areas that have nothing to do with us that you’re currently struggling with in your business? Right? Just spend a bit more time with people that are successful and that are valuable and where the relationship with your business and you are working and making sure that you don’t stay on the surface, but you spend more time pushing a bit digging through the surface level to truly understand because it’s very rare that there’s not a single thing you could do to help even more or to make things even better. And so just requires dedication to get to these things and an understanding that the successful and happy employees and the successful and happy customers, they’re not going to practice and give you these things because they’re not on top of their mind.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, it’s amazing how much energy we put into things that aren’t working.


Steli Efti: Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Hiten Shah: That’s really what it boils down to. I think that’s the conclusion of this for me. It’s amazing how much energy we put into things that are not working. We should probably put more energy into the things that are working and make sure that they continue to work. I think like the best thing I know about and I think about a lot when it comes to team members, it’s like, if you’re a flexible company and organization, you’re better off figuring out where are the best place for that person is. Whether it’s in your organization or not, when somebody has a problem. And really just figure out what those options are first, which is like in the company or not in the company. And then I help them out. Because the thing is if somebody is not having a great time in your company, you owe it to them to help them figure out what is a better place for them, where they can actually have impact. And all I mean by that is like is there a place in the company or is there not a place in the company for them? And I think, we tend to not think about it as binary or as like, it’s sort of a simple decision but it really is.


Steli Efti: Yeah. I love that. All right. So we’ll end this episode with your quote, and then I’ll double down on that quote, which is, it’s amazing how much time we spent with things that don’t work. I’ll say the other way around. It’s amazing how little time we spent with things that do work.


Hiten Shah: That’s great.


Steli Efti: There you go. That’s it. So our encouragement I think for everybody is spend less time with the things that don’t work and spend a lot more time with the things that are, that’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: See ya.