When starting a company, it can seem like 100 tiny emergencies may crush you every day. For Steve Huffman, the co-founder and CEO of Reddit, who'd begun hacking together the news-aggregation site when he was just out of college in 2005, the daily pressures included fighting spam and keeping his site from crashing. There was the effort to garner buzz--and then back to keeping the site online once users surged.
But letting those 100 emergencies seem more significant than your future path is actually what can do the most harm to your company.
"We didn't have a North Star for Reddit," Huffman said on Inc.'s What I Know podcast. "We didn't know where we were going. We weren't making decisions with the long-term in mind."
For Reddit, the "long-term" included the wild user growth the site, which is currently the seventh-most-popular website in America, is known for. It also included a lot of unforeseen catastrophes along the way, including user revolts, targeted harassment campaigns, and attempted election interference.
Looking back at those early days, Huffman said: "I think the thought that I'm constantly amused by now is how little I knew about everything, while at the same time how much I thought I knew about everything."
After weathering so many of the crises that have come to define this era of social media, Huffman says he wishes he'd taken a longer view--and urges other entrepreneurs to dedicate time to conjuring a vision for the future. "There are certainly times when the future for me was only a week away. Not a year away, five years away, 10 years away. First step is actually consider the future," he said. "And then, the next step would be create a belief about what the future could look like."