KroyAsk twelve entrepreneurs to list what makes them successful and you are sure to get a dozen different answers. However, one of the few essentials that will invariably find its way onto nearly every list is Focus. In that category, among start-up investors, few can match the laser like intensity that Kroy has earned a reputation for during a brilliant career funding, creating and developing new digital entities. From branded content to a wide variety of other verticals, his fingerprints are all over many of the high volume websites many of us use daily even if we don’t often see his invisible hand at work behind the scenes.

 

You have been brought in to save several faltering brands. Is fixing a brand very different from building one from scratch?

I find that oftentimes a business doesn’t even realize it’s stagnant or broken, or at a tipping point toward a downward spiral. The principals may think they’re doing fine but then you show them some avenues they’re missing and it’s a whole different ball game for them. You could be running your business for years and think you’re doing ok at it but that’s because you don’t see the whole picture. You can’t, you’re too close to it. You establish a sort of internal baseline of success and as long as you meet that standard, you believe you’re at the top. It’s like you’re living in this fairly nice house for years with your windows closed, and you don’t realize how your neighbors are building much nicer homes right next to you with the same resources you have, simply because they do things differently and explore new opportunities and technologies that you can’t see. Part of my job is to open some windows so you can see what’s really going on.

One real difference between  a start-up and a fix-up is the personalities involved. Start-ups tend to bring ‘visionaries’ who want to think broadly when narrowing down on each task is crucial to reaching launch. Now, vision and optimism is absolutely necessary regardless if you’re a startup or are established. But it’s critical that you move beyond the stage of dreaming in generalities and actually get things done.

Fix-ups tend to have their share of entrenched people who are married to the broken way things used to almost work rather than the new methods of making improvements to the product and the process. It takes a strong mind to let someone else work on something you may or may not admit to yourself is broken. But that’s the only way to get back on track.

Managing those personalities requires you to frame things differently in each scenario, but the work and the actual process that ought to be in place is actually very similar once you peel back the presentation techniques from the plan.

Whether I am meeting a new team on day one of development or am being brought in to fix one aspect of an already otherwise successful product I suggest doing the exact same level of brutal analysis. Take your ego out of it. Identify strengths, determine weaknesses, assign tasks based on core competencies and honestly assess what is better handled in house or sourced to niche experts.

 Is there a danger of becoming too focused for your own good?

The real danger is ‘misfocusing‘, which is why I invest so much of my own energy in picking the right projects, the right people and getting a proper plan in place. If I had to point to the single most important aspect for success, it’s the 80/20 Rule or Pareto Principle. Stated very simplified, the majority of your results come from just a few things. Disregard the numbers 80 and 20, those are just to illustrate how a minority of something causes the majority of a result. For example, you may find that of your 100 advertising spots, only 5 are responsible for the vast majority of your ad-generated sales. A smart business drops the other 95 and focuses on those 5 that work, and ideally tries to duplicate that success. But surprisingly, many businesses don’t go to the trouble of analysing this in the first place, or if they do they often will just keep and pay for all 100 ad spots anyway and hope things sort themselves out. It sounds ridiculous but that’s exactly what’s going on.  Now imagine this rule applied to every aspect in your business and you see how you could become dramatically more effective and efficient – and profitable. This takes time, energy, and frankly some guts because many times you’ll have to make a conscious decision to walk away from established norms.

Once those things are all aligned and you know which parts to focus on, it becomes a matter of fitting the puzzle pieces together into a coherent product. But most of those pieces can only be assembled in a certain order so there isn’t a whole lot of discussion or guesswork at that point (which is what you want when you are in a time-pressured environment). Too often start-ups get off on the wrong foot, chasing after special contingencies and vanity based goals instead of getting down to the core of what is required and building from the middle out. That’s a mistake of poor planning, not one of too much focus.

What exactly does ‘Going All Kroy on the Task’ mean?

That actually started out as a running joke among a team of developers I was working with a while back. At first it seemed like a snide comment, but it has since become a real badge of honor.  When I work on something, I stay focused on it until it is actually complete… not just until it is ‘fine for now’ , and I feel that my focus is essential to getting start-ups launched successfully. It means cutting out all distractions – both personal ones as well as non-essential business. At the same time you only focus on what you’ve established is truly important and working based on the 80/20 Rule we discussed. Too often new entrepreneurs want to paint everything in broad strokes, claiming their vision will solve itself if everyone just keeps going, but that simply isn’t the case in real world situations. The waste and resource cost of circling back to something later is bad enough if you are working alone, but when you increase the size of your team those opportunity costs expand exponentially. Having  five or ten person development team working on an element of the project from different perspectives try to realign themselves at different points along your development timeline is setting disaster up as your destiny.

It’s scientifically proven that we humans aren’t very good at multitasking. Yet it’s the trendy thing to do now. It’s a disease. You’re one your phone texting your buddy about the game while at the same time checking stats for the millionth time today, replying to email that really isn’t important, posting on Facebook, writing up a proposal, and trying to rework the marketing plan. And none of this is done well. You miss key deadlines, and everything you do accomplish is half-baked. And you’re exhausted.

Instead, when I work on a start-up I make sure everyone on the team goes all in on just one thing they’re assigned to, and takes each component to its full completion before setting it down to begin solving the next set of tasks that need to be accomplished. It may sound simple, but once venture capital starts flowing in, investors begin making deadline demands and launch dates are looming it becomes very difficult for novices to maintain their focus on each element of the project in a milestone based manner. The advice I give every entrepreneur who asks or start-up I advise is take the time right now to plan out the entire development cycle, because if you think you are in a rush now, you can’t even imagine how fast your mind will be moving during the rapid growth phase after launch. Every second then feels like hours now, and the only way to manage it all successfully is to plan it out properly so you can focus later on each task at its own time.

Kroy – Like Madonna or Michael – How Did You Get A One Word Moniker?

Yeah that’s another unintended consequence of what I do. At this point I have signed so many non-compete clauses and non-disclosure agreements that one of my friends quipped ‘we should just call you Kroy to make sure we aren’t overstepping any intellectual property lines.’ While I am sure I still own the rights to my own real name, the current climate among investors has become so litigious that my name is about the only sort of intellectual property someone hasn’t already tried to lock down with lawyers.

I do see some of that starting to change. The open source approach Facebook is taking with server development and the release of patents by Tesla recently after Elon Musk urged the company to open things up to spur innovation is definitely a couple steps in the right direction. Hopefully we can reach a point where dominant ideas win the day, rather than which investor has the better IP attorney of council to their incubator. Until… I guess just call me Kroy like everyone else.

—–

To better understand what has made Kroy so success and learn from his advice in the full interview, subscribe to the HotStarted Dossier now and start putting the experiential resources of other great entrepreneurs to work during the develop of your own start-up enterprise.