Sooner is Better than Better, Getting Shit Done

Getting Shit Done

The key to success in business is execution, whether you run a sprawling multinational or a 12-person startup. So measuring how your company stacks up against the best and brightest in your space is crucial.

If you are a seed or early stage company executive, you know the following: Sooner is better than better. This phrase, which we stole from some Netscape friends, is at the heart of making your startup tick. At MerchantCircle, we had our own short hand for it: GSD, or Get Sh*t Done.

We injected GSD in emails, posted it around the office and ended conversations with a simple “GSD.” It was our way of emphasizing the need to get things done fast, but with a bit of color.

To make sure you have the right environment for getting things done, several benchmarks are useful. Ask yourself whether your team is made up of self-starters, especially those who self start beyond your expectations and who work till they drop. Is your team unafraid of risk, but careful not to take foolish risk? When the competition turns up the heat, will they push harder? Knowing which of your managers and employees really reach these bars is invaluable.

Beyond that, you must make sure each member burns with the same fire of accomplishment. They need to realize deep down that stuff has to get done…immediately.

Walk into just about any startup and you feel the energy and entrepreneurial spirit. Buzzwords, technology jargon, debates over company goals all oscillate among executives, marketing directors and engineers. Employees focus with a heads-down mentality, divided by individual tasks, bound together by the sense of community good. People know their efforts can dramatically impact the future growth of the company.

But taking an idea and building it into a profitable company is not easy. Our team at MerchantCircle was a close-knit group of 40 and it stuck together without a lot turnover. There was no time for top down slogans or corporate cheerleading. The bonds that grew just sort of happened, and they focused on that creature of necessity: task completion. We found that in the end, startups are not all about network economics, the cost of acquisition, liquidation preferences, or their mobile app strategy. Startups are about GSD.

At MerchantCircle, we learned these tips:

1)  Teamwork: Most successful startups are built around high performance teams that complete work in a shorter amount of time with better results. Build your startup with people who can shed their ego, solve problems and exceed what is reasonable to expect. The MerchantCircle team had people with different temperaments, talents and convictions. It didn’t matter.

2) Commitment: Committed team players care about their work and the company’s success. They show up every day, leave their baggage at the door, never take shortcuts and look for the course that will yield the greatest return for the long tail.

3) Adaptability: Look for resilient people who bounce back and adapt to adversity. Find people who easily adjust to change, who aren’t discouraged by setbacks. In a startup environment you need people that can switch gears on a whim, let go, who can take charge and adapt to opportunities that are in the best interests of the company.

4) Speed: Startups today must focus on delivering instant gratification, since this is what people expect online. The cost of failure is low, the value of learning is high. The sooner you get something done, the faster you can learn from it.

When hiring, look for people who have passion and aren’t job hoppers. Passionate individuals are easy to distinguish since they love their jobs and tend to take more pride in their projects. They generally have positive outlooks and high energy levels,

Then give them complete control and ownership of their jobs. Be sure to hand over the responsibility for execution. Open your lines of communication between the marketing and engineering teams. At MerchantCircle, service reps would immediately evaluate bugs, write up detailed tickets with the help of engineers if needed, and prioritize the ticket based on the company’s product roadmap.

This front line decision-making really mattered. The company looked over the cliff many times. It was the get things done mentality that allowed us not to fall. In the end, startups are all about GSD.

(David Gwynn (pictured top) is currently a program manager for Reply.com and previously worked at MerchantCircle.com He can be found on Twitter @dgwynn). Ben T. Smith IV (pictured mid article) is a serial entrepreneur, investor and the co-founder of MerchantCircle.com and Spoke.com. He can be found on Twitter @bentsmithfour)  This was originally written for PEhub.

About Ben T. Smith, IV

Founder of, investor in and advisor to technology and media companies
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