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Five Roles of Startup: Operations
HR, Finance, Legal, Administration
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The five roles I'm discussing in this series are general, but intended to identify everyone inside and outside the startup's organization. You must have someone playing all five roles, and in the early days, two or more of these roles are probably going to be played by the same person.

The prior three installments in the Five Roles of Startup series were all about getting product out and revenue in. With Vision we set up leadership, with Build we're getting the product made, and with Sales we're putting the product into the hands of customers, the lifeblood of your startup.

You might think that once those three roles are filled, you can just sit back, repeat the cycle over and over, and carve out a lifelong career with maybe a golf membership and a better car than you would have driven otherwise.

I'm here to tell you that you probably can.

You were expecting the opposite, weren't you? Come on, admit it, you thought I was setting you up to slam the door in the face of your dreams.

Sure. Fine. It's no guarantee, but if you can dominate Vision, Build, and Sales, keep your employees motivated as they grow more experienced, stay relevant and unique, keep out of hot water, and continually solve customer problems in a way that makes them happy, you can repeat the cycle until you retire.

No joke, I'm totally cool with you doing that. Chances are, however, that you won't be totally cool with that. At least not for long.

So the final two installments in the Five Roles series are about building a better, faster, stronger company, with less emphasis on the product. The role I'm going to talk about in this lesson is one you need to think about every day. And to be honest, you have to fill this role whether you want to be the biggest company in your industry or you just want to coast.

Operations keeps your startup afloat, tasked with making sure that your company is doing well today and that it's set up to do better tomorrow.

These people are the gears, the nuts and bolts, the heart of the company. These are the folks in charge of finding your employees, keeping an eye on the money, making sure you stay out of trouble, and otherwise helping everyone else focus on their job.

Again, there are probably dozens of specific roles that make up Operations, and the very term can mean different things to different people. However, most of the role breaks down into a few broad, necessary components.

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VIDEO: Survive Or Die
Teaching Startup: The Show - Episode 1.6
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You hear this all the time as a cautionary tale in startup -- Survive or Die! There will be times when you have to make the decision to power through all of your mistakes or give up under the weight of them. Unlike a corporate job, in startup, there's no structure to blend into, nothing to hide behind, and no one is going to swoop in and save you.

That's part of the growth process of becoming an entrepreneur. It's hard to do and not always fun to talk about, but we found a way.

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One Bad Early Hire Can Kill a Startup
It Comes Down to Managing Expectations and Staying Agile
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Two years ago, an entrepreneur came to me with a dilemma. She had been approached by another entrepreneur who was being forced to wind down his own fledgling startup as his funding dried up. He was a one-person shop, he had made a decent run of it, but time was up.

Now he wanted to go to work for her.

I walked her through the dilemma. The guy had great tech and had been able to do a lot in a short amount of time with limited funds and resources. His was a tragic and all-too-common story. He raised a small seed round, crushed his milestones, a lot of investors were saying "maybe," and he just ran out of runway.

Happens.

So I asked her: Where's the dilemma? He didn't want a lot of money or equity. He wasn't looking for a specific role, but he came with ideas. He had connections, experience, and he filled a gap in a place she wasn't super strong. He came with zero baggage. He wasn't a jerk, no blemishes on his personal record.

She then explained, in a long, roundabout way, that he didn't fit the plan.

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