Building a marketplace is like training for a marathon
You need to operate at near maximum, but not quite, for very long.
As a prerequisite, founders are ambitious and hardworking. A lot try to go as hard as possible for as long as possible.
Burnout is real. Eventually, quality starts to suffer.
I think the better approach is to have the best aggregate quality over a long period. It’s not about being brilliant for a little bit, but about being consistently excellent for a long time. Think of it as either being in the 99% percentile for a month and then reverting to the mean. Or, instead, being in the 90% percentile for years.
When you’re about to run a marathon, you have a pretty good idea of what it takes and how prepared you are. You know the challenges you’ll face. But you’re equipped with techniques to overcome them. You might even have a pretty good idea of how well you’ll do.
A marathon also has a fixed destination and route. You know how far you’ve come, where to go next and when you have finished.
You have help along the way, such as pacers and directions.
Your aim is clear: finish as fast as you can.
While there are some similarities, the uncertainty about the path makes startups more similar to training for a marathon.
First, you aren’t entirely sure what you’ll need to do.
You don’t know your preparedness level. Some people might also be more prepared than others.
You’ll also have to do a few different things: you’ll have to build range, improve your speed and work on your form.
While training, you need to measure your progress and gauge how close you are to your targets all by yourself.
You also have to do many different things yourself. You’ll plan your routes and schedule, monitor your pace, and check your progress.
The aim is also a lot fuzzier. It’s not about reaching the distance once, it’s about being able to do it repeatably and consistently. For marathons, a rule of thumb says that you should run it at least twice before going for a race.
Another key difference is that on race day, you can leave everything on the table. While training, however, you must put in a consistent, repeatable amount of effort. You can’t push too hard because you’ll end up recovering for days. In the long run, this will actually set you back.
In between your training sessions, you must take care of yourself. Your sleep, diet, caffeine and alcohol intake must be moderate while training.
This type of thinking is akin to having a “safety-first” principle. On surface, these slogans look like the companies’ less-than-genuine attempt at being helpful. But “safety-first” is actually in the companies’ interest because accidents are expensive. A single accident is often much more costly than lots of measures to prevents accidents. Think of the cost of shutting down a construction site just for one hour, and you’ll realize just how cost-efficient improving safety is.
The same principle applies here. It’d be very expensive to take you out of commission for a couple of months by overworking yourself.
You need to have a genuine approach to work-life balance for you and your team. Health, well-being, and happiness must also be genuinely taken care of, rather than through platitudes.
Doing it well means you and your team produce better quality work longer and more consistently and can avoid burnout for as long as possible.
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