I have been working insane hours lately. Between preparing for the launch of Tellago Studios’ new enterprise mobility cloud platform and implementing certain transformative processes at Tellago I haven’t had too much sleep lately. These days, my advisors and friends kindly remind me that the process building a company is more like a marathon than a sprint and that working at a continuous pace is one of the key elements of successful CEO. While I certainly appreciate the advice and, over the years, I have gotten pretty effective at trying to avoid continuously working until exhaustion, I don’t think the analogy really applies to a startup lifestyle.
In my opinion, a startup is nether a sprint nor a marathon but a combination of both: how about a sprinthon?
Working crazy hours is part of the core DNA of software startups. Whether launching a product, dealing with a crisis or trying to meet certain deadlines, 18-20 hr days will inevitably become part of the normal startup lifestyle. Finding the right pace and staying focused to avoid burning yourself and your team out is one of the things that, as a founder CEO, you quickly need to figure out in order to guarantee you can execute for the long term.
Having said that, thinking that you can build a successful company working regular hours is pretty naïve. Successful CEOs not only excel at finding the right working pace for their team but they also know when to immediately switch to sprint mode and lead the team during those times. In my opinion, a better analogy for the startup lifestyle is a combination of a long marathon with continuous shorter sprints. Knowing when to sprint, when to pause and when to execute at a regular pace is one of the main responsibilities of startup founder or CEOs.
As a startup leader, you should embrace, rather than reject, the fact that “crazy hours” sprints will be part of your company lifestyle. Those sprints are not always bad and they often help to improve team chemistry and certainly test the foundations of your company. While running your sprinthon, you will be fine as long as run more of a marathon than a sprint and, at the same token, you remain ready to sprint when the time, market or arbitrary circumstances dictate so.
At the end, always remember than nobody has built anything remarkable working 8hr days.
What do you think? Sprint, marathon or both?