• Matthew Lerner

Why Most "Hard Working" Startups Fail

When setting OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), are you focused on pushing everyone to work harder and achieve more? That makes sense in sports, but in startups... not so much.


PayPal did not outwork Visa and Mastercard in terms of people hours. AirBnB did not outwork the hospitality industry. Google did not outwork Yahoo, and Netflix did not outwork HBO. They won by out-thinking their competitors.


Hard work is necessary but not sufficient for startup success.


The real leverage comes from which work you choose to do.


As a leader, make sure each person in your company makes really good decisions about which work they do each day. Help people allocate their time, attention, and budgets really well.


I ask each employee these three OKR questions:

  1. How does your work each day affect our overall business performance, can you explain the in-between steps to me? (I ask instead of telling, so we both learn more).

  2. What is the most important work you can do this quarter to improve our performance? (That’s my OKR process)

  3. What’s the most important work you’re doing right now, and how is it going? (That’s my weekly check-in convo)

Hard work means nothing if you’re working on the wrong stuff!


Hat tip to my friend Peter Karpas of Starsona for this powerful mental model.

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