My Job Pt.1 — I have no idea what I’m doing
I am the CEO of Svpply, Inc., a social shopping S-Corp operating out of New York City. My company has been the recipient of over half-a-million in investor dollars, for the stated purpose of building an unknown, 3,000-member web service into a cultural phenomenon, and I truly have very little understanding of what I am doing.
I went to school for Graphic Design. I was supposed to graduate in 2004, though I didn’t complete the necessary Algebra class until 2009. Put me in front of Illustrator and give me something to design and I’ll execute the hell out of it. I’ve spent years of hard work developing systems in my brain for tackling visual solutions to communication problems. I’ve designed some nice logos and some nice websites. I enjoy naming products and I think I have a talent for it. I have an understanding of design that extends well past the aesthetic. I am proud of all this because I have worked for it.
But I have zero experience or expertise in building a company. I’ve never worked at a web or product startup, I’ve never worked in a healthy team environment. The design studio I co-owned was flawed to its core, and the companies I’ve worked at have had mediocre management.
So I’m learning on the fly.
Things I don’t know how to do that I have to learn soon or Svpply will fail:
- How to find and recruit talent
- Recruiting the appropriate kind of talent
- Managing people and keeping them fulfilled in their work
- How to develop and design a work schedule
- How to communicate a vision
Thankfully I have Mo on my board. Thankfully I have Zach on my team. Thankfully I have investors who believe in my potential and have provided me with the opportunity to educate myself. My situation is blessed and I rarely let a day go by that I don’t say a silent prayer in thanks for the position in which I’ve found myself, but good gracious is this hard.
The most frustrating part is that it is difficult to get into a rhythm in your work when you have no real understanding of the next steps you need to take. There’s no opportunity for flow if both outcome and process are foreign experiences. There’s just a lot of poking around and mystery and inadvertent negligence.
Svpply has been open to the public for six months now. Our progress has been slow for a variety of reasons. We have not launched as many new features as I would expect, or even drastically improved the ones we launched with. I own these problems, they can be traced directly back to my inabilities and inexperience, sometimes directly, other times in the form of my not having anticipated or recognized situations for what they were as soon as I could have.
But my understanding of the product and the market has leapfrogged the vision that I pitched. Our traffic has quadrupled and our product database has quintupled. We’re starting two awesome junior hires on Monday and I’m courting three incredible candidates who do me an honor by considering a position with us. Many of our deep technical problems are in the process of being solved by our only non-founder employee, whose presence on our team is a deep compliment to our product and to me personally.
So my level of personal confidence is appropriate. Skeptically hopeful. The bouts of depression and self-doubt are reasonable and inevitable. The market and its masses will be the judge of the degree to which I am able to build my expertise. A jury of peers so large it gives immediate, impartial feedback on my performance any time I think to ask for it. I couldn’t ask for better. I am thankful for the opportunity. It is an amazing challenge.
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