What is the function of a startup founder? To manage, put forth new ideas for growth, drive change, make profits – and build better business outcomes for the company and stakeholders involved. This is a broad outlook.
But on a cellular level – how does a startup founder or any entrepreneur spend their time? Is it product research? Hiring? Drafting policy? A little bit of all of the above, no doubt. But the main task a startup founder does that drives all their other actions is… decision making.
The biggest job a founder must do is make decisions. In any organisation, at any level, there are always decisions to be made: small decisions like which task to work on first and which social media creative to post at noon; and bigger tasks like which product gets a bigger chunk of the marketing budget to which new product gets rolled out first.
Founders need to gather and exchange information, evaluate and review data, and implement directives. And the higher up you go, the more pressure there is to make quick decisions that can give direction to the teams and people who aid the execution process.
Founders face a conundrum: unlike traditional CEOs in established organisations who are rarely tasked with making small day to day decisions, founders grapple with small decisions and far more complex ones.
As a startup founder, you need to look predominantly at growth, and work with your marketing and sales teams to deliver. You need to evaluate risks and opportunities, identify factors that can affect the outcome of a decision, anticipate outcomes, establish priorities, factor in a degree of uncertainty and use sound reasoning based on inputs from your managers and team leads.
It’s a lot to take in – but with the right data and inputs, decision-making (even in urgent scenarios), will feel less daunting.
As a founder, you rely on inputs from your other team members like your sales heads, marketing heads, growth heads and product heads. And it’s a chain – those very people have come up with those inputs after a fair amount of decision-making on their part (related to the day-to-day processes within their scope).
Since decisions at every level can impact the organisation, you need to be sure that the inputs you get – and the decisions you make – are in line with the overall goals of the company.
The term “manage up” is used by many people in the mid-management level as a method to influence founders to take a decision that will support their particular team’s projects and goals. Now, this can be tricky territory, since some people may place their own personal gain over collective organisational gain.
As a founder, you need to listen to all sides and take your manager’s and team lead’s inputs into account – but you also need to have your pulse on what’s best for the organisation in the long-run. You have to see if the decision you take (which is put forth as favourable by the manager/team lead) is aligned with the organisation’s overall goals and drives growth and success for the company.
Your team may feel the need to manage up – but you need to look downstream and understand the organisational waters better so you can help your team navigate a successful path upstream where the collective goal is achieved, not just the individual. You have to look down, to handle things when colleagues aim to manage up.
Founders are responsible for management, execution as well as managing execution. And as you oversee and manage the execution of projects and processes, you must take decisions that will lead to better business outcomes.
So it’s safe to say you can only make a decision when you know what the possible outcomes are – and you can only understand the outcomes ahead when you know what to ask your managers and team leaders. You may not be executing each campaign and strategy – but you must know what to look for.
As a founder, you need to:
At the end of the day, you can only manage what you measure – otherwise, it’s decision making rooted in ambiguity. Exceptional decision makers in high leadership positions create clarity out of ambiguity, and find timely solutions that set your business on the right path. And this can only happen when you ask the right questions, at the right time, to the right people, about the right things.
As a founder, your decisions can have a direct impact on the bottom line. Which is why you need to base your decisions on facts versus perception.
You have a process/problem in front of you, and you have a perception of it – but to interpret and evaluate the process/problem, you need to move beyond the perception/gut instinct and look at the facts, which you can only uncover after you ask pertinent questions.
From the SEO team to your paid ads team to your social media team and your content and marketing teams, each has specific goals and deliverables which you need to stay on top of.
Questions give you answers — answers which can help you measure the efficacy and success of the processes underway. And when you measure your projects and processes, you can manage outcomes better.
The aim of this series – the Startup Founder series – is to help you ask questions that will aid the processes, rather than high-level questions in relation to forward planning and organisational culture.
We’re not telling you to micromanage – that’s one of the worst things you can do as a founder!
But as a key decision maker, your opinions and your decisions have an effect on processes down the line. You may not be executing the day to day within different departments, but you do need to know the key questions to ask your teams, which will help you understand, at a glance, if things are running smoothly and if goals and targets are being met. When you know the answers to these questions, you will be in a better position to plan ahead, allocate resources, launch new campaigns/projects or rework the project/plan/strategy, if needed.
So in the next several articles of the Startup Founder series, we’ll be diving into the essential questions that will help Startup Founders measure business performance. Here’s what’s planned:
|SEO Team 💻||PPC Team |
|Email Marketing Team 📧||Social Media Team 📱||Sales Team|
|KW clusters||Targeting||Platform selection||Platform selection||Lead generation||Experimentation|
|On-page SEO||Budget Allocation||Campaign||Targeting||Forecasting||Channel fluency|
|Off-page SEO||Ad type||Optimization||Organic vs Paid||Repeat purchases||Resource allocation|
|Technical SEO||Ad spends||Open rates||Impressions||CAC||Project roadmapping|
So, dive in, get questioning and set yourself up for effective decisions that lead to impactful business outcomes.