Small Business

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Four myths about successful start-ups

Punishing hours and decision-making on the fly are not necessarily the way forward for every emerging business.

There’s a common myth out there that entrepreneurs are like superheroes. They “shape the world around us” and “fight friend and foe on their fantastical quest, sacrificing everything on the way.” But we all know that superheroes aren’t real. Their talents are often exaggerated, their strengths overblown. So, no matter how invincible you might feel when starting up, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be a slaving 20-hour-a-day superhero to achieve true success.

Myth 1 – Long hours are the key to success

One of the most celebrated myths in the start-up world is the idea that endless hours of work constitute the way forward. While you will have to put in the hard yards, it’s ultimately your idea – the way you execute the strategy and bring the solution to the market – that will drive your success.

This is really about working smarter, not harder. As productivity coach Chris Bailey writes, “Working longer hours will make you more productive, but only in the short-run. In the long-run, working long hours pushes you to procrastinate more, work less efficiently, and causes you to get less done.” Instead of working yourself (and your team) to the bone, create more structured days to garner more powerful results on a long-term basis.

Myth 2 – Faster decisions will mean faster growth

Part of managing your time well in a start-up is realising when you need to pump out the productivity, and when you need to slow down to focus on a specific decision.


Don’t be fooled into thinking that the faster you make decisions and the more time you save, the quicker you’ll achieve success and growth. Good decisions are critical in the start-up phase, and they need time and dedication to ensure they are right for the business.

“Tech superstars Twitter, Google and Facebook can make it sound like every decision was instant and the implementation took only a tiny bit lower,” writes Rose Powell as she channels Robert Sutton, but “all scaling companies slow down to take the time they need to make the decisions where it matters.”

Myth 3 – You’ll have to do everything yourself, and it will burn you out  

Many start-ups kick-off as a solo venture. Just look at Genevieve George of OneShift or Marco Arment of Instapaper. It’s true that you have to do a lot yourself in the beginning, but this is a positive thing. The start-up phase presents a great time to learn as much as you can about your own business, which will eventually make you a better leader.

Once you have consolidated a team and your start-up starts to grow, you can then start to delegate so that you can focus your time on more high priority tasks.

Myth 4 – Deadlines are vital for success

While it’s sometimes necessary and even beneficial to have specific time-oriented goals, it’s your strategies and innovation that should take precedence, not your deadlines.

“In the beginning, we got sucked into thinking that deadlines were important to our success,” explains Leo Widrich on his company Buffer. “That never works when you’re trying to do something innovative and new; when you don’t have a manual to refer to on how to perform your tasks. And having deadlines didn’t make us happy either.”

If you find that your quality or decision will end up being compromised simply for the sake of meeting a deadline, it might be more beneficial to postpone – or forego a “deadline” start-up culture altogether.

Managing time intuitively in your start-up is essential if you want to sustain your motivation. Start-ups are not only about your products, but about your culture and how you operate as a business. Sometimes, it’s those little, timely, day-to-day refinements that can really turn you into a super heroic entrepreneur with a successful business to boot.

Jo Sabin is the community manager at DesignCrowd, a leading online graphic design marketplace