I have been learning Squash since the last 5 months – a new skill to learn in the ‘serendipitous ME-time’ I have got. But as I pursued this hobby, I realized that lessons learnt in Sports are so similar to those required to successfully run a startup.
- Quality is always better than quantity
Initially, I set ‘time played’ as the factor to judge getting better at my game. Consequently, I thought I was improving when I moved from, playing for 20 minutes without a break to 45 minutes. But when I played with others, just the ability to be on court for longer time didn’t help me win. This forced me to analyze, find mistakes & then work on improving them
In a startup: In every literature & case study I have read, consistently people have said it is better to have 1000 loyal/regular customers than 1 million signed up customers!
- Importance of setting the right benchmark
Well, let’s say I identified that my left court serve sucked! How do I make it better? Learning Squash without any coach, I did the next best thing. I YouTubed! So, there was this one tutorial about how to do it & I decided that I should be able to replicate that at least 80% of times before I move to my next area of development
In a startup: It is so easy to have visits/pageviews as metrics to judge the popularity of the business. However, the success of the business is dependent not on visits but on parameters like revenue, retention & repeat business etc.
- Lowering the benchmark
With almost 80 serves consistently, I failed to meet that benchmark I initially set for myself. Oh, how many times I felt like revising it to 75%! Much to my consternation whatever my rational sense seemed to tell my heart – it just wouldn’t budge. So, I continued serving till the serve reached at the desired level
In a startup: As you continue working, investor pressure / revenue pressure adds up. This may often result in short term measures like take on ads, spam the users, monetize database etc. It is easy to make things better in short term doing this (much like my 75%) but in the long term – you have gone wrong on the promise you made to the customer (the most important stakeholder in this equation)
- Time versus productivity
I always play for a fixed duration. And as time to go home approached, I would have so many errors because of trying too hard to achieve that day’s benchmark. Result, all necessary parameters like my stance, the place of impact, timing of impact etc. were all ignored because half of my attention was on the clock & the other was desperately counting serves to get that 80% mark. I think in those last 15 minutes, I was better off stopping the game than these shoddy attempts
In a startup: Doing a product launch, executing a campaign or any timed deliverable will always come with costs & associated deadlines. Important thing is never should there be a situation where you launch/campaign with basic user experience missing. At these times, it is better to delay the launch/campaign than roll it out with sub-standard process
- NOT QUITTING
I think that has been the biggest & the most difficult thing to do. Since I have started following YouTube tutorials – the fun quotient seems to have lowered (even though the quality of game has marginally improved). When I retrospect, I realize that is because it is very difficult to fail innumerable times & still feel the need to try again with same vigor? At this point, the conviction & strengths of the individual make all the difference. I have always been perseverant & so, this currently isn’t an option I give myself
In a startup: This is one point I needn’t stress. So many successful examples (angry birds, Air BnB, Instagram etc.) are all examples of how the founders stuck through the worst of the phases & pulled through – sticking to their convinction & not compromising on their customer promise!