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Purveyors of The Mustard

Stop polishing the rims

Posted on by zach

Sometimes I feel like running a business is akin to building a car from the ground up. There are a lot of pieces that must work together for the thing to run smoothly. And it’s always going to need adjustments as things settle and break in. To even get it up and running, there are many pieces that need to be built and tasks to be done, the main piece being the engine. And though there are many other important pieces, this really is the main feature that drives the vehicle.

But it’s also the most challenging.

It’s waaaay easier (and less stressful) to work on some of the other more defined and simpler tasks, such as polishing the rims. When the car is ready for the road, you definitely want those rims shiny. But is it really the best use of your time when the engine has yet to be built?

I sometimes find myself polishing the rims on this business if you will (all salacious jokes aside). Sometimes it’s in avoidance of more daunting tasks, and sometimes just because it’s damn enjoyable to see shiny rims. But when I take a step back, it’s almost worthless if there is still a big hole where the engine is supposed to be.

I had a good conversation with my friend Henry (who started Enjuba – a company working with Ugandan craftspeople) about this. And he made a good point. When you’re stuck on a more important problem, or at 2 in the morning when you’re brain may not be functioning at it’s highest level, then it’s probably fine to go work on some lower priority, simpler tasks, if for nothing than to feel productive. But when you find yourself spending not just your time, but your MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME on the tasks that are not paramount, then something needs to change.

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