Doing more with less

  • The key to bootstrapping a successful business is to think lean and tackle the most pressing problems at any given time. Some know it as the 80-20 principal, go after 20% of the work which drives 80% of the results.

    As soon as we start spreading ourselves thin across many things, the focus is lost, priorities get mixed and we start burying ourselves in a deluge of things that take us away from the goal.

    I'd like to ask people on this forum how do they manage work that's extraneous or outside of their core strength. Work like hunting for an office space, making an intro product video, setting up and managing social media channels, hunting the web for early leads, designing campaign newletters/logo, writing marketing material, handling legal formalities etc.

    How have you avoided/executed work which you can't take care of or don't have time to?

  • @vineet89
    Simplistically, it boils down to prioritisation and building some personal guidelines to enforce that prioritisation.



  • @khitchdee True, though that's easier said than done.

    I am looking for some founder stories to learn how did they scale/sell in early days, what responsibilities did they outsource, how did they find the right talent and how did they reach out to their audience on a limited budget. Basically "how" did they achieve more with less?

  • @vineet89
    As a founder, you are on your own and you must develop a code that you can live by. Your most important things should become second nature and you should easily be able to tune out things that don't relate to your goals, though that's easier said than done. I don't think you should look at particular activities such as sales/marketing in addition to engineering but first develop a way to balance the whole thing. The rest can be derived from there.



  • @vineet89 said:

    How have you avoided/executed work which you can't take care of or don't have time to?

    Great question. I think the easy answer is: partner with people who have complementary skills. For example, while I was bootstrapping VWO I partnered with Sparsh, who then became CTO and helped scaled the engineering (I enjoyed writing first version code, but it wasn't good enough to scale anywhere beyond few thousands users). Similarly my dad who is experienced in operations has been helping me in everything related to finance and operations - from office hunting to accounting.

    The hard answer is to actually just do things you can't outsource (because of lack of money or time). Bootstrapping is extremely hard but it makes you learn a lot of new things which are outside of your core expertise.

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  • I would be evil enough and say: you need to put finding your priorities on a priority.

    It is difficult to generalize answers to such questions in absence of your stage, industry, experience.

    I agree with @khitchdee. Think like a terrorist out to shift-delete a certain human race. You have to indoctrinate yourself into a certain ideology/guiding principles. It could stem from a secret you know about your industry, people, philosophy or even religion/scriptures. Something you can go back to for guidance.

    You could even coattail someone's ideology. Its important to believe in something in absence of anything else to look forward to. Pareto is good, but doesn't aid in knowing what is 80, and what is 20. For extreme simplicity, lets just say its 40:40:20 = ship product : make money : other shit. You have 80 to 100 hours a week. You know the math.

    For Prioritizing: you will have to figure out what and how to. There is no escaping that. You will have to learn. That's exclusively your job. Nothing can be avoided. Somethings can be outsourced, somethings can be delayed. Again only two things matter: make the product better, faster or making revenue. Logos, legal, office: outsource.

    Involve people: Ask for help. Ask family, ask friends, ask twitter, ask quora, ask notcrud. Even ask your customers. Find mentors you could look up to and interns who believe in you. Don't be shy.

    Pay: fiverr, odesk

    Again, cannot generalize, but do not be overly critical about logo, legal, office. All of these can be changed/tweaked. Office space specially, I don't whats wrong with many of the entrepreneurs. You will realise if your startup starts growing you'd change your office every 6-12 months, and your logo atleast every 18-36 months. Even when choosing an office, comfortable seats win over the view. What you cannot tweak is early customers and their feedback.

  • Evil is good :-)



  • Good question @vineet89 .
    Firstly, I would say that...Once you have decided to be in business, there is nothing like this particular work is 'out of core strength'. If it is required to be done, you have to just put your head down and do it anyway. This is particularly true while bootstrapping because that is the time when you have limited or no money/people to work.
    I have observed this with entrepreneurs who are developers and they face issues with 'sales'. They tend to think development is everything and later realise the difficulties in aspects of sales. 5 out of 7 things you listed are related to sales.
    Now, without having the sales channel sorted, the business is not much of business.

    It helps to learn/practice the art of communicating your passion and abilities of the product you are building. It starts getting people to take you seriously and create a positive vibe around you. These people then come helpful in advising/doing things out of development zone.
    I agree to what @paraschopra says about partners. And I guess he is the best person who has 'been there, done that' when it comes to bootstrapping a successful business.

  • Oops, sorry to drop the thread, didn't get any email notice on the new replies.

    First of all, thanks to all of you for posting your thoughts, there is a lot to take back. Offcourse @paraschopra 's opinion is coming directly from the horse's mouth.

    The thing is, today founder's only claim to fame is a big funding round. So when I am talking to founder's around me, their first milestone is raising money. For many business models, this may be a necessity. But there are a bunch of problems out there which can be solved by a small team, beautiful product and clever scaling.

    Since there is a lot of literature out there on "how to raise money" and "what do investors look for", I thought there should be atleast one thread which talks about successfully bootstrapping a venture to a position of dominance. The best examples I can think of are Basecamp, Atlassian, VWO, Zoho, Stitchfix and Freshdesk.

    We have to bring out more stories like that.

  • I think it's great to draw inspiration from and perhaps use some facets of what others are doing.
    Specially the known success stories.
    But, founding a company is a very individual effort.
    It's better time spent to figure things out more on your own.
    There's a tendency these days to absorb too much information.
    You have to retain your intelligence and jugdement while doing that.
    Otherwise, you could get swayed and lost.



  • Great discussion and a great question @vineet89.

    My first business was a massively VC funded one and the second one is a completely bootstrapped one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. But, I believe, a bootstrapped business allows - forces - you to think clearly, ask the right questions and build a "real" business.

    Which brings us to your specific question - the answer based on my experience is to ruthlessly strip off things that are not needed at all like office space (work from home), legal (rely on templates but pay attention), recruiting ( do not recruit and/or outsource to freelancers), social media ( do it yourself or don't do it - I decided to NOT to do it and instead depend on SEO which scales better IMO), writing (write yourself - which will pay huge dividends for a long time).

    Those are quick answers to your specific points BUT overall I'd suggest if you laser focus on "getting to revenue" and do only things that get you there and strip off things that won't get you closer to revenue or more revenue directly, then it helps you avoid tasks that are not critical. Keep in mind that some of the tasks you strip off right now may become important later - its important to identify what to delay and until when.

    Its easier said than done, ofcourse, but much needed.