When I was running Path 101, I'd laugh when people asked me if I was taking vacation. First off, I couldn't actually afford to go anywhere on a startup salary. Second, there was way too much to do. Third, I'm not sure I could have successfully unplugged anyway. The issue was that for the last two weeks in August, there were no VCs around to pitch, no distribution partners to meet with for biz dev deals, and seemingly no one else around actually working for me, the non-technical co-founder to push ahead toward milestones. Even launching new product seemed like a waste of time because no one was paying attention anyway.
So what's a startup to do during these two weeks? Here are a few ideas:
- Get out of the office for an all-day offsite. Unplugging to think strategically about product direction, new ideas, or just overall team building can leave you inspired, refreshed, and get you moving in exicting new directions.
- Run an internal hackathon. Put aside the Pivotal Tracker. Get your teams building new features with the intention of pushing them to production in 24 hours.
- Build up the top of your hiring funnel. Spend a day combing LinkedIn, Github, Stackoverflow, Twitter, Blogs, etc just building a 50-100 person list of people that look interview-worthy. Chances are, they're not on vacation if they're thinking about leaving, or if they're at another startup that just isn't going anywhere. Start reaching out.
- Have each member of the team queue up a bunch of blog posts. It's important to get all the parts of your company talking to the public--to get feedback on strategy, to increase awareness for hiring, and to help promote the company's message. When things are busy, you don't really have a lot of time for this, so get working on it on an off day.
- Get your PR pitches out. If you reach out now, you could see interviews and stories in September. Reporters are always connected, so they might have more time to check out what you're doing now.
- Use CrunchConnect to record the sales calls and business development of your whole team, so that you can highlight best practices and spot trouble areas. Most startups don't do nearly enough sales training, and even less review once someone is onboarded. Taking the time to review what's working and what's not is integral to making sure everyone on your team has the chance to be successful.
- Get a designer to class up all your materials. I'm stunned at how few entrepreneurs take the time to get a graphic designer to do their pitch deck for them. You're putting something together that could mean millions in investor capital, and you don't want to spend a couple of hundred bucks to make it look like you didn't just do the deck on the car ride over? Seriously?
- Build up your analytics capability. You're probably recording everything, but you've never spent the time to build a real analytics dashboard. Walk into September knowing all your funnels and key metrics after a good two weeks of getting serious about your numbers.
- Look ahead to the conference schedule. Where should you be speaking? When will the call for panels be due? Plan your conference calendar and get your speaker pitches done.
- Record some video. Stock footage of founders talking about company culture, satisfying customers, or CTOs chatting about their philosophies on code can go a long way--for recruiting, for marketing, or even for getting yourself on TV for PR now that everyone knows you can speak so eloquently and that you show well on video.