26 Aug The Entrepreneur’s Journey, Five Years In: Advice for Start-Ups
In the era of abundant technology, starting a business is much easier than it used to be. There’s millions of free resources online and hundreds of marketplaces to hire talented freelancers. For those ready to quit their day jobs, be their own boss, gain financial freedom, build an enterprise and become the next Mark Zuckerberg, being an entrepreneur seems like a great choice.
Speaking from five years of personal experience starting and running businesses of my own, and now consulting with people looking to start their own business, I want to share the most important lessons I’ve learned in my journey so far.
1 – You have a great idea? So what.
Anyone can have a great idea for a service or a product. Statistics show for every idea you can think of, there are at least 10,000 other people with the same idea.
Did you know that the majority of the filed patents are useless, because the business eventually fails due to lack of experience and poor execution? Most of the time, young start-ups think about filing patents or trademarking their business too early. Instead, it’s better to focus on research, planning and insuring that the business is executing properly. Good operations are worth a hundred good ideas.
2 – Be careful about working with friends and family members.
I’ve learned this in the hard way: When it comes to personal relationships, it’s better to leave business and money out of it, because disagreements in these areas break relationships. It’s extremely hard (and risky) to work with family members or close friends due to conflicts of interests. Especially in start-up businesses, which are already beset with tremendous risks and challenges, the stress and pressure to succeed can be very harmful to the relationship.
The best option is to separate personal relationships from business. Your loved ones or relatives can be advisers or evangelists for your business, but try not to involve them directly.
3 – Be ready to make huge sacrifices.
There will be sleepless nights and days too busy for meals. There will be no vacations for years. Your significant other will complain (justifiably) that you spend more time on the business than you on your relationship. There will be times that require great humility, when you have to listen and accept the truth of criticisms of your business. You will search under couch cushions for every dime you can find to fund your business. And when the first trickle of revenue comes, your team members are the first ones paid, and your salary will be the left-overs. Just like the parent who is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure their child is well-cared for, you need to be willing to do the same for your start-up.
4 – Sometimes, you have to be a d*ck.
Regardless of how nice you are, there will be certain scenarios you will need to act like- or be perceived as- a very unpleasant person.
When you need to dismiss an employee who doesn’t fit, when you say ‘no’ to a client who’s leeching your time and energy (or to a potential partner who is looking to take advantage of you), you don’t have the luxury of being a sweetheart. Sometimes you have to be a d*ck.
It’s not easy to say ‘no’ to other people, but you must do what is in the best interest of your business and your team. Be bold and speak what you believe is right. At the end of the day, what’s more important: That your team and business grows and prospers, or maintaining your self image as a “nice guy” while your business is slowly torn down?
5 – Want to help others? That’s good, but make sure that you can help yourself first.
I used to offer internships and part-time jobs to candidates who lacked the necessary skills to perform the job, and I made huge accommodations for those with difficult personal situations, because I want to support people and help them grow.
At first, it looks like a kind decision. However, eventually it hurts both the business and the employee. If they don’t possess the skills to perform the work, they spend lots of time feeling anxious because they’re not meeting requirements and goals. Or, if they are dealing with a lot of personal issues, it’s hard for them to concentrate at work, which can badly affect team mood and productivity. The company suffers from these hiring decisions financially, strategically and morally.
Before a plane takes off, flight attendants always repeat this phrase: In the event of an emergency, secure your oxygen mask first before assisting others. Similarly, for young start-ups, put your business first. Focus on building a strong team, and once the oxygen if flowing, then you’re ready to help others.
6 – Focus on building the right team.
It’s not about “good employees” or “bad employees”: Building a strong team is all about finding the right fit. While there are many behaviors that are coachable, it’s incredibly time consuming to help new employees gel with your business culture, contribute to your vision, and grow with your company if those aren’t their priorities.
Listen to your gut while still giving new hires (and you) enough time to figure out if you’re on the same page. Wrong hiring decisions are extremely harmful and costly to any business, especially for start-ups that don’t have resources to spare.
You want team members who are willing to go the extra mile to get things done. The ones who are honest and dedicated, the ones who are ready to hit the ground running, the ones who clearly see themselves growing and helping the company to grow, the ones who find ways to help the company – those are the team members that will make your business.
The ones who are overconfident, self-centered, dishonest and closed-minded; the ones who wait for the tasks to come, resist to change, always complain, and create more work for you – those are not the right fit for a start-up.
Be strategic and careful during the hiring process to make sure you hire the right people. With experience, you’ll know within 1-2 months of the probationary period (and I implore you- use a probationary period when hiring) if a new member is a good fit. If not, hard as it might be, you need to let them go. Don’t waste their time or yours. They’ll find another job that fits them better, and you’ll have room on your team for the people who will help you make your company successful.
At Cyber Fision, we have worked with numerous businesses and start-ups to turn their great ideas into viable systems.
Our team of engineers, marketing professionals, designers and software experts is here to do the same for you.
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