On the importance of frameworks

I’ve never seen a business plan that looked like a business. 

I’m not sure exactly why this is, but it probably has something to do with the fact that in the early stage of any company there are a lot of variables, and things that seem to mean one thing can easily turn out to mean something else entirely. Sort of a particle / wave duality principle, but for startups.

(A high number of people who sign up for a product trial, for example, might not be a positive sign if none of them stick around once their two weeks is up — possibly indicating that your inbound growth levers need tweaking). 

For many entrepreneurs and startups, frameworks occupy a critical space — the one that arrives after “I have a bunch of ideas” but before “here’s the full plan to take over the world.”

At their most essential, frameworks are a guide to ways of being; foundational structures that are open rather than prescriptive; flexible and amenable to different values/styles. In other words, a framework is a map that allows the mapholder to move toward a destination, and to choose her/his own path to that destination. Many paths are possible because frameworks are adaptable. 

       - Cali Harris

One of the reasons frameworks matter so much is that they help mitigate risk. While entrepreneurs are constantly told that the most critical factor in a startup’s health is growth (Paul Graham’s essay being the prime example) a better signal might be how a company deals with uncertainty. In a high growth environment things change quickly, and no matter how smart you are there are going to be gut checks and guesses. 

Some frameworks are more practical— like this one from Alex Turnbull on how to do customer development, or this framework that Hiten Shah wrote recently on using the trick of editing a webpage to give faster feedback. 

These are great examples, but perhaps more critical are the rare frameworks that focus on growth with purpose.

Often, entrepreneurs are fed the myth that if we just have the right idea and work hard enough on it, we will be successful. That’s just not true. Sometimes we have the right idea and work hard and still don’t make it. One of the least talked about parts of the startup journey is that of building meaningful relationships, of doing work that matters, of balancing our emotional and mental health, and the health of our company.

To do these things we need built from scratch frameworks around things like vision, mission, awareness, collaboration, and stress management, and we need to be able to build and shape them as individuals and in a team setting.

Some people call it culture, some call it empathy, and some call it being human centered. But at the end of the day it’s really about growing with purpose, about balancing ourselves just as we must balance our companies. When we build with purpose we can sustain the intense work and energy that entrepreneurship requires and be wildly successful at what we start, or shift / pivot in a new and direction when we need to without breaking ourselves or the people we work with / for.

With that end in mind, here’s a doc that contains just that: basic frameworks to grow with purpose. They won’t increase your leads by 477% in just 6 easy steps, nor will they (automatically) make you look smart or cool. But they may help you and your idea / company quickly gather speed. You’re welcome to borrow, edit, or change them however you see fit.