Interview: EntrepreneurFinder answers the difficult questions about keeping your startup in business
Jumping off the corporate ladder and starting your own business has never been easy but, given the on-going economic crisis, you would imagine that fewer people would be taking this riskier option. But the data suggests that that isn’t the case. According to a study by the Kauffman Foundation the number of startups being created each year has remained constant, even in these difficult times.
Remarkably it is these startups which are creating more jobs as the market stagnates; Bloomberg Government looked into this and found that “[Y]oung companies, not necessarily small ones, are responsible for the substantial majority of job creation. [Young companies] that survive, as a group, contribute substantially to net job creation. In other words, young companies on average tend to either fail or grow rapidly.”
So in this market where both success and failure come rapidly what should entrepreneurs and founders of startups know? We spoke to EntrepreneurFinder.com’s (Facebook | @luke_deering) Luke Deering and Chris Dowdeswell (@Mister_Chris).
EntrepreneurFinder matches entrepreneurs and established businesses to create a platform that allows these founders, CEOs, experts, and mentors work together to expand their businesses.
We’ve interview Luke Deering before here’s what he said about group entrepreneurship (why it’s more normal that you think) and the complex business of ‘failing fast’.
We asked Luke and Chris, EntrepreneurFinder’s founder and Chief Technical Officer respectively, about the skills and traits you need to keep your business in business. We asked the guys about;
- Maintaining a work/life balance
- Making the hard decisions
- Doing business
- Using social media
- Managing expectations
Start-ups are full time businesses, how can you ensure that you attain an adequate work/life balance (is this resolution even possible)?
Chris: It’s easy to spend every waking hour on your new startup, arguably if you don’t have this sort of hyper-enthusiasm for your business idea its worth questioning whether the project is worth your time. However, our brains can only operate at optimum efficiency for a few hours at a time. Getting some fresh air and spending time with friends and loved ones is vitally important to keep you firing on all cylinders. Forcing yourself away from your screen and daily communications for a while lets you take a more holistic approach to the workings of your business. Some of the best ideas materialise when you are least distracted by the day-to-day workings of starting or running a business.
It’s important to keep in mind that potential customers tend to pay more attention to someone else discussing your product than you.
I recently became a dad so working on Entrepreneur Finder and spending time with my family has become a juggling act, it’s important not to neglect people who support you through all of your endeavours, they should be as much (or more) of an inspiration for you to succeed as any industry leader or tech pioneer.
Most of all don’t worry, the adrenalin for your start-up will still be there when you get back to work, taking time to yourself is time well spent to top up your energy and give you some perspective you might need.
Luke: Definitely with Chris, on taking time away from work, but it also comes down to what you define as work. I don’t really see starting a company as “work.” I’m just doing exactly what I want to do. When I am not in the office, I am out playing basketball or spending time with friends, but my mind never strays far from Entrepreneur Finder. If you are a hermit and never leave the office, you might end up doing more damage than good. Get out there, relax, socialize, unique ideas come from new experiences and the more ideas we have the more complete our final ideas will be. Saying this, I must admit, I don’t get out as much as I should. One day I would love to travel the world and search for lost pirate treasure, but right now all I want to do it build a great company.
Many start-ups try to put off the hard decisions, what resolutions should entrepreneurs make to ensure they make healthy/timely decisions.
Luke: As Entrepreneurs, it’s fair to say that a decent proportion of us thrive off making that hard decision, it’s exciting and we feed off it. But, if you are someone who holds off on the hard decisions, be confident. Know that even if you do make the wrong decision, you are smart enough to find a way out of the bag that you climbed into, and to turn your mistake into an advantage.
So this year, when you are faced with a hard decision, do your research and then jump, because you’re confident that what your company stands for and the value that you are creating and can withstand any short term mistakes. So, your resolution for this should be – research, confidence, execute.
Chris: I am a big fan of going with your gut instinct, after ensuring you have as much information as you can muster. If you are wrong that’s part of the learning process. Just make sure you are learning from these situations.
When it comes to making business deals what resolutions should entrepreneurs make to ensure everything goes smoothly?
Luke: I guess the first point would be, don’t be scared to walk away from a bad deal, even if you need it. Odds are if one person is willing to do business with you another is as well. Secondly, don’t gloss over the numbers at the beginning, because you will get to the end and realize that you both value each-others’ input on completely different levels. When I started raising money for my first company, we spent our time working on things for an investor that didn’t move our product forward, only to find out a month down the road that his final idea for a buy in price was nowhere near what we were willing to offer. Thirdly, if something doesn’t feel right when discussing the deal, voice it; be the first to act, not the follower. Finally, try to always have an attorney look over any agreement that requires a signature.
Chris: Another thing, talk to other entrepreneurs and share experiences, arm yourself with the collective wisdom of those who have done all this before.
Promoting your business on the web can seem like a thankless and unending task, should entrepreneurs resolve to stick with it? If so, how should they manage it?
Luke: Ahh that’s a good question. So, it depends on what you need the specific social media platform for. Is it a source for information, a tool to find and stay in touch with costumers or just something that says “look how many friends I have.” I feel that Facebook is probably the best platform to find and stay in touch with customers. Twitter is okay, but my issue is that it’s almost Twitter etiquette that you follow someone that follows you. And because of this, the likelihood that your followers are going to come across what you say is relatively low.
The best thing that you can do is just create great products or services that encourage positive user discussion. It’s important to keep in mind that potential customers tend to pay more attention to someone else discussing your product than you. The real value that we generate through social media platforms is that they provide a space were others can discuss what we do and say. In conclusion, I would say social media is worth your time, if you present your products and services in a format that drives discussion.
Chris: Also, don’t expect social networks to snowball your popularity just by the very fact that you have maintained a presence on Facebook. We spend a lot of time talking to bloggers and editors who have large audiences that look to them for impartial opinions on products and services. Their followers are much more likely to trial products based on their recommendation than on ours. Use social networks as a way of direct communication to already hooked parties, but never be afraid to just email the editors at Wired or Mashable and tell them you have a great product, what’s the worst that can happen?
Our recommendation for managing your social presence would probably be; Get set up on all the platforms you can think of then set up a Hootsuite account to blanket post to multiple social accounts at once, this considerably reduces the time spent saying the same thing across 30 sites.
What resolution should entrepreneurs make when it comes to managing their own expectations?
Chris: This really depends on your working style, these days I tend to try and set basic timelines with targets and stick to them. I also try (mostly in vain) to curb my enthusiasm for new features and ideas when we are working on the core business ideas (don’t forget to write these ideas down though). Try and set short, medium and long term goals but don’t be too worried if you feel your business is changing (unless the realism means your ideas weren’t that great after all), refining your proposition to your customers and the core pillars of your business takes time. Just keep the core ideas in sight and go back to them along the journey to check you are still fulfilling your original objectives, as it’s all too easy to get blown off course.
Luke: Adding new features beyond those needed to get you to launch, will blow you off course and quickly. Let your ideas flow, but keep your ideas for additional functionality and add them to a later stage of development; otherwise you will never launch your product. One thing you will learn is that you are never finished, and if you don’t brake it up into iterations you will never launch. Finally, be prepared for important meetings to get canceled last minute with no explanation, emails to go unreturned and to be flat out ignored by everyone. This is normal, don’t let it wear you down, it happens to us all at one stage or another. At the end of the day, It’s just a numbers game. To end, I would say, don’t make any resolutions to manage your expectations just manage your projects. And, continue to be unrealistically realistic and always stay optimistic… Wow that last part sounds a bit cheesy, but it works!