Thursday, July 31, 2008

Building a Custom Roller Coaster

Startups are like a Roller CoasterOver the past few months I have been doing some heavy lifting, architecture, project management, hitting hammers, putting out fires and celebrating with my team and every new member that comes along in the process. I thought I was building an Entertainment and Social Media business, instead I am in development of one hell of a roller coaster.

Seems fitting since Orlando is the home of the theme parks and most people thinks that is all we have to offer anyway.

How to deal with the constant ups and downs:

  • Have goals. Just as a roller coaster needs a track, so does your project. Before we really hit crunchtime, I was using my phone and an insufficient calendar to manage my operations. Over the weekend I really looked into BaseCamp and it changed my life. Having milestones to accomplish, to-do lists that everyone on the team can see and update, delegating tasks and sending out reminders have all made my days less stressful. Now everyone knows what the end results need to be and I can see them coming along. Now we are on track!
  • Remain optimistic. Going up the tracks with that creaking sound is the gut check part of the ride. So is the possibility of uncertainty in running your business. Even when development issues arise, or payments suddenly no longer come to your mailbox, remember that this is an uphill battle and the ride is usually fun (unless you are my little brother blowing chunks when we land - or was that me?)
  • The big drop. The product release is somewhat like a free fall. Having all your ducks aligned with marketing, development, finances and so on ca still leave you with that pit feeling in your stomach when people can see you and your product for the first time. Again, enjoy the ride because in a roller coaster, you always go back up.
  • It's ok not to know. Like being twisted in a roller coaster or even upside down there are days when I have no answers for anyone. Shoot, half my day is spent on Google researching. Just know that it is ok not to know as long as you have a plan to solve the issue or question.
  • Hit the brakes. Every ride has to stop and some point. Give yourself some time to stop, think and plot your next move. Sometimes in a start-up you feel like it is always go-go-go, which is ok, but a little time to sit in a comfy couch and think about what is happening and finding out which ride you want to go on next, well, that can be a very smart move.
  • Get an express pass. No one likes waiting in line. No one likes being second. Even with all the movement and distractions around you, listen to the outside world and beat people to the punch. Surprise them when you are a leader and innovator instead of playing catch-up. Listening is the essential key in Social Media and running an Internet Company, essential like having those skip the line passes at Universal.
  • Treating the team. You might be the work horse, but there are people around you that are making things tick as well. Treat them great and great work will turn in. Buy beers on a Friday, gas cards for their driving and other little things that will make them proud that they get paid like crap but they have a blast while doing it for the better of the organization. Let them grow and it will in turn let you grow with them.
Start-up rideThat sums up my roller coaster ride. What parts of the adventure am I missing? How do you deal with the parts of the coaster?

-Greg Rollett

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