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The road to entrepreneurship is not as glamorous as what is portrayed on the #australiabusinessblog.com side of Instagram. The success formula does not contain jets or fancy clothes or cars, but a lot of guts and conviction. Growing a company from a team of two to 30 people presented several challenges. Things like iterating the product, financing and even hiring people to join the journey presented themselves as mountains for our team to overcome. If you want to start a business, you’re in for a wild ride!
I don’t claim to be an expert, but I wanted to put these thoughts out there to help anyone who is in the thick of business. (Or even about to!)
Here are five lessons I learned when I was a female founder for the first time.
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Don’t wait for ‘perfect’.
It’s wishful thinking to wait for the stars to align to achieve your business goals. You may think you’re thinking too much, but when you’re building a business, iteration speed is your best friend to success. Start somewhere. No decision is perfect and few decisions will lead to the death of your business. It’s a matter of taking small, actionable steps every day to reach your goals.
Perfection is the enemy of progress. The first iterations of the product will likely be rocky. But by taking your product to market with beta testers, we arrived at a product that we are incredibly proud of today. Without feedback, it is impossible to iterate effectively. I regularly ask myself, “what can I do today to make us better than yesterday?”
Related: Perfection Doesn’t Exist. Here’s how to stop wishing and start your business.
Engage the right people
Easy enough, right? I believe that good people build good teams and good teams build good products. Building your team is one thing that is essential to the success of your business. The secret behind Smartrr’s growth is the team we’ve built. Finding that talent from scratch has been one of the most challenging things I’ve had to deal with. I know I said never to wait for perfection. Still, it’s essential to clarify the type of culture you want to build your business around and focus on aligning the right people who add value to the specific culture.
Starting a business is challenging; having a misalignment internally only distracts you from your goals and can be your downfall. Take the time to select who is in your inner circle. This includes your team but also all other stakeholders; your investors, your partners and your customers. Surround yourself with well-meaning, ambitious and intelligent people, who are committed to solving the problem you want to build around, and success will follow.
Then align those people with a customer-obsessed mindset. It sounds simple enough, but it’s so easy to get distracted by who has the latest shiny object or clever marketing campaign in the space. Be relentless in exposing your customer’s pain points and feedback, don’t look at what other competitors are doing and set sail on the needs you can fulfill for your (potential) customers.
As a result, we continue to develop innovative solutions and remain internally aligned with our mission and goals. If there’s one thing to take away from this piece, it’s that everyone in your company (no matter what product or service you provide) should be laser-focused on the end consumer.
If you do this right, not only will the team build something incredible, but your team will inspire each other every day and drive a strong culture, better productivity, and a stronger company.
Reflection is essential
Everyone will have a different path to suppressing different levels of anxiety caused by daily business tasks. For me, the two things that help sleep – that’s more of a short-term fix – are reflection.
It’s easy to forget bad calls, days, etc. Over time, you’ll look back on the same event that made you sick to think about and laugh at what once ruffled your feathers (believe me, we’re all here You’re not alone.). With each misstep, setback, and mistake you make, the previous one doesn’t look so bad.
As a founder, you really don’t have the option to quit when the going gets tough. Again, I’ve been there. Once you pass the next challenge, you’ll look back and know you’re better at it. Atone for the bad and even laugh at what triggered you in the past if you can. If you’re facing a new challenge, take those steps forward and focus on what you can master – those previous challenges will help you know you can get through another one. More often than not, you’ve made greater achievements.
Related: 8 entrepreneurs reveal how they distinguish reflection from regret
Capital is not the only thing you can get financing for
I could write a whole other article on how to effectively raise money for your business, but with the space I have, you know there’s so much to gain from being in a space with investors with years of experience in your space. In my opinion, a good investor relationship is not based on the foundation of the capital provided.
In our early stages, our “best” investors are the ones we have a real partnership with. They are the ones we can ask for help for any reason. They don’t invest just to fill an investment thesis. They are passionate about what you do and take the time to get to know you and your vision for the company. They don’t wait for you to get in touch. They take the initiative to introduce you to a potential client or just to see how founder life treats you.
If you’re actively fundraising, remember this: Just as you tell them your vision, they should be tell you theirs. Do your due diligence and ask tough questions; find out who they support, their current portfolio companies, who they can put you in touch with, and their views on trends in your market.
Create goals outside your company
You will undoubtedly be tested and pushed beyond your limits and challenged to go through many mental barriers. Another useful way to grow is to create achievements outside of work. What I’ve found particularly helpful while working on Smartrr is challenging myself to find purpose outside of work. Because we’re so focused on something as big as scaling what we hope will continue to be a thriving business, short-term profits are essential.
An example of this is walking on the weekend: getting some fresh air works wonders, but reaching the top of a walk, “winning” is, in a way, a great victory that helps fuel my spirit for the week ahead. Hard to believe when you’re deep in the trenches, but victories don’t always come from your company. Set goals and crush them, both inside and outside your organization!
As a first-time founder, these five lessons have brought joy and success to the entrepreneurial journey. This is not your ‘success formula’, but lessons that I hope you can take, practice and encourage for your growth in business and life. Remember that success is not linear and does not manifest itself in the same way in all cases, but apply these principles as you see fit in your daily life. Make your goals clear and I hope you start 2023 off right!