After being chosen as one of the top 10 startups for Ideaspace 2016 Cohort 4 last Friday, I wanted to write about our experience, but I decided to write about another topic instead. I wanted to write about business lessons you should know before you reach 30 and about maturity, and this is not about being old, but this more about “business” maturity (although, oftentimes it comes with age). I decided to write about this since I have seen a lot of young people deciding to start a business before they reach 30, which is just AWESOME! I am all for it, but please do read up, learn, interview people, ask around, validate your idea, etc. before you jump the gun.
From my observation of people who have started a business, from both those who have succeeded and failed in keeping it afloat financially, I have noticed a lot of similarities. These lessons (I suppose I could call them that), I feel, would help a lot of younger people in making sounder and wiser decisions. Again, these are all from my personal observations.
One: If you are in the process of finding yourself (quarter life crisis) and are still figuring out what you want, being involved in a startup or let alone, leading one, is not the wisest thing to do. I see that the successful startups are led by people with a pretty good idea of what they want in life (and believe me, being just plain ‘rich’ or being the next Steve Jobs just doesn’t count). They are headstrong, but not stubborn about things. These are two different things and be aware of the difference. Starting a business means that people will look to you, especially if you are the CEO, for direction and you will probably fail at being a leader if you haven’t got your business figured out, let alone your life.
Maturity is seen in founders who know when to drop things temporarily to fight a better fight in the future.
Two: Successful founders know that money doesn’t make the world go round, but they know that money pays for the bills. You probably saw a lot of pictures of your friends who were part of Ideaspace 4 with big checks like these.
Well, the feeling of making it to top 10 was similar to probably winning the lotto, but the reasons for being elated were very different. All of us (I hope!) understood that this money was gasoline for our business. It was more to fast track things internally that would make us launch the product within this 4.5 month duration. Although, even if founders understand the purpose of grants and funding, they sometimes fall into the trap of using the funds themselves for a lot of unnecessary expenses, and what unnecessary doesn’t mean giving yourself pay that is due you. Unnecessary things or spending are things that you may not actually need, but end up paying for, and this oftentimes, stem from poor planning.
Maturity is seen in founders who know what they are worth, and who are smart enough to have thought of a financial plan for the business even before funds start coming in. The attractiveness of money/funding will not lure them into the habit of overspending.
Three: I am an advocate of working remotely or working from home, but for businesses that are just starting, I would have to say that it is crucial that you meet face-to-face regularly. Believe me, I have seen the difference that this makes in a lot of instances and scenarios. For CEOs or for the leaders of these startups especially, it is very important that you are with your team often. A wise friend told me once that the leaders or the founders of the “idea” would have an incomparable amount of passion that would be infectious and that would be enough for the entire team to function with gusto. I believe this to be true, as I have personally experienced this. In the business that I run, I see that people draw inspiration from me and in the businesses/startups that I am part of, I draw inspiration and energy from the founder of the idea.
Maturity is seen in founders who know when they need to be there for their team, and when to let go for the business and the team to grow speedily.
Four: Your unique selling proposition is not only the uniqueness of your idea. An idea can be the same as someone else’s but executed better. An idea can be really unique also and totally different from anything else that you might have seen and encountered, but the pain point is not evident or the timing is off. So, really think about what will set you apart, and why will people avail of your service and not that of another entity. Don’t be scared to share your idea with the right people (do your research and look for people with experience in the industry that you want to enter or those who your peers say would be willing to give genuine advice). And when these more experienced people give you advice, have an open mind about it, but also, think things through to know what will make the most sense for your business.
Maturity is seen in founders who embrace the concept of abundance (of ideas, advice, collaborations, information) and discern for themselves which of these information will make sense for their business.
Five: You will fail many times along the way. You will get disheartened not only a few times, but an amazingly whole lot of times. I can’t count the number of times I have cried or the number of times I have not slept, but there were a lot. You should know that this is normal. It’s also good to have someone by your side who truly understands what you are going through.
Maturity is seen in founders who know that hard times make you tougher, and the challenges are not indications that you need to quit, but indications that you need to step a little bit further from your business to see where improvement lies.
Six: Last, but not the least, focus on things that make sense now, while thinking of the bigger picture and your reasons why. I’m not sure though if telling Millenials to go for what they are passionate about and to strive to make a difference is still relevant, since it seems everyone is talking about this already and it seems that these come natural to this new generation. But, what I wanted to harp on is for you to know think about what makes sense now. Will it make more sense to gather knowledge as an employee then possibly start your own business later on? Will it make more sense to start early and continuously learn along the way? Will it make sense to focus on building one startup with a friend and have a part-time stable job on the side? Will it make more sense to study more first to build confidence then start a business?
Maturity is seen in founders who know that there are many decisions that you must make on the road to building your own business. You make them after thoroughly assessing the situation, and ultimately, accept whatever the consequence of that decision is.
These are just some of the things that I thought about over the weekend. I have other thoughts that I want to document, but I’ll just save it for yet another day! If you have thoughts about this that you want to share, or questions that you want to ask, please leave a comment below. Today is yet another busy day for me, but I hope that my moments of reflection and journaling it, helped!
Talk to you soon!