The Main Thing in Startups...

Twitter, focus & an AI prompt

Happy Saturday to every unicorn in the galaxy.

Imagine this:

You run a massive company with 8,000 employees.

One day you decide to lay off 6,000 people.

Most users don’t even notice a difference.

There are some hiccups, but the basic user experience is the same.

So…the basic value the users are getting is the same.

This is an overly simplistic version of what happened at Twitter when Elon Musk took over.

But my point is this:

I’m a daily Twitter user, and the loss of those employees has barely affected the value I get from Twitter.

Sure, the algorithm is different and engagement has changed.

But I’m still able to tweet and like, retweet and comment on others’ tweets. Which is 99% of what I do on the app.

This makes me think there were a lot of people working on a lot of things that weren’t central to the value people use Twitter for.

At some point, the main thing stopped being the main thing (for thousands of employees).

A large public company in a favorable environment may have the luxury of spreading its efforts across a vast array of secondary projects.

But a startup usually doesn’t.

In my 7+ years of helping build a unicorn startup, here’s what I’ve noticed:

The people who make the biggest impact don’t necessarily work the hardest.

And they don’t just work the “smartest”.

They work hard on the right things and say no to the wrong things.

The challenge is to know what those right things are and then focus on them maniacally.

Today we’ll look at a 3-part framework to keep the main thing the main thing.

It’s not as easy as it looks.

You will get pulled in 100 directions by your peers, advisors, investors and whims.

Distracted by shiny objects.

The most important thing you can do to increase your odds of success are to focus all of your efforts on the one or two things that really matter.

Let’s see how…

Growth stage: Any

Difficulty level: Hard

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

- Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


The Easiest Way to Become an AI Marketer

Overwhelmed by AI?

Don’t waste 25 hours per day on Twitter or get lost in complex technical details.

Your boss will think you’re a genius, but you’re just reading the right marketing prompts.

The Marketing Prompts Guy delivers the best prompts for the best marketers.

Click the button below for your weekly marketing prompts education.

The Marketing Prompts GuyThe Best AI Prompts for the Best Marketers

Need to Know

Google started opening up access to their new generative AI experiences.

🦄 Learn to convert more users with Clickfunnels’ masterful direct response content. Check out their guide to copywriting basics.

If Nothing Else, Do This

The first part of keeping the main thing the main thing is to figure out:

What IS the main thing?

The answer may be different from company to company, team to team, or person to person.

But fundamentally, there are only a few things that have the ability to make or break a company.

The cool part of this framework is that it can be applied at the company level, team level, the employee level, or even the day level.

It starts with a question:

What MUST happen for you to succeed?

You probably need profit.

You probably need revenue.

You probably need customers.

You may need funding.

You may need to not run out of money.

Suppose you need to achieve profitability before running out of money.

Your next question is to then ask:

What needs to happen to achieve profitability before running out of money?

From there you ask:

What are the BIGGEST LEVERS within your control to affect what must happen?

Make a list of all the points of leverage you have to influence what needs to happen.

For example, to achieve profitability you might:

  • Increase prices

  • Reduce costs

  • Increase LTVs

Your next step is to score these options by expected impact, probability of success and opportunity cost or risks.

Rank them and tackle only the biggest opportunity.

One at a time. At most, 2-3 bets in parallel.

Third, ask:

What are you wasting time on that WON’T have an effect on what must happen?

Review your calendar if you have one.

Track what you spend your time on.

It’s so easy to lose hours modeling out sidebar conversations, pursuing trivial inquiries because of someone’s offhand comment.

It’s especially hard as an employee to avoid jumping down every rabbit hole your boss mentions.

Be the one who says, “Yeah I can do that, but I’ll have to stop working on [the thing that MUST happen].”

They’ll shut up.

Bonus: How to Use AI to Relentlessly Prioritize

Most people (myself included) are way too informal with how they spend their time. I’ve lost years to poor planning, projects with a lack of direction or incoherent assumptions.

One cool use for AI I’ve found is that you can use AI to interrogate yourself, question your assumptions, point out flaws in your thinking, and hold yourself accountable.

The prompt I’m sharing below can save you from this:


Act as if you are a trusted advisor to my startup. We are working on a B2B SaaS and have enough funding for 12 months. As CEO, I need to ruthlessly prioritize to make sure our company succeeds. Please interrogate me about our company goals to help me determine what one or two things to focus on that will have the biggest impact on our likelihood of success. I'd like you to ask me a series of questions, focusing only on what you deem are the most important issues in descending order of importance. Each time you will ask a single question, which I will answer. Once you're satisfied you understand my answer, you will ask another question. In this way we will have a dialog to identify what are the one or two things that I must do to ensure my startup's success. Be sure to question my assumptions and point out any flaws in my logic. If you understand these instructions, please ask your first question.

And so forth.

In this way you can have a dialog with ChatGPT to probe your startup’s current position and identify the most important areas to focus on.

Keep in mind, this is just a way to generate ideas and surface potential gaps in your thinking.

Don’t blame ChatGPT (or me) for anything.

Ultimately it comes down to your good judgment.

To recap:

3 Questions to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing:

1) What must happen for you to succeed?

2) What are the BIGGEST LEVERS within your control to affect what must happen?

3) What are you wasting time on that WON’T have an effect on what must happen?

Keep it simple, friends.

The main thing is the main thing.

✨ That’s it for today!

I hope this helps you in your growth journey.


PS - don’t forget to subscribe to The Marketing Prompts Guy for your weekly dose of advanced AI prompts that will make you a smarter marketer.

Recommended reading (if you subscribed recently):