I think I’ve discovered a winning formula of high value qualities in business:
When you find people to work with, these 4 aspects are key.
Experience is critical as there’s a huge difference between people who have done something once or never before in their career and those who have done things several times and experienced wins and losses.
There’s a huge amount of energy as they haven’t been burnt on anything and are fresh to the industry, but there’s also a naivety and lack of breadth in how they can operate. You need to experience things going right and wrong in business.
Once somebody shows experience, they need knowledge. A deep understanding of their space and how they will implement what they do.
I was reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing recently and read this concept of ‘the law of resources’ helping in building a business, which states that the more resources you have access to (finance, good people, great ideas, strong operations etc.), the more likely you are to succeed.
When I started building ContentCal, there were a few resources that helped us succeed - I had access to customers early, industry contacts due to working in the industry for years prior and some initial funding from family and friends. From those initial resources that helped give the foundations, I had to find new resources and that became my main challenge.
It’s a hard truth that there are people out there who are trying to build businesses who have little to no access to resources which make the challenge more difficult, but at the same time, resources don’t guarantee you success in business as we see so many times.
The importance of culture on the outcome of the business is something that has really made me take notice this year.
If you build an aligned team that is focused on vision and mission, compensate them correctly and you’re all growth focused - over time this starts to stack up and compound.
You’re able to solve problems quicker.
You’re having a better time working together.
You’re able to hire better people to strengthen.
You’re able to move faster and more efficiently.
RACI is a great acronym when it comes to working in teams on projects. It stands for: Responsible Accountable Consulted Informed I go into all meetings knowing which one/combination of these applies to my role in the project and for the purpose of the meeting.
The last real holiday I had was probably around 18 months ago (I’m not really counting Christmas as we were trying to close our funding round then, so I wouldn’t exactly consider that relaxing!)
To go that long without a break where you don’t really switch off isn’t healthy and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
But, I’m happy to report that last week I took a full week off - physically and mentally.
I could relax properly because right now it doesn’t feel like I’m processing any uncertainty in the business (which is rare for anyone in startups, usually there’s always a level of uncertainty being processed).
It helps when you have a fantastic team behind you which means it’s not nerve-wracking to take a break, and I’m thankful for our team for enabling that.
After 5 years of hard work and building, I’m able to take a proper holiday and completely switch off.
It was such a useful break that I’ve booked another one for August and would (as everyone does in hindsight) highly recommend taking a break right now!
When people are raising investment, they tend to get one thing wrong.
People think the % of a business you own is about control, and they get fearful when this comes under threat.
I’ve learnt recently that if you want control in your business, and your life in general, ‘control’ is about performance.
If you perform well, communicate well, build an amazing team and work hard consistently, you will succeed.
The standard of products are so high these days it's impossible to launch a company properly with an 'MVP'. Today I prefer the term MLP (Minimal Loveable Product).
Make something your early users will love and they will come back for more, recommend you to others and stick with you, even when the product isn't perfect.
Wherever your strengths lie is where you personally should be spending your time in a start-up.
I was always coming up with ideas for the product but I’m not a designer or a developer.
I’d been working in social media marketing and built a network there.
I was self-taught in sales and had a keen interest in it.
Working to my strengths meant focusing on the product and focusing on sales, getting out there and showing it to people and gaining our first customers.
If I spent the majority of my time trying to design or build the product, I’d have struggled.
Identify your strengths in relation to the business and go heavily in that direction.
Identify your weaknesses and delegate them to people who are strong in those areas.
When you raise funding at any stage, one of your typical goals is to hire more people.
You expand the team because you’ve got to create capacity for more to be done in the company.
For example, in sales, after our fundraise, one of our goals is to now significantly grow our ARR.
To do that, we can’t just add the revenue goal to our existing team. What we need to do is understand how many people we need to create the capacity to sell more.
The challenge is it’s not as straight-forward as just hiring people which results in expanding your capacity which enables you to hit the next stage.
You have to hire in a way that fits your scaling plan, and for us that means hiring in a lean way where the focus is on quality rather than quantity.
Less people - higher quality - get more done.
I have always tried to take feedback on, I’ve always tried to seek out mentors to give me critical feedback and I always look to people who are where I want to be to learn from them.
Something I decided to get better at recently is to give feedback to my team and do it in a structured way. My style of management is quite casual, but I’ve realised over time people crave structured, formally communicated feedback to help them with their own development.
With one of our team members this week, who I would usually casually discuss things with, I gave some structured feedback and afterwards they messaged me about how they were really appreciative of it and would welcome more of it in the future as they’ve thought about it more and wanted more structured conversation that challenged the way they think.
I’m definitely going to try to strengthen this approach in the future.