June 17, 2014

My Startup Secret: a "Dream Woman"


Last Friday there was a Business Insider story about a startup in SF that advertised on craigslist for a "Gal Friday / Admin Assistant" who would be responsible for all the typical admin stuff, plus cooking, cleaning, and shopping. The story made a big thing about the cooking and cleaning part because the startup wanted a woman for the job, and they figured that was over-the-top sexist.

Maybe it is sexist, but that's missing the point.

The key to success is to delegate as much as humanly possible, so much so that all you have left are the things that you do extraordinarily well and that are essential to the success of your business.

I'm guessing that cooking and cleaning and shopping are not your core competency, right?

I discovered this secret in 1985, when I was doing the startup that became the first CRM software product for the PC (TeleMagic).  As the solo founder, I was doing it all: programming, sales, support, writing documentation... you name it. Sometimes I would be so in the Zone doing programming that I would completely miss one or two meals! And when I would come out of these marathon coding stints, with a raging hunger, there would be nothing in the refrigerator because I hate to shop, and hate to prepare meals, and it would be 3 in the morning and the only food available was Denny's... yuk.

That's no way to live, and certainly not a healthy lifestyle. So I decided to do something about it and put a free ad in the local Reader with the one word headline: SOUP!  You see, I figured that soup is the perfect food, for me, in that it can be heated up fast, and yet relatively simple to make, with a relatively long refrigeration life.

The first applicant was hired on the spot, and lasted for 6 months until she moved away with her boyfriend. She suggested a friend, Carol, for the job, and I took her suggestion.

It was the smartest move I ever made. Carol has been making soup, and more***, for me for 28+ years! Of course she also does the shopping for food, and the cleanup, but over the years she has taken on more and more. It's just amazing how many things are not my core competency!  :)  Gradually she took on laundry, closet organization, supplier interactions (no more dealing with the phone/cable/utility companies!), plant care, clothes shopping, and eventually I even showed her how to do the monthly financial reports, paying the bills... well, the list is now very long.

And the best part is that everything is documented in a System for Household Management**, so that when Carol is on vacation she can delegate the work without missing a beat.

Although she never worked for my company directly, Carol became such an integral part of my startup team that she was awarded bonuses equal to everyone else in the profit sharing pool.  I couldn't have succeeded so well without her.

In the spirit of Delegation, I strongly recommend that you find your "Dream Woman"* as early in your startup adventure as possible.


"Whatever you can do, or Dream you can, Begin it.  
Boldness has Genius, Power, and Magic in it.  Begin it Now!"

(Goethe)

* "Dream Woman" is not my phrase. Business Insider used it in their headline for the story.
** Want a copy of my System for Household Management?  Email me.
*** Carol's Cuisine: some of my favorite vegan recipes prepared by Carol. Includes the story of how it all got started.