By Silvia Scandar
I recently had a meal with a group of friends who are entrepreneurs and another friend who is considering leaving his high paying job to join us crazies in the startup world. He wanted to know, “what are the things I should be thinking about as I make this decision?”
We thought the best way to answer this was to tell him why we had all made that leap, and the things we’ve learned along the way. The lessons we shared can be helpful in determining if the startup life is right for you -- if you’re not comfortable with these lessons, you might want to stay at your day job:
1. Networks Are Everything
You can’t run a business in a bubble. You obviously need customers and suppliers, but you also need advisors, cheerleaders, and connectors. Don’t be too ends-directed about your networking. Did you just get into an hour-long conversation about latte art with your barista? Good! You’ve made a friend. The more people you have in your network, the better. You never know in what ways new friends might help you out, so be nice, ask questions, and stay in touch.
2. Narrative Is Everything
As an entrepreneur, you are first and foremost a sales person. I was not a fan of that title, but it’s the ugly truth: you have to sell your product, and no one else going to do it if you don’t. And, you need to sell to everyone –customers, employees, investors, connectors. Whether you’re selling a product, a service, or a personal image, you will benefit from having a narrative that is relatable and/or motivating. Find a good way to tell your story, and tell it at any chance you get. If it’s entertaining and inspiring, you will enjoy telling it, and people will be eager to hear it.
3. Hiring Is Everything
Your team is your most valuable asset. It’s worthwhile to build a small team of talented people with whom you work well, and then brainstorm ideas together. It’s really hard to find the right people, so always be on the lookout (see #1) and always be selling (see #2).
4. Pivots Happen/Flexibility Is Everything
Every single entrepreneur at our table had experienced a major shift in what his or her company had set out to do. Far from being worried or embarrassed by this, we were all excited by it. As we learned about our markets, we gained a better understanding of what customers wanted, so our changes in direction were actually improvements in direction.
5. You Are Your Greatest Competitor
We all expressed some surprise at the small role that competitors played in the cast of worries that keep us up at night. There is always competition, but when you consider how small you are when starting out compared to the size of the market you are hoping to penetrate, the concept of competition becomes almost laughable. It turns out that you are usually only competing against how you performed yesterday. So, spend more time studying your own metrics and performance and less time agonizing over your competitors’ actions.
So, if you’re thinking of making the leap, make sure you are comfortable with people, sales, recruitment, change, and self-analysis. Oh, and make sure you’re okay with having at least five different things labeled “top priority” on your to-do list every day.
Silvia Scandar is cofounder of Vividly, crowdsourced online fashion house allowing visual artists to turn artwork into modern high-quality wearable art using fabric printing.
Photo above is of Sabrina and Silvia Scandar of Vividly.