Are You a Hammer or a Nail?

I have recently seen the movie Focus with Margot Robbie and Will Smith. I still remember one short, but important line. “There’s two kinds of people in the world. There’s hammers and there’s nails. You decide which one you wanna be”. I generally avoid thinking in groups especially if there are only two. Still the meaning of this sentence helped me a lot in business.

Of course I immediately thought, am I a hammer or a nail? I’m pretty sure you did too. I thought “I’m a hammer”, but I also thought I only make “Nägel mit Köpfen”. This is German and translated says “Nails with Heads”. It means to do things right, straight and a 100%.

During my work as an employee in different companies I have often seen big hammers and small nails without heads. These big hammers were crashing and smashing no matter which nail was underneath. Sometimes there was no nail at all.

This is completely different in a startup. There is lack of people so everyone is all different kinds of hammers and nails. There is just one thing that keeps it going. Making nails with heads and using them as fast and efficient as possible. Most of the time you are the nail for your own hammer. In this case nails are not only a synonym for people, but for all things you do, you use and you work with.

Doing something is one thing, but getting something done is a completely different one. As you might know doing 80% percent of the work needs 50% of the time and the missing 20% take the other 50%. This is the reason why most projects do not even get to a release. Taking one year for the 80% needs another year for the other 20%.

So this is what I learned.

Prepare to be a hammer and a nail, choose both wise

I already said in a startup everyone is doing almost everything. Design, development, marketing, operations, making coffee/tea, … Don’t be too proud to only do your stuff. Be ready to learn a lot. The only thing that gets the product out the door is getting all things done.

Use nails with heads, because they are much easier to use

Choose the people and the tools you work with wisely, because you want them to support you not to hinder you. There is a saying that “second class managers only hire third class people”. Make sure that people know a lot more in their field than you do and lay down your arrogance to be the best at everything.

Use different hammers for different nails and learn which ones fit together

Different work needs different tools to be efficient. Sure you can build a house with lots of tiny nails, but it is much easier with a few big nails. It is more efficient and faster. On the other hand you also need the small nails to put that beautiful picture on the wall that puts a smile on your face every time you see it.

When you are a nail use your head. When you are a hammer make sure all nails are in

Whatever you are currently doing, do it with passion and do it at least 200%. Once again, doing something is one thing, but get something done is what matters. We learn in school that the intention is what matters, but business shows that only results are counting.

So here we are. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. The thoughts above are the reason why I finally started blogging after two years thinking about it.

I hope it also encourages some of you to also start the stuff you wanted to for a long time. We need to be the change that we want to see in this world (Mahatma Gandhi) so let’s hammer and get stuff done.

If you like what you read we would be honored if you share it. Thanks in advance.

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