Fire fighting and company building
Starting a company is easy. Leading a company is the hardest job in the world. A few founders I work with describe their days as fighting…
Starting a company is easy. Leading a company is the hardest job in the world. A few founders I work with describe their days as fighting fires. The minute one is out, another one flares up.
When I was a CEO, everything was on fire most of the time. Consensus is find the root cause, the match that lights the fire. No matter how painful it seems, blow it out. This is totally logical. A match can cause a forest fire. A match is easy to blow out. Focus on the match. Avoid the fire.
But, startups are not logical and the evolution of my company moved fast— the pace of change kept the root cause of most challenges close enough so I could see the flame but never reach it with my extinguishing breath.
I chased the flame, rushing through the forest of new hires and new managers, detained by mountains of customer demands, skin torn by thorns of technical bugs and face smudged with the dirt of self doubt. Monumental effort ended with the burning match firmly held in my shaking hands. Deep breath and that fire is finally out.
But, in my focus on the match, I turned my back on the forest. I blew out the flame I was able to control while the hills blazed behind me. When I saw smoke, I wish I knew the hard decisions were not about how to put out the fire. I wish I understood the need to make structural changes to the way we worked. If I had put effort into eliminating the fuel for the fire, letting it burn out on its own, I would have been much more successful as an entrepreneur.
Your startup will always be on fire. Getting good at blowing out matches won’t help you survive. Instead of fighting to extinguish the flames, use the heat to forge something original.