Mindmap of management issues in startup

Lessons learned from start-up founders

Starting own business implies taking risks, and failure is a part of the learning process on the way to success. Maybe you have already taken a leap of faith to become an entrepreneur. Maybe you are just contemplating letting go of a deceptive security of a corporate job. Whatever is your situation, you can always benefit from the experience of fellow start-up founders who went through similar challenges.

This is not a conventional “starting own business” advice. Rather these are deeply personal lessons learned from trials and errors of start-up founders on their journey of becoming successful entrepreneurs. ex-change guests John Zimmer, Benoit Ragot and Judit Petho contributed their stories.

Lesson learned by top start-up founders

#1: As you start up own business, remember that you can’t please everybody.

Little can compare to the joy of a start-up founder getting first orders in. Let’s be honest: we are in love with our first clients trusting us to resolve their problems. So it is understandable that we are eager to meet the expectations of each new customer.

However, this could quickly sidetrack our business. Supporting a customized solution requires additional human and financial resources we may not have planned for. More than that, it becomes more difficult to build on the customer feedback if the baseline product is not standard.

To avoid falling into this trap, focus on your talents and what you do best in order to help others. Accept that some people may not like what you have to offer. Some maybe pretty vocal about it. But it does not diminish the value you could bring to others. It’s their constructive feedback that needs to be taken into account.

So we should be prepared to pivot only if and when it makes sense. A customer who does not need our product or service, will not buy it. And that’s OK.

#2: When scaling up your start-up, make tough decisions fast.

When it comes to hiring or firing decisions, none of us wants to be a bad guy.

We want to stay positive and to believe in a person in front of us. Even when we see clear signs of poor performance, disengagement or even outright lies, we often look away. To be honest, it may also be because we are too busy putting off fires elsewhere in the business or, by contrast, trying to manage rapidly growing order numbers.

But hoping for the best is not a viable strategy. Sooner than later, a tough conversation needs to take place as underperformance or sinking moral could spread to the entire team.

Make an effort to understand the underlying reasons, then decide quickly if the situation could be remedied or if you need to let go someone. Remember that people whom we keep for wrong reasons could ultimately destroy our business. Saying “no” now opens the doors for better members to join the team.

#3: As you start raising capital for the start-up, choose your investors wisely.

The relations with the investors are actually like a marriage, as you will build a common future together. Goodinvestors will support you through inevitable bumps, give you the access to their network and remain patient. Wrong investors will constantly question your decisions, press for fast results and fire you if you do not meet their expectations. Yes, the “divorce” scenario could be devastating in all aspects.

It is important to remember that it’s not a one-way street. Same as with the job interviews, each party makes own decision whether or not to proceed with the venture. As scary as it may sound, if your guts tell you to leave the negotiation table, do so. It is usually a sign of mismatch of values and expectations that could become a recipe for disaster at a later stage.

It takes courage to start own business. But it is not enough to make it thrive. Being a successful entrepreneur is about making trade-off and accepting full responsibility. Good luck!