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Common questions about running with a North Star for growing your business:


What's done isn't usually the best bet towards desired business growth

Misalignment between business growth and work

  • Your work is better described as busy than deliberate
  • The team doesn’t have 1 definition of the top priority
  • You’re working hard yet don’t feel a fair sense of achievement
  • When asked what you’re trying to achieve, the answer is a project instead of an outcome
  • Deadlines are often negotiated
Entrepreneur bandwidth gets wasted on work that doesn’t produce the desired business growth. This is due to the use of System 1 Thinking when it’s not appropriate for business. That kind of thinking is about fast, automatic responses. It keeps the entrepreneur busy responding to urgent things. Lots of meetings, all-nighters, and movement that don’t produce real progress.

System 2 Thinking is about slow, deliberate decision-making. Entrepreneurship happens with light bulb moments by such thinking. This allows business owners to figure out the right things to do, making them better leaders of their armies.

To address this, little tasks should align to strategy. Organizations like Google use Objectives & Key Results to have their strategy cascade down. It aligns the big picture with the tasks of every team member.

Success stories for deliberate work includes methods like OKRs, North Star Metrics, and the 4 Disciplines of Execution.

Examples of companies that are ran with OKRs include Google, LinkedIn, Intel, and Zynga.

Y Combinator popularized a different idea that serves the same purpose. By setting “North Star Metrics,” the entire organization tests the alignment of each project to the number they’re trying to move. Facebook tracks their MAU. Ebay tracks their GMV. WhatsApp optimizes for messages sent. Airbnb is proud of the number of nights booked.

It’s powerful to have a crystal clear definition of what matters most in the business at any moment. Everyday tasks are more purposeful. For the entrepreneur, she gets a strong story to tell herself, the team, customers, and investors. They’re rallied with a clear, compelling vision.

For the team, there’s greater employee engagement. With a stronger sense of purpose, they feel more connected with the job. Team members also get better at managing themselves because they know how to test if their project is aligned to the big picture or not.

Ultimately, it gets more likely to hit growth targets. And faster.

This is where the Pirate Metrics come in. Dave McClure laid out the desired outcomes from the market in a pipeline.

The key principle here is aiming at an outcome, not a project. Projects are things we do. They can be meetings, product development work, etc. All those are good, but projects should not be the root of what we do. After all, who wants to be busy building something no one would buy?

Outcomes are things customers and users do to our business. They could use our product, pay us, stay as customers, and refer their friends. Always begin with a desired outcome in mind then work your way backwards to the appropriate projects.

5.1 What are the Metrics?

Pirate Metrics: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue. Pick a specific bottleneck that you should focus on at the moment.

5.2 What’s the ideal Timeframe for my target?

Identify the longest timeframe that you’ll regard to be predictable. For some businesses, 6 months would be predictable. For new ventures dealing with extreme uncertainty in the market, it can be as short as 1 month.
Shoot for the timeframe that’s long enough for you to produce results, but still within the horizon that you can foresee.

That’s to follow