These are by no means gospel truths but just 5 key things I have learned during my time as the founder of a startup and hopefully they will help any of you thinking about doing your own startup or give others insight into the world of a startup.
1. Conducting yourself
At the previous advertising agency I worked at (AMV BBDO) I was lucky enough to have lunch with the M in AMV, Peter Mead.
He started AMV with two friends and is now one of the most respected and best agencies in the world.
Of everything he achieved from awards to god knows how much money he always talked about two things and even wrote a book on it.
These are lessons are, I like to think that I have implemented in my life and after a year of running my own business I can say have got me further than any money or knowledge would have.
So what are they?
- When in doubt, be nice.
- Build a culture where people want to work.
I know, you’ve probably just read those and though…. Pretty obvious!
And they are, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t live by them.
Firstly, When in doubt be nice, this without question is what go the core Pin Seekerz team together, the partnerships we have formed but more importantly kept people motivated to work on Pin Seekerz.
Too many people see characters like Ari Gold and think that’s the way to get stuff done. It isn’t. Especially when you are a new young business.
But remember, to be nice doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover… always remember whoever they are you are talking to, you have something to offer them.
The second point Build a culture where people want to work is again something that seems obvious but can easily be overlooked.
Especially as the founder and leader of the company. You dictate the culture your company forms.
Now, we are in a unique situation where we do not all work in an office together which makes communication and any face time we do spend together even more important.
It took me a good few months to understand the ways of working of my development team and I had to adapt to this but also ensure that it worked for me and the business. Remember being nice isn’t being a pushover.
When you’re a startup who has adopted the Lean Startup method including from a funding perspective and you have a team all working to the long term goal of success it is imperative to keep them focused and motivated without the lure of money.
This is done by respecting each others disciplines and constantly talking about the goal and ensuring your team believes in your vision and plans for the business.
Remember you’re the leader of the business and if your team don’t have faith that you know where you’re heading, how can they have faith in the business.
2. Noise of opportunity
Whenever you start your own business you will find everyone from your mum to a stranger you’ve met for the first time will all have an opinion of what you should be doing.
Some of these suggestions are great, some are just woeful but people are entitled to their opinions.
The two pointers I will share with you are the following:
1) Have a no list.
For the ideas/suggestions you do hear that have merit, discuss with your team and make sure they answer your fundamental business needs. Will it really add value?
If the answer is no then put it on the no list and leave it there. Mark Gainey, the founder of Strava said “We have lots of ideas and features we wish to add but have the capacity to do about 5% of them.”
This is so true, as a startup you will learn quickly that you will not be short of things you want to do but you have to look at what is realistic to achieve with the team you have.
Much better to do one thing well than five things poorly!
2) Stayed focused.
Sounds obvious and easy right? I would say it’s arguably the hardest thing to do.
Remember what the unique offering is of your business and remain focused on that in the first instance and then move out.
For example; Nike launched focusing on the niche of running. Then it moved into basketball and so on.
Strava launched with cycling. Now it supports almost most sports.
For us, we focus on creating competition in golf before we move on to in-depth stats and analysis of your game.
It is so easy to get caught up in the world of a startup and your business.
And to be honest, so it should be. It’s one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do.
That being said however it is so important to take a step back and gain some perspective of what you are doing.
Some people may be able to do this themselves but for me, I use old friends from my old agencies who are senior, experienced individuals to sit down with me and just offer me sound advice and look at my I am doing in a bigger picture way.
If you get lost and caught up in your own world, you forget about what you’re actually doing and why you’re doing it.
This is pretty simple but is arguably one of the most important things.
People who think success happens over night are wrong. Yes there are few but those rocket ships that launch that quickly normally fall as fast.
Remember Facebook started in universities for years before becoming publicly available.
There is also no magic formula to making it and knowing what will make your business a success. We at PS are still searching for that tipping point.
But the most important thing is that is just comes down to hard work. Hours of dedication and motivation to keep plugging away, trying new things until you find that winning formula.
This technically links into the above point but it’s so important that I wanted to ensure it was made clear.
This all takes time, you need to be prepared for two to three years of relentless hard work with pretty much no return.
Any successful business you will see they started this way so if you aren’t willing to play the long game, then don’t play it.