Starting up is hard. I knew that when I decided to take the plunge. But as it turned out, it was much harder than I thought. Each day, as an entrepreneur I face unique challenges, which even after four years of running a business feel completely new.
Here’s what I learnt during my first four years of building SquareBoat.
Early learnings (Immediately after starting up)
1) Building a team from scratch was harder than I thought. Nobody wanted to be the very first person to join an unknown company.
2) Managing cash flow, keeping burn rate low while still maintaining standards high enough to attract and retain good talent was crucial.
3) There was always too much going on in parallel. Sales, team management, getting your code to work, infrastructure issues, accounting work, new hiring etc. It was important to focus on everything equally because each and everything was important at that stage.
Mid level learnings (After 1 year)
4) Delegation of work was key. I could get more done and then also focus on things that really mattered instead of being caught up with routine work.
5) I learnt to do everything myself before finding others to delegate. If I knew how to do something, people respected me more and since I knew the challenges they’ll face, I was able to manage them better.
Late stage learnings (After 2+ years)
6) Unless you are fully committed to really making it happen, it won’t. Some days in your life are so hard that everyone who’s running a company to just make money or to just be “cool” will simply give up.
7) Delivering more than expected was important. People were coming to me expecting me to write code and build their apps or websites. I could have easily done that and left them there. But I didn’t. In addition to writing great code, I offered them meaningful and clear insights and suggestions on how I felt their products could be improved and told them what I felt, openly and honestly without sugar-coating anything. I always thought of the startup I was working for as my own and then took my decisions.
8) I single handedly focussed on doing one thing - Great work. Not good, but great. I realized early that’s the only way I’ll ever be able to make any impact. There are just too many people doing average work. Doing great work was the only way to differentiate myself from others.
9) Watching my numbers- Keep track of everything. Timelines, finances etc. That’s the one thing which always gave me an accurate representation of where my business was truly headed.
10) People are everything. I did everything I could to make their life happy and comfortable. You’ll be surprised that they will put in everything they have to deliver great work for you. It actually works and is really that simple.
11) The last and the most important one is, never promise 11 things when you can deliver only 10.