Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that the first step to success is to start. Yet so many people still feel trapped in the rat of life and dream of a life in which they are responsible. But if so many dream of it, why do so few really take the leap?
Because it’s a huge shock. I took the leap and killed my 9-to-5 for the contractor 24/7. It was far from easy, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made – and if you’re thinking about it, I encourage you to go for it.
Here, two years are condensed into 5 minutes through 5 important lessons I learned to transition from employee # 50,000 in a business technology to leading my own technical start. Hopefully this will help you start your own journey.
1. The blank canvas: no resources or structure
It’s day 1 of your starting journey and there is no plane on board, no nice welcome pack that you see on your LinkedIn feed. It’s just you and your bold vision to influence the world. You will only be in this stage once, so use the blank canvas as an opportunity to design the world your way.
Startups lack the luxury of resources. Still, small budgets and scarce time are a blessed disguise as they cultivate out-of-the-box thinking. Not being able to afford the nice painting set in the craft store forced me to think creatively about my 50-cent brush. In fact, my canvas may not even need that brush. Maybe I can handle nail polish. Thinking without limitations opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
While creative thinking can compensate for a lack of resources, structure is crucial. To manage my time I use Eisenhower matrix, consolidate data as much as possible (do not make siled data a challenge tomorrow!), and use smart tools to work efficiently and create structure.
2. The importance of goodwill
Where companies do not need an introduction, startups must carefully build their reputation. It starts with curing fantastic experiences. Now, of course, there are a variety of ways to do this, but they do not all have to be “high-tech”.
My team and I actually write a thank you to everyone we work with. There is no big or small fish: every customer is equally valuable.
We have also set it up so that users can request new features via a feedback page. Listen, learn and act. Turning users into fans, then, ambassadors proved to be a great way to build a strong community and create goodwill.
3. I surround myself with people I can learn from
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road, but it does not have to be. There are a lot of people in the start-up world who are willing to share their knowledge and network. I just needed to ask – and I wish I had known that sooner.
I now have 12 mentors and advisors and participate in regular knowledge sharing sessions with other startups. I’m not afraid to ask for help or get advice. Surrounding myself with people I can learn from is crucial because we can not do everything ourselves.
4. Instead of going into an existing culture, I had to create my own
I have discovered that it all starts with a strong corporate identity. A starting culture is built over time and involves the personality of the people in the team. Culture involves core values and a clear mission and vision.
By adapting my startup words and actions, minite created the step. By communicating the values and mission to all our stakeholders, I ensure that everyone is on the same page.
And the great thing about start-ups is that each new team member or stakeholder influences the company culture. It is an eternally fine-tuning process.
5. Business life is comfortable and relatively risk-free – entrepreneurship is not
The risks must be calculated and include careful planning, however no the effects of COVID-19 could have been foreseen. Yet this strange, unknown zone we suddenly found ourselves in was also an innovation catalyst. While some companies drowned, others swung.
At Minite we went back to the drawing board. We talked to local business owners and students, two groups that had a big impact. Based on their feedback, we realized a new opportunity and took advantage of it. We are now going strong even during the pandemic.
Entrepreneurs must be flexible and ready to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. It’s easy to get caught up in the tunnel vision, but releasing (often imaginary) limitations creates creativity and innovation.
And that’s the great thing about startups: they’re lean. If a company is a cruise ship where it takes forever to get everyone on board, a start as your 5-year-old nephew is on his shiny little bike that asks you to ride.
Having been a cruise ship passenger for several years, I love the agility of a bicycle. Life for me is meant to be lived in the fast lane, where I will spend the coming decades on my shiny new bike and steer in my own direction.
Published March 3, 2021 – 09:10 UTC