From teamwork, to task management, to culture, here are some of the things that can help make the startup dream work
BEAM 4 Feb, 2017
If startup, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and angel investors are words excite you and make you raise your ears and turn your heads, then this article is for you.
Well it has been a year and a half since we started our startup. I am Co-founder of this startup and I would like to share some serious lesions I have learnt over time.
But first, a brief note about how I started up, before going to the hard core lessons.
So I was working as a senior executive at an MNC, and I always had this question in my mind about how websites track how many people visit their site, who are they, and more. These questions paved the way for me to learn web analytics (I am Google Analytics certified), which in turn gave me a spark to start my own internet-based startup, just when the startup buzz was very big in India due to big names like Flipkart and Snapdeal getting big in 2015.
So here are my lessons:
Seems strange and confusing, right? You might have read that as a early stage startup co-founder you should do everything to save cost, etc. But my lesson is this: Don’t say yes to everything.
Why do I say so?
At the start, I said everything to tasks and opportunities offered to me — from building the product, doing market research, vendor tie-ups, business development, marketing, vendor sourcing, product purchasing, hiring talent, and more. My co-founder had too much trust in my skills, abilities and confidence, and perhaps my hard-working nature and enthusiasm. He was also busy running other ventures.
After a few months of doing everything, we started to realise that each founder should focus on his/her core skills. For example, my core skills are in market research through various online tools, doing digital marketing, hiring talent, motivating, executing, setting systems and process, and the like. However, I started doing vendor tie-ups, and while I did fairly okay, at the end of the day my focus on other tasks started to suffer.
Thus, while doing business development, my other work started failing, which made it difficult because we did not have that many staffers.
So I would say this: You have to be very clear on which tasks (or opportunities) to say yes to, and which to decline, based on critical evaluation of each of your team members’ strengths and weaknesses.
Startups are an unending phenomena. However, you want to be clear on what exactly you want to achieve at the end of each day. It can be adding five more paying customers, adding five new vendors on board, closing team hiring, finalising on outsourcing, etc. It can be anything, but it has to be fixed.
This will help you analyse and monitor your day-to-day progress. This exercise must be done with each team member in your startup.
Many times I have seen fellow entrepreneurs not accepting negative feedback about their product/service. We all need to remember what Bill Gates said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
As startup founder you have to be open to listen to your customers , friends and well wishers about their negative feedback. It can improve your product, as well. If you think the feedback is not worthy, it may be tempting to ignore it. However, you must listen to both praise and criticism.
I would suggest making a journal and keeping tabs on suggestions and feedback. It will help you keep track of how your product has grown over time. It also creates huge goodwill from your customers’ perspective. You can actively engage with customers on a public forum where they can share feedback about your product or service.
By open culture, I mean founders and employees should be talking, exchanging ideas, and sharing feedback openly. If there is good news, then share it will all. If there is bad news, share it with all. Party together, and share ideas in team meetings.
The open culture concept will drive more accountability in your startup. In the early stages , you will have fewer people working for you; Hence you need to make sure they all are on top of their work. You can make them accountable by open feedback and open appreciation. Except for very few critical things, keep an open culture with all employees.
Yes contrary to what normally people think, bad news involving your startup has to run fast, and you must inform all stakeholders. For example, you may have to fire someone, or you have lost one paying customer, or you have encountered a system failure, etc. When you will declare it openly, you will earn trust from your team. While you announce bad news, always accompany this with the reason of the news and share your plan of action in addressing it.
Yes, good news is not good news unless there is a party. Working at a startup is tiring for anyone. Hence whenever there is good news, celebrate — have a party. Its not necessary to throw a big party, but it’s a good idea to at least have a small celebration, such as sharing a cup of tea/coffee or some cold drink with whole team
Happiness is contagious. Have some laughs with your co-founders, team members, vendors, etc. It will release some stress and help you find creative ways of solving critical issues. As it is said: Laughter is the best medicine.
This article was first published on e27