How to Get Rid of Time Sucks in your Startup

Show Notes

There’s nothing worse than seeing your time go down the drain. In this edition of the Silicon Valley Momentum Podcast, Roland Seibelink tackles the issue of potential time-sucks for startup CEOs. With so many potential distractions, it’s easy for startup leaders and their companies to lose focus on what’s important. The result is time wasted on tasks that could be outsourced or accomplished more efficiently as opposed to the differentiations that a startup brings to the market.

Listen to this week’s podcast to listen to Roland advise startup CEOs on:

  • Common mistakes startups make that result in time-sucks.

  • Doing a self-review of your startup to find your market-observable differentiators.

  • The four key criteria to determine if a task is worth your time and effort.

  • Why it’s okay to outsource certain tasks to avoid time-sucks so you can focus on what you do best.


If you're overwhelmed by all the things sucking up your time in your startup, then here's how to bring down all those time sucks.

Hello. I'm Roland Siebelink, scale-up ally for tech founders.

I work with midstage startup CEOs. And many of them face a barrage of distractions.

Even when you get on their calendar, it's often hard to get them there on time, because there's always something.

One had a contractor that couldn't get into their Google account. Another one had to do a quick payment to the supplier that was threatening to switch off their service.

And the third one had just launched a marketing campaign and the clickstream was not showing up in the dashboard.

Now, of course, the smaller point is that as you hire more people, you can afford to hire more and more specialists that can do this kind of work for you.

But the bigger question becomes, how much of that work should actually be taking place inside the company anyway?

Are there some things that might be better outsourced so that you don't have to worry about it anymore?

As you start thinking about that, start focusing your time on the differentiation that your startup really brings into the world.

So, one example of outsourcing is IT outsourcing.

And a good example is, a company that offers IT outsourcing via chat.

But if you think of Electric as a startup by itself, how do they focus on their differentiation?

Well, the differentiating factors that they really want to be world-class at are supporting SAS applications, doing that through chat, especially through Slack, and following standards, including security standards.

This is what they want to be world class at.

And that allows them to then focus on just these activities, not support on premise apps, not support custom apps, things like that.

And by that, keeping the price very attractive for their customers.

This is in sharp contrast to the many startups that I see gravitating toward doing things all themselves.

For example, one of the startups I worked with was still spending time and money building their own windows installer because somehow the standard solutions weren't good enough.

And I couldn't say how many startups I've seen that are building their own CRM because somehow Salesforce or Pipedrive or NetHunt are not the right solutions, even though so many people have spent thousands of hours building those already.

The better way to think about this is really what is the very core on how I differentiate and how can I outsource almost everything else?

Classic examples in this are the Swedish conglomerate, Kinnevik, as well as now in China, the Haier Company, where they said, let's actually start try to see ourselves as a conglomerate of micro companies.

Micro companies, where as soon as something starts taking 20, 30% of the attention of a CEO, they said, "let's just split it off."

Let's turn it in to another micro company.

For example, Tele2 in the Kinnevik Group in the 1980s and 90s started to have a lot of attention for customer support.

And so Jan Stenbeck basically said, "let's build a customer support company and then you guys can just contract between yourselves."

That's how we can keep every one of these companies really focused.

So how do you get to this model and focus really on the activities that make a difference?

Well, do a ruthless review of all your startup does.

And to get to those three to five market-observable differentiators, it's really important to ask yourselves questions like, will the customer see this?

Will they be ready to pay for it?

Can I do this much better than any competitor?

And can I deliver this efficiently?

It's only when you fulfill all those four criteria that you're going to have a truly market-observable differentiator that merits your time and your energy.

All the rest of the activities in the company you should consider potential time sucks.

What does that mean?

It doesn't mean you don't have to do them.

Of course, every company still needs to do hiring, payroll, accounting, and many, many other activities that are kind of obligatory.

But it does mean you don't necessarily have to be the best in the world at all those activities. 

If you can find somebody to outsource it to, they may be much better at that, especially at the price that they charge you.

Or if you feel like there's still some activity that needs to be done inside the company, can you at least standardize it and point your people in doing the task efficiently rather than trying to build activity on top of it?

So, be ruthless about reviewing what are the three to five market-observable differentiators for your company?

Think of everything else that happens in the company as a true potential time suck and standardize and/or outsource what you can.

And that's how you get rid of time sucks in your startup.