On 2023

As 2024 begins, the second full year of TORTUS, it felt like the right time to look back at Year One.

So here’s all the lessons I’ve learnt in 2023.

  1. Build something good.
  2. Culture is EVERYTHING.
  3. Add a ‘culture interview’ to your hiring process, and have your team (not you) run it and make the final decision.
  4. Set your company values on Day 1.
  5. Match company values to the founders personal values – then it’s easy to lead by example.
  6. If you don’t have a compelling mission, you don’t have a company. Really think about WHY this start-up needs to exist.
  7. A company IS its people.
  8. Therefore, hiring is the hardest part of start-up building.
  9. Raise the hiring bar with each hire, and keep raising it.
  10. The best time to hire is when everyone feels the pain of the gap so much they can’t stand it anymore.
  11. The new hire should embarrass everyone that’s worked on something previously with how good they are. This is good – otherwise you didn’t need to hire them.
  12. Commit to your people – once they are in, they are your people, warts and all.
  13. The only modifiable factor with people is relationships. Work on them constantly.
  14. Trust is hard to build, but (nearly) impossible to build back. Look after it.
  15. Get to know your people. Try ‘LifeLine’ as a very quick hack to understand somebody.
  16. You can either have a team that goes too fast by themselves or goes too slow waiting on you. There’s no middle ground. Pick the former, and learn to keep up.
  17. Get to know yourself. Try the Enneagram personality test.
  18. Focus – the more you cut away, the faster you will go.
  19. Consistency + persistence = unstoppable. Do it every day, never stop doing it and you will do it, whatever it is. Processes really help here.
  20. Exercise. Eat right. Sleep.
  21. Choose: hybrid, remote or office. Hire against that choice. We chose fully in-office, and created our culture around that.
  22. Real feedback is really valuable, but you’ll have to dig deep and repeatedly to find it.
  23. Routines and rituals are very important for productivity. Don’t change them too much or too quickly unless you really have to.
  24. Ask every single day – what can we do better?
  25. Don’t let anything sit on your desk. If it takes 1 minute, do it now. If it takes 5 minutes, do it today. If it takes >5 minutes, move it to a to-do list and then address your to-do list every day for a set time.
  26. Fundraising is a military operation – run a process, keep it tight, be prepared, be disciplined.
  27. Listen to advice. Ignore advice. Cognitive dissonance is a superpower in a start-up
  28. Everyone should be able to make as many mistakes as they like but no one should make the same mistake twice.
  29. Lawyers are expensive – use them wisely but equally don’t try and save money where it could really hurt you.
  30. Negotiate everything.
  31. Time is actually your most valuable resource, not money.
  32. Calculate the ROI for everything, and optimise for upside. Especially for big ticket items, like conferences.
  33. If you’ve taken time to make a plan A, execute it. Iterate on the results, not before.
  34. If a decision is reversible, try to delegate it. If it’s irreversible, own it.
  35. Expect to throw most plans into the bin. Shit will happen, and happen unpredictably.
  36. Being wrong is better than being uncertain. Action = information.
  37. People do their best work when goals are clear, and they aren’t disturbed. Read Deep Work by Cal Newport. Re-read it!
  38. Nothing means anything until money is in the bank. Everything else is just noise.
  39. Your instincts are your biggest asset. Learn to listen to them.
  40. Communicating instincts is much harder than having them. Learn to build your case internally.
  41. Networking = being helpful to other people. Don’t transact. It doesn’t work like that.
  42. Competitors are only competitors if you are literally competing for the same customer. Everything else is just distraction.
  43. Solve the problem for 1 customer, create value. Then solve for 10. Then 100. Then 1000. Scale ad infinitum.
  44. You only get one day at a time. So does everybody else.
  45. You are always pitching. To customers, investors, potential hires, current employees. Always.
  46. Evidence is king. Do the science. It’s the best moat there is.
  47. The second best moat in healthcare is compliance.
  48. Don’t become someone else. You don’t know how to be someone else, and there’s already so much to learn.
  49. Life is so very short.
  50. Set goals. Work on them every day. If you can’t work on all of them every day, you have too many goals. Cut down until you can.
  51. Start ups are really really hard. Make sure it’s worth it – don’t work on things you don’t believe in.
  52. Enjoy it. There really isn’t a better job in the whole world.

TORTUS in Jan 2023:

    TORTUS in Dec 2023: