startup toolset

Are You a Handyman?

Do you know a good handymen?

Do you have a go-to guy that’s dependable AND you know can solve about any problem?

Growing up that was my Dad. The epitome of a DIY-er, I vividly remember the projects we’d undertake. Installing a car stereo, replacing spark plugs, building furniture…you get the idea.

Do You Want to be a Developer, or a Founder?

Now living 1,000 miles from home and facing new projects of my own I realize those weren’t just lasting memories, but also the chance to develop great problem solving skills.

A handyman is not an electrician, plumber, or appliance repairman. Those tradesmen, the same as developers or marketers at a startup, have deep, honed skillsets around their particular body of knowledge.

On the other hand a handyman, much like a founder, must be a jack of all trades who can tackle a multitude of projects, including being able to quickly learn new skills they’ve never been exposed to before.

And as such, handymen have two distinct traits that all startup founders should try to adopt.

1. Have a Plan, But Plan for Change

A few weeks back my wife and I replaced all the locks and hardware on our doors. The first two doors took only 30 minutes each – everything went swimmingly, right to plan.

The last door took 4 hours!

The new locks wouldn’t fit the previous cutouts and we’d trashed the old locks, so we had to leave it unfinished (read: completely open to the outside!) overnight. We kept running into problem after problem after problem.

In retrospect we should have checked before throwing out the old locks and done research beforehand to know how to adjust door lock sizing in the event things didn’t line up.

Which leads to the first great trait:

Handymen are great at adapting to unexpected and unforeseen problems to make sure the project still wraps up successfully and on time.

Ideally everything goes to plan, but then reality steps in and problems arise. Plans changing aren’t an “if”, but a “when”. You may have a fool-proof traction idea for your startup, but when it yields you zero new customers you better be ready with a backup plan.

2.  Have a Great Toolset

This past weekend while replacing a leaky shower arm we ran into a roadblock when we couldn’t unscrew the old one. No amount of elbow grease would cause it to budge.shower arm

After 30 wasted minutes of futilely trying to unscrew the old arm I haphazardly discovered a vise-grip locking wrench in the toolbox, and had the hold shower arm off in seconds. Any handyman worth his craigslist ad would have done this from the get-go.

And the second great trait:

Handymen have an extensive toolset at their disposal and more importantly, know how and when to use it to their advantage.

At Less Meeting we’re using startup tools everywhere. In my bookmarks toolbar alone I count eight: JIRA, Clicky, Mixpanel, Desk, Trello, Podio, Uservoice, and Geckobard.

And it’s not enough to simply have these accounts, but knowing how to leverage each tool to streamline operations and accelerate growth is the difference between startup success and failure.

To be sure there’s a lot more to being a great startup founder, but would you agree that any successful startup founder you know has these two traits?