Its coming up to 12 months since I left the safety of an 8-year corporate banking career to dive into the unknown world of entrepreneurship.
Looking back at that decision, I don’t think I really knew what I was getting myself into and over the past year I’ve experienced plenty of doubt, stress, late nights and uncertainty. But not for one second would I change the choice I made and given this upcoming milestone I thought I’d write about some of the things I’ve learnt along the way about running a start-up business.
Whether its financial reporting, social media responses or physically building a desk… in a start-up there can literally be no task too big or too small. Because if you don’t do it, no one will.
At first this was somewhat confronting; coming from an organisation with over 50,000 employees, we all had very well defined roles and therefore anything outside of that role was someone else’s problem. I found out very quickly that I had to wear a lot of different hats – finance, sales, marketing, events coordinator, mediator, secretary, maintenance guy and cleaner!
Whilst it took some adjusting, I found out that living by this attitude not only helped me conserve my expenses and forced me to learn new skills, but more importantly, it went a long way towards creating a strong internal team culture with my team. There’s no space for an ‘ivory tower’ mentality in a start-up environment – its one in all in, and this really resinated with my team.
Whilst we all tend to do it, there’s only so far that ‘shooting from the hip’ can get you, and although emphasizing the importance of planning seems like a simple lesson it’s an extremely important one.
Not only is your time precious, but the window of opportunity for a start-up business to make its mark is limited. In order to maximise your business’s potential, you’ll need to be firing on all cylinders when the time comes and this takes regular planning… enter the sprint and scrum methodology.
A ‘Scrum’ is simply a team meeting, where we discuss, prioritize and delegate tasks. Whilst the ‘Sprint’ is the time allocated to complete the task.
We do this every week in the normal course of business, setting and achieving weekly goals with our team; but other tasks have longer sprint times and these need to be actively managed. If things are falling behind or getting off track, scrum it down, reprioritise, redelegate and get it done.
This lesson is really two parts…
You need to go and get yourself at least one mentor; someone you look up to, someone who’s been in your position, made some mistakes and come out the other end. And you want someone who’s going to be tough but fair. Theres going to be plenty of hurdles along the way and its going to be easier to deal with if you have an experienced hand to call upon.
One of my mentors has always told me that one of the best uses of your financial resources is your investment in people – no matter how early that investment is.
Taking a hit upfront to get the right people on board is sometimes necessary, as its their experience and expertise that will help take your business to the next level of growth. Work out what skills your business needs and then go out and fill that gap. Although its cliché, “you’re only as strong as your weakest player”.
At the end of the day we’re only human… Accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes and there’s going to be things you don’t know. What you’re trying to achieve is unchartered territory for you and you’re bound to make a wrong turn.
What’s important is how you bounce back from these mistakes.
There’s no elevator to success, sometimes you have to take the stairs
Being a part of a start-up is fun! So you have to enjoy the experience…
Running a coworking space, I’ve met so many amazing people over the past 12 months. People who have enormous amounts of passion, determination and drive, coupled with some incredible ideas and products.
Sometimes we get too caught up in the little things, but its important to stop and take a minute to reflect on what we have achieved, who we have met along the way and where we have headed. Usually it will make you smile and you’ll never want to look back!
Author: Tom Fleming