4 jobs founders should handle themselves
(Delegation is leadership in its purest form, without it, the quality of work suffers, productivity decreases, and startup growth is capped even if the developed product works at scale. Here are 4 jobs early-stage startups should not delegate.GETTY)
Abdo Riani | Contributor
Entrepreneurs | I write about bootstrapping startups and small businesses.
28 October 2019
While Steve Jobs may have broken every leadership rule, none of his ideas would have turned into products millions of people are using without the indispensable contribution of his team members. Delegation is leadership in its purest form, without it, the quality of work suffers, productivity decreases, and startup growth is capped even if the developed product works at scale. Startup founders can end up doing OK at many things but not exceptionally well on anything.
Delegation evolves the bigger the company gets. There are certain key jobs in the early stages of a startup that only the founders should take even if team members can be trained to do. Before listing and discussing those jobs, here are two responsibilities that can be delegated since the beginning.
Customer development and product development go hand in hand, however, while product development can be delegated, the founders should always be talking to customers to filter, disseminate and communicate information and the next steps to the team. There are many talented programmers who can build virtually any product, the biggest responsibility of the founder is to delegate building the right product or the next feature(s).
Marketing is another key role that entrepreneurs can delegate early on. Building an audience of beta users for testing, presales and for the word of mouth to kick in are three reasons founders might need to start marketing even before building a product. Roles like content marketing, running paid ads and social media management can be taken by team members while you focus on the 4 important roles below.
1. Talking To Customers
Customer development is startups’ most critical role for several reasons. Talking to customers is how hypotheses are tested and startups are built. By talking to customers, entrepreneurs are not only validating and invalidating ideas, they’re constantly looking for the gap that their products can fill even if previous attempts failed. No one but the founders will care to dig deep throughout the whole startup journey to keep looking for the next thing that will stick.
Entrepreneurs are expected to be great salespeople, but not every entrepreneur is a good salesperson. Many founders hate sales but love to create. In the early stages of a startup, especially in the pre-launch period, customers, investors and partners will invest in the founders because they trust they will deliver the product they promised.
Just like customer development, no one else would do a better job at telling the story, vision and value proposition as well as the founders. However, this is not the biggest reason why entrepreneurs should take the job of the salesperson in the beginning. Sales is another form of customer development. Hearing customers’ requests, complaints and suggestions are a great way to build better products.
Finally, hiring salespeople, even for enterprise focused businesses, should not be a priority until the business has proven its viability and potential with a product enough people are using and paying for.
Hiring is so important for startup success that many top CEOs continue to interview candidates for every role in the company. A toxic company culture is mortal especially if it’s built on a toxic foundation. While judging candidates’ talent can be reflected in their experience and performance tests, only the founders, especially in an early stage startup, can ensure the candidate has the right values, attitude and ethics aligned with the company, its mission and vision.
Investors fund people. The first obvious reason why startup founders should take fundraising responsibilities is simply because investors will not back a startup without hearing, trusting and liking the founders, especially in a startup without a product, revenue and a validated business model.
Furthermore, fundraising is extremely valuable for the entrepreneurs as it opens many partnership doors, helps them build relationships with key people, provides them with quality feedback and connects them with key stakeholders that can mean new business, potential investments and acquisitions. Even if the startup fails, founders will find it easier to start the next one with a bigger support group.
While customer development, sales, hiring and fundraising are key responsibilities of the founders, there are several tasks that can be delegated to help entrepreneurs get their job done more effectively and efficiently. Such roles include administrative assistance, data collection and outreach to investors, customers and partners.