Anyone who tells you they were an overnight success is a liar. They say this to save time--you'd be amazed at the effort put into making an idea a successful reality. You might also be amazed at the math on how you can accomplish almost 40 times as much every single year.

Being a smart worker is really the key to any successful individual. At Techstars, we have a few mottos to live by, but one is hard to forget--"Do More Faster." What does this really mean?

Here's a quick overview: Every day you do one percent more work, you'll have accomplished nearly 37 times as much. But, every day you work one percent less, you'll be three percent less of your former self. The math is easy, but for you non-math majors, I'll do two quick calculations. 1.01365 = 37.8. 0.99365 = 0.03.

You'd never hear Steve Jobs or Bill Gates say they were too busy to get something done. It's because they always had efficiency in mind so they could take their company to the next level.

While looking at founders and their characteristics, when vetting startups for Techstars accelerators, I've seen these three common traits showcasing the ability to Do More Faster.

1. Take risks.

Every entrepreneur is aware of the '90 percent of startups fail' statistic. If you're a founder of a startup, then you have likely experienced a failure in your career. The key here is to not let a failure stop you from coming up with your next idea--it may be the idea that works out in the end. Embrace the risk.

Currently at Techstars, over 88 percent of companies within our network are still active or have been acquired--contrary to what you typically see within the startup ecosystem. I believe a founder and a team's ability to embrace risk is directly associated with a company's success. It's  also a quality I always look for in founders.

2. Work smart.

This goes back to our motto of "Do More Faster." Companies participating in one of our accelerators have three months to take an idea and turn it into a tangible product addressing a need for its respective market.

If you're a founder who isn't coming up with new ideas on how to be more efficient and lead the company in the right direction, then you're not working smarter. If you find yourself always saying "I'm too busy," you're not working smarter.

It's the founders and companies who learn fast, and are quick to ditch what isn't working, who find success. How do you work smarter when getting your startup off the ground?

  • Focus on what matters--make progress in the areas that have an impact to your business.

  • Don't go it alone-- find yourself a co-founder or business partner to help share the load.

  • Quality before quantity--focus on one feature you know you can do well.

3. Be flexible.

The startup world moves quickly--being flexible is a must. As a founder, you need to be able to pivot. You need to learn that plans change from day to day and if an idea isn't working, move on.  

If the first idea for your startup doesn't succeed, this doesn't mean it's the end of the company. Founders and companies who are able to take a setback, and shift the company into something better, are the successful ones and will find themselves in the "10 percent"--the group of startups who are still active or have successfully made an exit.

Be sure to ask yourself this question every now and then: Will my idea work 100 years from now? If you find yourself answering with a yes, you likely won't succeed.

4. Always be learning.

We all have an entrepreneurial spirit and are creative thinkers looking to come up with the next great idea. I always remind myself and others to use your brain: Work fast, work smart, be open to a new idea or perspective, surround yourself with the right team, and always be learning.

Push yourself to do one percent more every day--you'll be amazed at the results. Some tips on how to do this include:

  • Prioritize your tasks--when checking your to-do list for the day, assign yourself no more than 20 to 30 tasks to make sure you get the work that must get done.

  • Email--process emails from oldest to newest. Utilize the 'rules' feature to move unimportant emails to a "later" folder to help you reach inbox zero.

  • Sleep--while days at a startup are long, it's important to get a good night's sleep so you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the next day.

One percent may not seem like much, but by putting in this extra effort every day, you'll make a significant impact on your organization.

Published on: Mar 1, 2018