Lessons Learnt

Action & Delegation: Learning from Andrew Wilkinson’s MetaLab Lazy Leadership

For the second instalment of the Lesson Learnt series, where we profile individuals, companies or brands that inspire us and talk about the lessons we learnt from them, we have Andrew Wilkinson, the founder of Tiny Capital, a company that starts, buys, and invests in internet businesses.

Tiny Capital includes companies such as MetaLab, a product design agency (as well as Andrew’s first business), digital goods marketplace Creative Market, project management tool Flow, job board Fresh Gigs, and plenty more.

Andrew is someone who eschews the traditional trappings of a founder-CEO lifestyle and duties, and regularly talks about his Lazy Leadership style; he rarely gets out of bed before noon, only sees his team a couple times a week and delegates most of the important decisions. Yet he’s managed to start and run a group of companies with over 200 employees as well as invested in more than 30 companies.

Let’s take a look at some of the important lessons I’ve learnt from studying Andrew and the way he runs his companies.

Life’s too long not to try, but too short not to be lazy and enjoy yourself.

Growth Shouldn’t Hurt | Noteworthy – The Journal Blog

Lessons Learnt is a series by Balance the Grind profiling individuals, brands or companies that inspire us. For more profiles, check them out here.

Lesson 1: Let action drive you

From the very early days of his career, Andrew has always been about taking action and creating momentum for himself. As a teenager during the Summer break between grades nine and 10, he linked up with a collaborator in Hawaii and started an Apple news website, Macteens, which quickly led to him meeting Steve Jobs at the age of 16.

I taught myself how to build websites. I just went into a company and managed to B.S. my way into a job. I used that time to learn everything I needed to and quickly realized I could do this stuff myself.

How I did it: Andrew Wilkinson | Business in Vancouver

After launching his own design agency, MetaLab, at 20 years old, Andrew cold called CEOs and offered them ‘strategic favours,’ often redesigning their company website’s blog for free. This strategy paid off as these CEOs would then go on to refer MetaLab to other companies. One job led to another and it wasn’t until MetaLab was working with brands like Google, Disney, Wal-Mart, and TED, just to name a few.

The philosophy behind Andrew’s bias to action is a simple one: “Take action on an idea as soon as you think of it so that you don’t forget about it or let your inaction torture you.”

How many of you reading this article right now are thinking about that new photography blog you’ve been meaning to create, YouTube cooking channel you wanted to launch, or maybe new musical instrument you’ve been wanting to learn?

Don’t worry too much about the details or else you’ll just be stuck in analysis paralysis. Create momentum for yourself by taking action. Start those first, small steps so that your goal becomes a real thing, not just an abstract thought in the back of your mind.

One of the key things that seems to set the most successful people I know apart from the rest. When they have a good idea, they take one small step towards doing it. Whether it’s giving it a name, sketching out a logo, or telling someone they’re going to do it. Suddenly, it goes from an idea, to a real thing. It’s tangible.

Just Start | Andrew Wilkinson – Medium

Lesson 2: Delegate & focus on high output tasks

For the first few years after start MetaLab, not only was Andrew responsible for the lead designs and developing new business, he also had to take care of the company financials, manage projects and recruit for new team members – three things he admitted he was absolutely terrible at doing. This led to a chaotic company culture and unhappy clients.

Nowadays, Andrew only spends his time on tasks that meet two criteria: he’s good at doing them and nobody else can do them. A few examples of these tasks would be: reinforcing company culture, creating processes and tracking results. With everything else, Andrew built a company machine, installing talented people into key roles and letting them take the reins of the important decisions, while he maintains a 30,000 feet view.

I wake up around 1pm and almost always get eight hours of sleep. Most days, I head to the office in the early afternoon and work around 5-6 hours. Sometimes I put in another couple hours at night, but I take the majority of my time away from work, and I never work weekends.

You don’t have to make yourself miserable to build a great company | Pando

In learning to delegate the day to day tasks and focusing on the company’s big picture, Andrew was working smarter, not harder. By deliberately constraining his work days into 5-6 hours, Andrew forced himself to focus on the important things, and delegate the rest of the work to his trusted team.

Similar to the calm work-life culture at Basecamp; Andrew has built a profitable group of companies with revenues into the millions, all while maintaining a strong work-life balance, not only for himself, but for his team too: “It’s not like I just delegated all my work to a miserable army of 9 to 9 office jockeys — everyone at MetaLab works when and how they want, and many keep a similar schedule to my own.”

Lazy Leadership isn’t really about being lazy. It’s about spending time on what matters and what you’re good at, then leaving everything else to your team.

Lazy Leadership | The Flow Blog – Medium

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.