Fred Wilson’s now classic post What a CEO Does, argues that a CEO really only needs to do three things:

  1. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders.
  2. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company.
  3. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.

At first glance, you might think this is an overly simplistic way to look at the role of a CEO in a fast growing company, but when you think about what you spend most of your time on, your activities probably boil down to one of these three things  —  or at least, they should.

From my experience building companies over the last 15 or so years, I want to share a few tips to get better at each of Fred’s three things. It’s important to keep in mind that like anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll get  —  especially if you’re a first-time CEO.

Setting the vision and strategy

  • Don’t assume everyone in your company knows what’s going on inside your head  —  they don’t, so you have to communicate your vision and strategy until your employees (not just your leadership team) are literally sick of hearing it and can recite it back to you.
  • When communicating your vision and strategy, don’t just talk about numbers and products. Tell your people why your vision and strategy are important to you, them, your customers and investors and show them how their role fits in.
  • You understand the market, the competition and the rate of change better than anyone in your business  —  that’s why you’re the CEO, so you need to keep that in mind and realize that while you live and breathe your business, not every single one of your employees will.
  • It’s best to have a regular cadence of all-hands meetings where you constantly discuss your vision, strategy and progress. This is especially important if you’re growing fast and/or hiring new people regularly  —  you want everyone in the company to be aligned and nothing does that better than hearing from you, their CEO.
  • Try your best not to flip-flop between strategies too often. It’s inevitable that the market will change and you’ll want to zig instead of zagging, but try to limit a complete change in strategy to no more than once a year. The bigger your company is, the harder it becomes to turn the ship to go in the direction of a new strategy, meaning additional cost, complexity and confusion for your employees.

Recruiting the best talent

  • It’s best to be actively involved in the recruiting process for roles you determine as critical. Whether that’s making the initial contact, jumping on a plane to meet a candidate, or conducting the final interview to sell her on your vision. Don’t delegate everything to your team. The best candidates are in high demand, and getting face time with you can be the deciding factor in where they go to work.
  • Plan your new hires at least two quarters out if possible. There’s lead time to find amazing people, regardless of whether you have a strong network or not.
  • The best people don’t take a new job because you have a great kitchen or a chef  —  they want to work in industry-defining companies with a big vision and huge potential upside where they can make an impact. Sell that possibility aggressively.
  • As Ben Horowitz mentions in his excellent book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, try to find someone who will be good for the next 18 months of your company’s growth. In 18 months you’ll be a completely different company, so there’s no point thinking too far beyond that.
  • Focus on the person you’re hiring more than their resume. What makes them tick? What are they passionate about? Are they humble despite huge success in the past? What do they value and how do they handle tough situations? Skills can be taught, personalities cannot be changed.

Having enough cash

  • If you raise money, it should last at for at least 18 months of bad times. In other words, if everything went to hell in a hand basket, have enough cash for that scenario, not the perfect scenario where your sales grow 500% in the next year.
  • There’s a fine line between fast growth and spending too much money. You can grow fast while keeping your cash burn in check and it’s better to grow slightly less than having to fire half of your people because you’ve overspent and can’t raise another round of funding.
  • Most fast growing companies spend a lot of money on sales and marketing without first proving ROI. Instead, test multiple channels with small budgets and when you’ve found a strong ROI (ideally 3x or more), scale that channel aggressively.
  • If your goal is to build a big business that can be acquired or taken public down the track, focus your remuneration more on equity than cash, especially for executives  —  you want them to be aligned around creating future value which they can share in.
  • The earlier you can understand where you’re cash efficient and where you’re not, the sooner you can fix those leaky funnels and spend your cash more wisely.

Of course, there’s a lot more to building a fast growing company than just Fred’s three points and my tips for each, but hopefully you find them useful.

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These Are The Most Unusual Ways to Work Smarter Instead of Harder

Millions of people work really hard. Everyday. But there is always a better or smarter way to accomplish the same things you have to do every week. And you probably have a productive routine that works for you. Most people do. You can still improve it though.

These are two of the most upvoted answers to this question on Quora: What are some uncommon ways to work smarter instead of harder? These ideas have worked for the productivity experts.

Answer by Nela Canovic, productivity hacker, writer, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur

Do your deep work (the hard stuff, the work that requires the most concentration) EARLY.

When exactly?

Many scientists say that the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after we wake up. If, for example, you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10  a.m.

What are the benefits?

Doing your deep work early in the day allows your brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from your environment, and with a lot of  energy that you’ve gained from a restful night. It’s the exact opposite of what can happen if you leave your hardest work for nighttime, after you’re done with all your daily activities and you are exhausted from the day.

How can I get into this habit?

1. For one week, keep a log of what you do during your peak times. Are you focusing on your important mental tasks? Are you learning new material, solving complex problems, reading, or writing? For most people, this time is usually spent commuting to work, checking email, making phone calls, watching or listening to the news.

2. Re-prioritize your peak brain performance time. Think of ways you could rearrange the things you do early that are less important to your personal and professional development. Like to stay on top of the latest news? Save this activity for your lunch break or right after lunch.

Emails are waiting in your inbox? Be careful of how much time checking email takes; it can seriously impact your day. Choose 2 blocks of time to go over your emails, one mid-afternoon and one closer to the end of your workday. It’s better to be proactive early (by doing your important work) and reactive later (responding to questions, providing input on discussions, etc.).

3. Create more space and time to your day by implementing a morning routine that can help you be productive. The benefit of a morning routine is that you jump start your day; you complete several tasks before moving on to work, school, or other responsibilities; you are more productive with your time; you feel more successful in what you do. I wrote a few ideas on developing a morning routine here.

Answer by Akash Sehrawat, Practices Kaizen ( act of continuous improvement ) daily

Here are 17 uncommon ways to work smarter instead of harder.

1) Find your passion: Life becomes much easier in the long run.

Sure, when you start out there will be doubts! No one will believe in what you are doing, but you need to keep moving no matter how much criticism you face!

All this doesn’t matter. What TRULY matter is the believe in yourself. Related post: Akash Sehrawat’s answer to How do you know if you’ve discovered your passion?

2) Passion is not enough. Find a purpose: Doing something which you are passionate is good. But is selfish. Nothing wrong with that. Now take a step forward and find a purpose.

For example: I am passionate about building muscle and becoming healthier. Good. Purpose: My mission is to help a million skinny guys gain muscle, and be healthy. Great!

3) Once you find your passion, and a purpose, Profits will come:

Passion: Baba Ramdev is passionate about Yog and Ayurveda.

Purpose: He propagated Yog on TV, through books and DVD and now through his company Patanjali he is providing natural ayurvedic products at reasonable prices! Patanjali’s Predicted Revenues by March 2017= INR 10,000 Crores.

Profits will come eventually. Just focus on helping lot of people.

4) Create, Consume, Communicate, in this order: Creating is the highest form of intelligence.

Here are few things you can create:

-A life that you want.

-Write a blog post on things that you are passionate about.

-Paint.

-Create a company.

-Create Products and Services that will make people’s life easier and so on and so forth.

Consume: While you are reading this article you are consuming. Reading fiction, non fiction, watching TV, etc are all forms of consuming.

Firstly, majority of us consume too much, just too much. But librarians are not smart or rich!

Idea is to consume the right stuff. It is to consume something which will help you reach towards your goals.

Consume biographies, consume awesome posts by great bloggers.

Secondly we consume mostly entertainment and not educative stuff.

We love watching Cricket, our favourite comedy shows, and reality TV. These things provide immediate pleasure or gratification but don’t provide any long term value.

I am not asking you to cut out completely on entertainment, limit it to 10-20% of the things that you consume.

And Lastly communicate: God has given us 2 ears and one mouth. HE wants us to speak less and listen more. In this age of wats up and Facebook, there is too much noise and mindless chatter going on! Just too many opinions about anyone and everyone!

My advice: Talk less, listen more and do more:)

5) Do something important: Before venturing into Tesla, SpaceX Elon Musk knew his odds to succeed were very less.

To this one interviewer asked him why did he still went ahead with it? His answer: “Coz its important and is the right thing to do”

6) Measure how much time you waste everyday, and then aim to reduce it: Watching TV, gossiping over the phone, chilling with friends, late night-outs, spending excessive time on Facebook are all time wasters and usually don’t provide any educative value. First step is to become aware about how much you are actually wasting on these activities everyday, every week. Then aim to reduce by 10% and then by 20% and then move upto 50%.

Just imagine the awesome things you can do with these many hours saved: like spending more time with your family, starting a blog part time along side your job, devoting more time to your hobby and so on and so forth.

7) Walk and burn: Do yourself a favour and buy a fitness band.

And set the target to 10,000 steps daily. This will help you burn roughly 500 calories daily which is equivalent to 3500 calories in a week or 1 lbs of fat loss a week, or 4 lbs a month, or 48lbs a year (21.8kg). Most of you don’t even need to lose this much in the first place!

8) Lift heavy weights: Weight training is concentrated work! Working out just few hours a week can provide you with immense benefits. Learn more.

9) Wake up early: Sure some people do their best work between 11pm to 3am. I was one of them long time back, until I become a morning person. I realised I am much more alert working early mornings. Usually after an undisturbed night sleep I can really focus and focus hard.

Whereas working at night was always erratic. Usually something or the other used to come up. Friends birthdays, family get togethers, movie etc. Majority of people in this world are asleep from 5am to 7am. You can do your best work at this time.

10) Build a routine that works for you: Will power is not enough. You plan 10 things the night before. You are all charged up and promise yourself that you will accomplish all the things in the list. What happens the next day? You snoozed and as a result you lost few hours of your precious time. You start to feel guilty and the whole day spirals downwards!

Don’t feel like writing, sit down, open your Mac and start typing. A rough draft is better than an empty page

Don’t feel like going to the gym. Stop your thinking, wear your shoes and just go. Once you are at the gym, you’ll be glad you came.

Successful people build routines, and not will power.

11) Start a stop watch before every task: Oh this one really works! When I know the clock is ticking, I am way more focussed.

12) Divide your day into small chunks: I don’t enjoy F1 races much! But what I have learned by watching is that the team who wins is the team who takes timely strategic pit stops! In the long run what really matters is that you have the right amount of fuel in the gas tank, your tires are not worn out too much etc.

The same can be applied to your work. I personally can focus intensely for 25 to 30 minutes. After which my mind and my body asks for break. Usually when I am excited or with my team I override that signal and make myself a cup of coffee and keep working! Not wise! After sometime my body starts to release stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline etc. This makes me anxious and jittery!

In order to work smarter, what I can do is to take a break after a period of intense work:

  • The break should be no more 5 to 10 minutes after 25 min of work
  • and 15 to 20 minutes is ok if you work for 45 to 50 minutes
  • During the break don’t check Facebook or chat with your friends.
  • Instead do these things: Go for a walk and take deep breathes simultaneously
  • Mediate
  • Listen to great music
  • Take a power nap

There’s an app for that: iOS – Be Focused by Denys Yevenkoy

Android – ClearFocus by ClearApps.xyz

13) First things first: Now, I am of the notion that if it has to happen, it has to happen FIRST. You see we have limited will power. Roy Baumeister’s experiment proves this fact.

If you complete all your important task before noon ( exercise being at the top of the list ) , chances are very high that they will get done!

14) Do Less: Less is more. Less is productive. 20% of the things you do will give you 80% of the results. Those 20% of thing are hard to do. Usually we try to avoid them! And choose to stay in our comfort zone. Majority of us are busy, but not productive.

15) Keep asking this important question: Is this the best use of my time? If the answer is “No”, then probably it is. Re-assess and stratagize. Figure what are things that you should be doing instead.

16) Plan Plan Plan: Abraham Lincoln said: ” If I have nine hours to chop a tree, I would sharpen my axe for 6 hours and cut the tree for 3 hours! Always plan the next day the night before! This habit has helped me saved me tons of time! Plan every hour , every minute. Its ok if things don’t go according to your plan. Just improvise:)

17) Reserve Sundays for Weekly Planning: Measure, analyse, progress. How can you improve on something that you don’t know? Keep a document detailing how you spending every hour of the day! I know it may seem like a big task initially, but over time, it builds into a solid habit. This way you have a clear idea where your spending your time.

Every Sunday you can take a look at the various things you have accomplished. You can then work towards improving.

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If You Want to be as Great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson, Read This

Success, real insane success is a marathon. Oh, and there are no shortcuts. You can’t spring your way to greatness. It takes times, a very long time.

Here is Richard Branson’s business timeline – his business ventures from the 1960s to today. It’s a very long list. It will give you an idea of what it took him to get to now.

These are two of the most upvoted responses on Quora to this question: “How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson?

1. Justine Musk, Canadian author, and the first wife of Elon Musk

Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things. Extreme success is different from what I suppose you could just consider ‘success’, so know that you don’t have to be Richard or Elon to be affluent and accomplished and maintain a great lifestyle.

Your odds of happiness are better that way. But if you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point. These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way.

They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage.

They don’t think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you  (and make no mistake, you will need them).

That ‘something bigger’ prevents you from going off into the ether when people flock round you and tell you how fabulous you are when you aren’t and how great your stuff is when it isn’t. Don’t pursue something because you “want to be great”.

Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you. Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an *insane* work ethic, so if the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.

Follow your obsessions until a problem starts to emerge, a big meaty challenging problem that impacts as many people as possible, that you feel hellbent to solve or die trying.

It might take years to find that problem, because you have to explore different bodies of knowledge, collect the dots and then connect and complete them.

It helps to have superhuman energy and stamina. If you are not blessed with godlike genetics, then make it a point to get into the best shape possible.

There will be jet lag, mental fatigue, bouts of hard partying, loneliness, pointless meetings, major setbacks, family drama, issues with the Significant Other you rarely see, dark nights of the soul, people who bore and annoy you, little sleep, less sleep than that. Keep your body sharp to keep your mind sharp. It pays off.

Learn to handle a level of stress that would break most people.

Don’t follow a pre-existing path, and don’t look to imitate your role models. There is no “next step”. Extreme success is not like other kinds of success; what has worked for someone else, probably won’t work for you.

They are individuals with bold points of view who exploit their very particular set of unique and particular strengths. They are unconventional, and one reason they become the entrepreneurs they become is because they can’t or don’t or won’t fit into the structures and routines of corporate life.

They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat, laugh in the face of paperwork.

But they transform weaknesses in ways that create added advantage — the strategies I mentioned earlier — and seek partnerships with people who excel in the areas where they have no talent whatsoever.

They do not fear failure — or they do, but they move ahead anyway. They will experience heroic, spectacular, humiliating, very public failure but find a way to reframe until it isn’t failure at all.

When they fail in ways that other people won’t, they learn things that other people don’t and never will. They have incredible grit and resilience.

They are unlikely to be reading stuff like this. (This is *not* to slam or criticize people who do; I love to read this stuff myself.) They are more likely to go straight to a book: perhaps a biography of Alexander the Great or Catherine the Great* or someone else they consider Great.

Surfing the ‘Net is a deadly timesuck, and given what they know their time is worth — even back in the day when technically it was not worth that — they can’t afford it.

I could go on, it’s a fascinating subject, but you get the idea. I wish you luck and strength and perhaps a stiff drink should you need it.

2. Michael Simmons, Co-Founder, Empact & Award-Winning Entrepreneur

Most of these people have focused on individual traits such as hard work, deliberate practice, etc.. But when we look in the real world, we see that individual traits aren’t the whole story.

There are so many people who work extremely hard, have great ideas, plan out big things and so forth, yet they are not nearly as successful as these four legends.

I myself am an entrepreneur. I have been since the age of 16. Recently though, I had the same underlying question you had.

Because of that, I went out searching for the answer.

Through my interviews I do for Forbes, I recently came across the field of network science. This field has studied how people become successful from a completely different angle. They’ve found that how we build our network may be the best predictor of success.

Since then, I have interviewed many of the world’s top network scientists on a quest to understand how networks create competitive advantage in business and careers.

Out of the four legends that have been mentioned, I feel that the best person to showcase as a prime example of how networks impact success is  Steve Jobs.

Since then, books have been written and movies have been made.

Each has celebrated his legacy and aimed to share the secrets he used to build the largest company in the world; things like attention to detail, attracting world-class talent and holding them to high standards.

We think we understand what caused his success.

We don’t.

We dismiss usable principles of success by labeling them as personality quirks.

What’s often missed is the paradoxical interplay of two of his seemingly opposite qualities;

  1. Maniacal focus
  2. Insatiable curiosity

These weren’t just two random strengths. They may have been his most important as they helped lead to everything else.

Jobs’ curiosity fueled his passion and provided him with access to unique insights, skills, values, and world-class people who complemented his own skillset. Job’s focus brought those to bear in the world of personal electronics.

I don’t just say this as someone who has devoured practically every article, interview, and book featuring him.

I say this as someone who has been monomaniacal in the study and research of what the underlying key components are that create career success.

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