Opinion: The role of locked-down startup founders

It’s been a month since I have been to the office. For the last four years, I’ve spent more time at the Feel22 office than anywhere else.

And since our reduced operations team has been going there every day since the lockdown to ensure the continuity of our business, I’ve felt the discomfort and frustration that startup founders feel when they are away from their company & team.

So I’ve been asking myself: What is the role of a locked-down startup founder?

Last year, I read The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and a paragraph completely changed the way I run things at Feel22. Here’s the extract:

“We take care of the people, the products, and the profits— in that order.”

It’s a simple saying, but it’s deep. “Taking care of the people” is the most difficult of the three by far and if you don’t do it, the other two won’t matter. Taking care of people means that your company is a good place to work.”

The primary role of a CEO is taking care of his people

If you don’t take care of your people, your product will suffer and eventually, your profits will suffer too. It is by far the most important role of a CEO.

Take care of the people, the products, and the profits— in that order.

I have previously worked at startups with weekly parties and free snacks. We all loved it, worked hard and stayed long hours at the office. But everything disappeared at the first crisis. Employees resigned leaving behind their equity and free breakfasts.

Crises, tough periods and bad results will tell you if your employees are happy at your company.

The products

It’s the reason we exist and there’s never been a better time to work on our product. In our case, our product is not limited to our website or platform. Our product is our social media tone of voice, the quality of our customer support, the design of our packaging.

Since founders cannot do all of these, we have to take care of the people who will.

Investing in improving your product is so much more important than investing in marketing. After all, a great product will market itself.

The profits

The single most important financial metric. It’s not GMV, it’s not sales and it’s not the growth rate. It’s the profits. It’s the only metric that matters in the long run. And if they are negative, how are they improving with time & scale.

I’ve used this confinement time to review our entire cost structure and optimize it for a better bottom line.

This article was first published here and has been reproduced on MENAbytes with the author’s permission. 

Maurice Mattar
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