Now that I’m working at a startup again (the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan is very much a startup) I’m finding an old habit starting to emerge. You see, when I’m in startup mode and I’m heading into the office I will often not fill my car all the way up with gas.
Back when I was a poor college student I would routinely stop the pump part way through the vehicle fueling process but that was purely a monetary issue – If I had $5.00 in my pocket then the tank got $5.00. “Filling it up” was not a luxury in my daily budget!
In startup mode, however, the reason I shut off the pump before the tank is filled is TIME! It kills me to waste time when there are a thousand things that need to get done and believe me; in startup mode you are never ever done. Now I know some people reading this will be thinking: “Wait, your being inefficient. If you actually filled your car up when you were at the gas station then you would be making less frequent stops for fuel thus increasing your efficiency.” That is true, but to the entrepreneur in me, it’s impossible to be patient and focus on the long term efficiency goals when I know there are a thousand things that need my immediate attention (and all of them are #1 priority).
Time, in many ways, is the primary commodity of entrepreneurs. At the beginning of a project it is their first investment (their time) that gets things done. As things begin to ramp the chaotic activities that drown out each day evaporates all time remaining. Eventually, raising capital usually is done to hire more people to accelerate product development in an effort to beat the competition to a release date or take advantage of a specific market window – both of which are time related events.
More importantly, you need your team operating at warp speed in order to achieve success and how you organize your business environment will have a huge influence on how successful you are at creating this internal velocity (which is required before you can truly show outward velocity). Keeping people focused, motivated and removing extraneous distractions are essential ingredients. You can even do subtle changes in your environment that in reality may not have a dramatic direct impact on time saving but will help set the bar and keep things moving.
I’ve even heard a rumor that a certain Ann Arbor located branch of a major high tech Internet company adjusted the elevators in their building to run 3 seconds faster than the default configuration just to squeeze out more time efficiencies within their building! If true, that is a great (and creative) way to get the message out to your team.
Ultimately, the entrepreneur that can actually create a technology that gives me more time at the end of each day will unlock untold fortunes and success. For now, I’d settle for a business plan that creates a fuel pump that fills my car’s gas tank in 30 seconds or less!