One thing that comes up early on in many of the companies that I work with is the question of how to build a framework through which to make decisions about product and business direction. Because it’s easy to get sidetracked (or just blinded by all of the possibilities out there) I often suggest to companies that they come up with a “mantra”. It’s oversimplified and doesn’t work for every situation (and of course needs to be revisited as the business changes over time) but the idea is to boil the key drivers of the company down to a sentence or two – maybe some broad categories that define they most important areas of focus or possibly something that looks like a statement of purpose. When a question of priority or direction comes up you can then bounce that idea off your mantra and see what happens. For example – “will this gain us more publishers” “will this make our advertisers more successful?” “will this help travelers share their experiences better” etc. I’ve found that doing this up front helps streamline decision making and have been in many conversations where we’re grappling with how to prioritize a series of tasks where we throw them up against our two or three mantras and what falls out is a clear priority of what needs to be done right away, what can be done later and what shouldn’t be done at all.
Like any advice, you can’t take this one to the extreme, but particularly early on in a company, or when you have a specific near to medium term goal, this kind of exercise can help provide a great framework for decision making.