5 Priceless Lessons For First-Time Entrepreneurs

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The road to entrepreneurship isn’t as glamorous as portrayed on the #entrepreneur side of Instagram. The formula for success does not contain jets or fancy clothes or cars, but rather a ton of courage and belief. Growing a company from a team of two to 30 people came with several challenges. Things like iterating the product, funding and even hiring people to join the mountainous journey that needed to be conquered by our team. If you’re looking to start a business, you’re in for a wild ride!

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I wanted to share these thoughts to help anyone deep in the heart of business ownership. (Or even about to!)

Here are five lessons I learned as a first-time founder.

Related: 9 Lessons to Learn from Being in the Entrepreneurial Trenches

Don’t expect “perfect”.

It’s wishful thinking to wait for the stars to align to start making progress towards your business goals. It may feel like you’re overthinking it, but when you’re building a business, speed of iteration will be your best friend for success. Start somewhere. No decision is perfect and few decisions will kill your business. It’s about taking small, concrete steps every day to achieve your goals.

Perfection is the enemy of progress. The first iterations of the product will likely be difficult. But bringing your product to market with beta testers led us to 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 does not exist. Here’s how to stop wishing and start your business.

Bring in the right people

Pretty easy, right? I believe that good people make good teams and good teams make good products. Building your team is essential to the success of your business. The secret to Smartrr’s growth is the team we’ve built. Finding this talent from scratch was one of the hardest things I had to deal with. I know I said never expect perfection. Still, it’s essential to be clear about the type of culture you want to build your business around and focus on aligning the right people who will add value to the specific culture.

Starting a business is a challenge; having an internal misalignment will only distract you from your goals and possibly your downfall. Take your time to select who is part of your entourage. This includes your team but also all other stakeholders; your investors, your partners and your customers. Surround yourself with well-meaning, ambitious, intelligent people who are dedicated to solving the problem you seek to build around, and success will follow.

Then align those people behind a customer-obsessed mindset. It sounds simple enough, but it’s so easy to get distracted by who’s got the latest shiny object or a clever marketing campaign in space. Be relentless in pointing out weak points and feedback from your customers, avoid looking at what other competitors are doing, and point your sails towards the needs you can satisfy for your customers and potential customers.

As a result, we continue to develop innovative solutions and stay aligned with our internal mission and goals. If there’s one thing you should take away from this piece, it’s that everyone in your business (regardless of the product/service you provide) needs to be end-consumer focused.

If you are successful, the team will not only build something amazing, but your team will inspire each other every day and drive a strong culture, better productivity, and a stronger business.

Reflection is vital

Everyone will have a different path to mastering the varying levels of anxiety caused by day-to-day work tasks. For me, the two things that help are sleep—it’s more of a short-term fix—and thinking.

It’s easy to block bad calls, days, etc. That said, confronting the good and the bad through reflection gives you the privilege of growing and maturing. In time, you’ll remember the same event that made you sick to reflect and laugh at what once messed you up (trust me, we’ve all been there. You’re not alone.). With every misstep, misfortune, and mistake you make, the one before doesn’t look so bad.

As a founder, you really don’t have the ability to quit when the going gets tough. Again I went there. Once you’ve taken on the next challenge, you look back and know you’re better at it. Reconcile the hurt and even laugh at what has triggered you in the past when you can. When you’re faced with a new challenge, take those steps forward and focus on what you can control – those previous challenges will help you know you can overcome another one. More often than not, you have accomplished greater feats.

Related: 8 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Discern Reflection From Regret

Capital isn’t the only thing you can get financing for

I can write a whole other article on how to effectively fundraise for your business, but with the space I have, know that there is so much to be gained from being in a room with investors with years of experience. experience in your space. A good relationship with an investor, in my opinion, is not based on the capital provided.

At the beginning, our “best” investors are those with whom we have a real partnership. They are the ones we can call for help for any reason. They don’t just invest to fill an investment thesis bucket. They are enthusiastic about what you do and take the time to learn about you and your vision for the business. They don’t wait for you to contact them. They will take the initiative to introduce you to a potential client or just see how the founder life treats you.

When you are actively fundraising, remember this: as much 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 positions on trends in your market.

Create goals outside of your business

You will undoubtedly be tested and pushed beyond your limits and challenged to overcome 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 beyond work. Being so focused on something as big as scaling what we hope will continue to be a thriving business, short-term gains are key.

An example of this is weekend hiking: getting some fresh air does wonders, but reaching the top of a hike, “winning”, in a sense, is a big win that helps fuel my spirit for the coming week. Hard to believe when you’re deep in the trenches, but the gains won’t always come from your business. Set goals and smash them, inside and outside your organization!

As a first-time founder, these five lessons have brought joy and success to the journey of entrepreneurship. These are not your “formula for success”, but lessons that I hope you can take, practice and fuel your growth in business and in life. Remember that success is not linear and does not manifest in the same way for all instances, but please apply these principles as you see fit in your daily life. Be clear about your goals, and I hope you start your 2023 on the right foot!