Sometimes we all need a little reminder to get back on track. In this article, I am sharing my top seven reminders for new entrepreneurs. These reminders are based on what I learned throughout my journey and I wished I would have had this list myself when I started out.
1. Don’t Wait for Your Product to Be Perfect
As an entrepreneur, we often strive for perfection. In general, this is a good trait. When I started out I had big aspirations: I wanted a product and brand which competed with the big players at a start-up budget. Throughout my path I learned that competing with those players does not necessarily mean that the product has to be perfect. We need to offer something unique and better. I do not mean that you should compromise quality. But sometimes we get caught up in minor details and hold back our product.
Furthermore, sharing that you are a small company can be beneficial for you. Many people are curious about behind the scenes and they want to be part of something, a movement. Even if they themselves would never found their own company, they may want to be part of your journey. It is perfectly OK to build up your social media before you launch the product. And if you are creative and honest, you will not need the same marketing strategy as the big players. No matter the industry, so many small players have shaken up the scene. Think about fashion brands such as Posse, Staud or Cult Gaia – which are now part of the established fashion circles. They also started out small and offered something that the big ones did not have. This strategy also applies to other industries.
2. Risk Levels and Perspectives are Different
Since I left the corporate world, people love to talk about my work. I think sometimes it is just the story of what happened along my way: not only did I move across the world, I also quit my high-paying corporate job to do something I was passionate about. Many people told me I was living the dream (side note: they clearly only saw the positives and not how hard it was) while at the same time they would never take the risks themselves.
In the beginning, I shared my struggles, thoughts and plans with many people – former colleagues, friends, my family, mentors. And as we say in German: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” I got so much – conflicting – advice and most of the time advice for life journeys I would not take myself. For a simple reason: my journey was different. I left Austria for my corporate job while many people choose to stay in Austria in corporate jobs. Later on, the product of my own business required me to be move to Asia. I chose not only a different country to live in but also a different career path and lifestyle. With some friends I can discuss my journey even though our lives are very different. With some, it just did not work out. I got advice which sounded like what they think was appropriate:
“You should come back and get a steady job in Vienna.”
“It will be tough for you to have a real job one day again.” (sic)
“It’s just a phase.”
Just to name a few examples. At first, I took it personally. I also did think about the advice – Was I doing something stupid? But I reminded myself that I knew what I was doing. And their advice came from a different perspective to life. So I am now more selective about sharing and listening to advice.
3. Own the Show
“So you’re a one-woman show?”, Oh, how did I love this comment!
I do not remember how often I heard this sentence – from men as well as women. And it was never meant in a positive way. They saw me as a “solo entrepreneur”. For investors, these types of entrepreneurs are a risk: you run the company on your own, you do everything, you know everything. What if a car hits you tomorrow? Hence, investors tend to prefer to invest in teams rather than solo entrepreneurs. And they are even less likely to invest in a solo scenario if you are female.
When I started out in 2014, it was all about start-up events, incubators, programmes, competitions. I now call it the “Start-up Show”. (See below) And most of these players in this show would try to push you into finding a co-founder – there were meetups and speed dating. Yes, speed dating to find a founder – please do not get me going on this.
However, I started to doubt myself. I started to question if I could really do it on my own – even though I could. Furthermore, I was the face of the company but I was far from being on my own: I worked with programmers, designers, models, photographers, makeup artists and interns. I ran my own show. But according to investors, I was on my own because all these people worked on a contract basis.
Looking back, I spent way too much time to be part of that game. In the end, I realized I actually did not need to participate in it. As you can read above: I hired people and I paid for them with my own money. And hell yeah, I am proud of this “one woman show”. The further my businesses developed, the less I heard them make that comment. And think about female billionaires Sara Blakely (the founder of Spanx) and Oprah – they started out as “one woman shows” too.
If somebody calls my projects “One Woman Shows” I just answer with “Hell yeah!”.
4. Double-Check and Assess Offers
This is common sense but I really want to stress this here again: always assess your offers, doublecheck and get additional offers. Moreover, ask yourself if you really need to outsource that service. Is it really something that you “cannot do”? In the course of my journey, I realized that I am capable of way more things than I thought. The key is to be eager to learn and just sit down and work on solving the problem. I have mentioned this in previous posts already but I did not have any IT, design or photography background. But I taught myself, I listened to experts and I just started doing it. So can you. And even if you then decide to still outsource, you know what your suppliers are talking about.
5. Be Cautious about the Start-up Show
A general reminder about Shark Tank and the likes: no matter how cool it may sound to be part of this scene, stay away from it. Or at least be careful. I found some events very useful and met interesting people. But it is easy to get carried away in the “circus” about start-ups. There are events almost every day and they are full of people who are great at selling themselves. After some time, I stopped attending. First of all, I just did not have time, I had a company to run. Secondly, I did not find them useful in the long-run. The topics were repetitive and I bumped into the same people and many who always claimed they were so successful but I never actually saw them deliver. Start-up events can be really helpful to network with likeminded people in the beginning. Later on, looked for other ways to network and looked beyond the start-up scene.
6. Product and Customers First
This is linked to the above-mentioned “Start-up Show”: no matter how many people will tell you that your pitch deck is important. The crucial thing is to focus on your product. You will now think “duh”. But I have seen countless cases of start-ups which had a great company – on paper. They were great at pitching and makting potential investors happy. But a lot of them did not even have a prototype. And because they were so consumed by the “Start-up Show”, they did not have time to work on the product.
As an entrepreneur, my focus is on my customers. I want to deliver the best product and experience for them. In the end, they are the ones paying. It will be tough to convince anyone to invest in your company if you do not have any customers. And let’s be honest: entrepreneurs start companies to solve problems, not to raise money for fictional stories. (Yeah I know, there are plenty of the latter too, unfortunately. But let’s focus on the positive.) It is easier to make a good pitch deck for an amazing product than the other way round.
7. Believe in Yourself
Last but not least: always believe in yourself. You know why you do it. You made the decision, took the risk, invested money and chose a harder path. There will always be challenges and it is perfectly normal to doubt yourself. But in the end, center yourself and do not stop believing in your own capabilites. I try to remind myself that I plant the seeds of my future successes. It sounds a bit spiritual but if you believe, work hard and think positively, you will attract positive energy which will boost your business.
Have you started your own business? Do you have a reminder to add? Or, are you just starting out and have some questions? Let me know in the comments, via e-mail or connect with me on social media!
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