Entrepreneur Diaries: how to survive in a start-up company
Gladwyn Lewis reveals his top tips and tricks for success
August 26, 2013 2:20 by kippreport
As an entrepreneur, it always excites me to see new innovative business models coming up in the region. While founding and managing a series of start-ups, I have learnt a lot from my past mistakes and this is what has made my businesses successful.
People often assume that one requires a series of skills to be an entrepreneur but, quite honestly, anyone can become one. However, to be successful you need to have a core passion that drives what you do and an unfailing belief in yourself – having a partner that supports you during moments of doubt definitely helps too.
The skills that you need to acquire will come during your entrepreneurial journey.
Here are a couple of tips and tricks to help you guys decide if entrepreneurship is what you want to do:
Choose something you love
This is easier said than done. Most entrepreneurs are multi-taskers and have multiple interests. But to have an unfailing belief in your product or business that convinces investors and clients to move forward with you, you need to do something you really love. My advice is to start freelancing and develop the skill-base as you move forward. This not only helps build your portfolio, which eventually leads to more credibility, it also helps increase your confidence in what you will eventually end up doing.
Have an unfailing faith in your product or business
Every business has its competitors; every product (whether online or offline) will not be the ‘new thing’ forever. Copycats come along, or someone comes up with a better product, or has better funding, a larger customer base, or more marketing – you get the picture. It’s important to believe in yourself and to stand by your convictions so strongly that discouragement motivates you more to ‘prove them wrong’.
Have a partner that has an equal (if not greater) passion for what you’re doing
A lot of people believe that they can do it alone. I was one of them. I learnt how to code, run marketing campaigns, design using Photoshop and Illustrator, and write PR; but it was infinitely harder running a business by myself. My current partner was a godsend. We fought, squabbled about everything and drove each other mad. But one thing we had in common was our belief and conviction in what we were doing. Our strengths supplemented our weaknesses, when he was ‘down in the dumps’, I picked him up and vice versa. Today we run two companies together and are looking forward to a bright future.
Learn from your mistakes
Sometimes the arrogance inherent in us all takes over; after all, we are only human. I made a series of mistakes, one being working with a company where I didn’t fit in. The culture was too different from what I was used to and as an entrepreneur I didn’t want to adapt, I just wanted to continue running my own business, even though it wasn’t making enough money to sustain us. It ended sour because I listened to all the ‘free advice’ around me. However, once I got back into spearheading the business again, I was focused and refused to make the same mistakes again. Today we couldn’t be happier and are growing from strength to strength.
Learn to work with technical and non-technical people
In our business we usually have our technical team go at loggerheads with the design team. As a technical person, when I started our business, I figured that I had all the technical skills to run the business and I wrongfully assumed that was all I needed, and that business would come to me with very minimal marketing/business development efforts. I couldn’t have been more wrong. No matter how much you know, there is only so much you can do and as a single person you have a limited number of hours per day to work. You need to leverage on other people’s time, talent and passion to eventually grow your business, and it all starts with respecting the work and effort it takes for a person to do their job.
Hire or partner with innovators
The truth is, enveloping yourself with like-minded people will only help you grow. It may sound cruel, but sometimes you need to limit or entirely sever relationships with the ‘naysayers’, even if they might be family or really close friends. Simple key traits of innovators are rebellious and a history of thinking big. I am not against hiring someone who was fired for telling his boss he was an idiot, or if he doesn’t have a degree. In fact, he probably would be a greater strength to my start-up, than much of the regional businesses fuelled by office politics. Being a rebel helps, that’s what made you decide to be an entrepreneur to begin with. It shouldn’t stop there, go to start-up events, socialize in co-working spaces (even if you don’t need to); the positive energy will pump you up.
Coming up next week, I’ll help regional entrepreneurs understand what investors are looking for when they evaluate companies to invest in.
Gladwyn Lewis is the co-founder of Pixel Vector Media (www.wearepixelvector.com), a digital media agency dedicated to helping startups establish themselves in the online world and the regional partner of Oriel Capital (www.orielcapital), a hybrid VC firm that specialises only in seed stage investing.