When starting a company, it’s essential that you get involved in every aspect of the business. This is true whether you’re a hacker, designer, or MBA. No exceptions.
The obvious reason for this is that getting your hands dirty will force you to understand all parts of your business, and eventually, your industry. This is knowledge that will give you key business insights, paying dividends down the road.
But, the equally important reason for doing everything is that it will enable you to hire the right people to expand your business.
Lots of people will tell you to only focus on “high leverage” activities—things that are strictly in your wheelhouse. Delegate everything else. While this is true as you scale, it’s a grave mistake when starting out.
How do you hire A+ people if you have no idea what their jobs entail? And after hiring them, how would you evaluate their work? The most sure-fire way is to understand the skill from a firsthand perspective.
Now, I’m not saying that hackers should spend copious amounts of time attempting to make world class logos in Adobe Illustrator, or that designers should pick up a computer science book and attempt to code a scalable distributed database from scratch.
What I’m advocating is that entrepreneurs should obtain a baseline working knowledge of each business segment.
To do this quickly, there are three aspects to focus on:
What techniques do people employ to execute on a skill? For example, designers employ storyboards, wireframes, and mockups. Engineers understand data structures, do code reviews, and thoroughly test their code. Marketers understand lead generation, funnel analysis, and know how to segment an audience to reach them more effectively.
Tools are the way people execute a technique. Learn how these tools are used and how they fit into daily workflows.
Most importantly, study great work. Google for it. Talk to people who are in the field. If you want to understand design, find some great works that are admired. For marketing, seek out successful campaigns from other companies. Always ask yourself: what makes this good?
The best time to gain firsthand experience is when your company is small. Don’t waste the opportunity to gain insights from doing something outside of your comfort zone. In the beginning, it’s okay to do work that doesn’t scale.
So, the next time you need to balance the books, try doing it yourself. If you need a new layout for your blog, try fiddling with some HTML to make it work. Need to run a marketing event? Just try doing it. Don’t be scared of making mistakes. Mistakes are how you learn.
And only once you learn can you effectively scale.