Cooking up a company
Over the break I checked out Cooking at the Dirty Bird a cookbook from one of my favorite restaurants in Portland, OR, Le Pigeon. The restaurant opened right around the corner from my office out there and I am sure I was one of the first 100 customers if not the first 10. I like to cook and think the whole book is great, but the foreword by Tom Colicchio…struck me as relevant to founders with a couple word changes — so I wrote out my version below and all credit for the good stuff to Tom for his original version.
If you’re into cooking and entrepreneurship you should buy the book. If you are not so into cooking, I hope you find my adaptation of the foreword relevant.
There is a moment in time in the career of an entrepreneur that is unlike any that has come before or will come again. You’re not yet known. Perhaps you’re an individual contributor at an established start-up or a mid-level manager at a large company. Maybe you have time to hack on the side or you just talk ideas with friends on nights and weekends.
Then you take a risk.
You quit the distractions of your current professional life to focus on your obsession — you start a company — and suddenly you’re working on whatever you want, coming up with new ideas, hiring and collaborating with amazing people- inspired by anything and everything and establishing the DNA of your company.
It is an incredibly creative time. From early morning until very, very early the next morning you are working…and you’re having the time of your life. It is a small window of time during which this all happens, from after you change your LinkedIn profile to “Founder” to just before you hit hyper growth and everything changes.
Enjoy this time, this fleeting 12–18 months of starting up. Revel in doing everything because at some point soon, you probably won’t have time for anything.
Soon there will be more expectations from your customers, from the press, from investors. You’ll suddenly realize that you’re now responsible for the livelihoods of a lot of people who are counting on you to keep this thing going. And all these considerations will begin to encroach on your ability to create, to make decisions based solely on what you want to do with the company. This will not only influence the company you build but also take up time that was previously devoted to creativity.
With scale there is a lot more to your work as Founder than simply getting in front of a computer and banging out some code or crafting a new design idea. It is a lot harder to find the time to be creative and there is no going back. You need to find new ways to remain relevant and to push the company forward.
The increasing inertia of the company is one factor, but as the leader of the company you can start to become self-conscious and more deliberate because with success there is more at stake — there is something to lose. Please try to recognize this shift so you can figure out a way to preserve the playfulness and fearlessness of that time when all you had to do was bring yourself — all of yourself — into the office and play.
The best founders live in this moment and love it. Their companies provide a showcase for their daily inspiration over years or decades rather than months. These founders have figured out how to become CEOs.