For five years I spent all but a handful of days working on the development of the Teach Starter website. As technical co-founder, it was my job to continually refine and develop our offering.
Despite the multitude of tasks that would present each day, one way or another I would end up deep in code.
It was my normal, and I felt incredibly comfortable doing it.
A few months ago we hired two full-stack developers to take over the code development part of my workload. It was a daunting proposition. ‘What would these two seasoned pros think of my code?’, I thought to myself.
Richard Branson, the serial entrepreneur best known for his Virgin brand, firmly believes that your role as founder is to hire people smarter than you.
Branson famously said:
“It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you. Getting them to join your business. And giving them good work. Then getting out of their way. And trusting them. You have to get out of the way so YOU can focus on the bigger vision. That’s important. And here’s the main thing….you must make them see their work as a MISSION.”
It’s your job to replace yourself where you can be replaced. Where you can’t be replaced, that’s what you work on.
With Branson’s words echoing in the back of my mind, I knew that we had made the right choice. But make no mistake, letting go is hard.
In our two developers, I know that I have people who are far better programmers than me. It is their sole focus and strength.
As a founder, it is critical to focus on developing skills that can take your business to the next level. It’s your responsibility whether you like it or not.
If you’re not looking to the future and guiding your team towards your vision, who is?
The beauty of replacing myself in a technical sense has meant that my focus has firmly shifted to what’s next. It’s freed me up to look at the bigger picture.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
It’s still tempting to jump on the tools to get things done. However, I know that giving in to this temptation isn’t beneficial to our business in the long run.
It’s a comfort thing, and growth doesn’t come from comfort.
If Teach Starter is to progress, it is my job as founder to progress. Staying with what’s comfortable will only hold the business and our team back. We need to strive for growth and innovation. As the quote goes, we need to ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable’.
Change can be uncomfortable. But progress can’t occur without it.
Initially, moving from ‘doing’ to ‘thinking’ feels like a cop out. It feels like you’re slacking off because the tangible output isn’t always there. It feels like because you’re not ‘busy’ creating something, you’re not doing anything. This simply isn’t true.
By spending time thinking deeply about how things can be better can generate efficiency and performance gains in the long run that easily exceed the jobs that used to fill your day.
Refining or implementing a process, reorganising a team, defining goals, working on your psychology, reading, or simply allowing time to think; all of these things have a substantial benefit both personally and professionally.
I have realised that my mindset has shifted from ‘I have so many things to do’ to ‘what will generate the biggest impact’. This thought process has allowed me to re-focus on the bigger picture.
I don’t want Teach Starter to be limited by a reluctance to grow. It is imperative that I continue to learn and develop, not only for my own growth, but for the business.
Building a business is a long and winding journey, but it’s one that I feel privileged to be part of.