In her first post since joining our judging panel, Jo Dalton, founder and CEO of JD & Co., discusses the importance of entrepreneurs reflecting on the year so far and how to capitalise on the remaining months to come, particularly for start-ups.
As we leap into the second half of 2018, it’s important to look back on the eventful year so far including our recent successes, brilliant moments and a few calamities just for good measure. England did a nation proud going further than anyone expected in Russia. And then we were quickly brought back down to earth with Trump’s visit to the UK, the Brexit saga *eyes roll* and finally, Love Island… (yes, ok, you got me! A girl’s allowed one guilty pleasure though surely?!)
What have been your biggest events and achievements this year? What are your plans before the year is out? I hope you’ll take with you at least one of the following tips to success in the entrepreneurial world.
Having ridden the start-up rollercoaster for many years as a founder and advisor, I have been part of the constant state of flux that is the world of growing businesses. Those I have seen thrive, scale and flourish long enough to reap the rewards and benefits of their own success, are those who have put the following tips and tricks into practice.
Here are my 10 key tips for start-up entrepreneurs:
- Start as you mean to go on
The culture you build starts from the top, from YOU. Ensure you cultivate your company values from day one. This will set the tone for your journey and will allow you to be confident that the early choices you make around recruitment are the right ones.
- Co-founder pedigree
Choose the right technical co-founder. Are they really a founder or ‘someone building the first version of the platform?’. Early technical decisions are too important to get wrong. Be mindful of what you are building, too often the tech debt left in a business, when it is ready for its next stage of investment, means the business just cannot scale.
- No ‘I’ in team
Building a really credible diverse leadership team is key to ensuring you are building a sustainable business. It potentially helps when raising additional funding, gives you diversity of thought and gives you room to grow.
- Hiring from big brands
Hiring talent from a global brand can be an outstanding move or a complete disaster. It can also be something talent has to hide behind. Be aware of who you are hiring and don’t just get stuck on where they came from – not everyone can thrive away from the big, established brand.
- Start-up first timer vs. Battle-scarred veteran
During your early decisions around hiring matters, are you asking yourself these questions:
‘Do I hire someone who can deliver everything I need right now? Or do I hire someone perfect for the long-term direction I am heading?’
It’s a big decision and not one to take lightly. Ultimately, it is one that requires a little bit of both. Hiring a mix of seasoned start-up individuals to do the heavy lifting and teaming them with fresh talent who are passionate will provide just the right balance of experience and new energy.
- Make a decision!
Making a decision, whatever the outcome, is paramount to an evolving business. Keep making them! Make a decision at 10am, make another one at 5pm to counteract the earlier bad one – but continue to make them and you’ll keep moving forward. Be comfortable with the unknown. Get into that mindset early on, make it a part of your business DNA and you’ll never procrastinate.
- Hire shots of expertise
FACT: You alone are not going to have all the skillsets required to be that ‘stay-up start-up’.
Think about pulling in some heavyweights and don’t be afraid to consult an expert. A few days or weeks of the skillsets you need, injected into your start-up from the very beginning, can save you valuable time and money in the long run. Use specific talent in small shots in the beginning but don’t hire permanently until you are absolutely ready.
- Be prepared to pivot
Don’t be afraid to change course if you need to. Fluid, flexible approaches will keep you and your team agile and able at all times.
The example I always use is Slack, my comms tool of choice, check out their story for the best pivoting story ever! PS If you haven’t used it already – Slack Slack Slackety Slack all the way!
- Gotta be in love
Not everyone you hire is going to love and use the product or services you are building – at least not forever. But early hires need to be totally onboard with what you are doing, your vision, and be willing to wholeheartedly embrace your brand. After all, they will be your ambassadors and will be the ones most likely to recommend your company to their friends and family. Find lovers.
- Know when to let go
As a founder, initially you will need to be totally hands-on. But, know when to take a step back. Recognise your own greatest skills and those of the people around you. When the time is right, put a succession plan or structure in place to eventually replace your own skillset. Founders can develop a blinkered view of the business if they don’t learn to loosen the reigns and let others take the helm.
How many of these points can you relate to? Or is there anyone you know who could benefit from reading this? I always advise to “treat yourself like a start-up”.
PS: Businesses founded by females perform 63% better than all-male teams. I cannot believe I am even typing this in 2018 but we are woefully behind and more investment in female founders would help. I’ll be writing about this in my next article! #justsaying #whorunstheworld #equalpay #ourtime #thankyou
Originally posted and adapted from BMW i UK Tech Founder Awards