What we’ve learned about starting a startup (so far)

- Updated June 19, 2018

 

 

Starting a startup firm is quite the risk and requires a lot of patience, persistence and dedication. We all start as a startup, but not all of us make a success out of it. We prepared some tips and tricks from our own experience and hopefully you could all use it to learn a lesson from it.

 

You need the strongest team on your side.

You need the true believers that can push the project ‘till the very end. The team you choose to start your startup is the most important choice to make. You need highly skilled and talented employees in your team. Startups rise or fail because of how dedicated their teams are to the project. You need a team who can handle challenged and believe in the projects vision and mission. You need hard workers and passionate pursuers.

Yes, that could be hard to achieve, since startups do not have nearly close the resources of big corporations to offer the same benefits. But, that’s an advantage, as much as it is a disadvantage.  Startups may not have the most luxurious office, fitness club carts, or the big name that speaks for itself. Good employees value more than just that. Show them how will their work make a difference, how do they make a great contribution to the final outcome, how you believe in them, how the future of the company depends on them. You can even offer them a part of the future profits of the company, or ownership rights, if and when everything goes well.

 

You need (at least one) experienced employee to lead the team.

Your first thought as a young entrepreneur, or someone who’s new in the business, must be to spare as much money as you can on everything. Therefore, you’re probably thinking about smaller wages, and smaller wages lead to hiring less expensive (read less experienced) yet, talented personnel. Well, not everything works that simple. At least, it didn’t for us.

When you build a team of employees with similar backgrounds and little working experience, it’s most likely that they won’t appreciate the authority of the other one, due to that lack of experience.  Our advice is, focus on leadership. Of course, linear business hierarchy is a great thing, but mild forms of authority can work in your favor. If you work in the IT industry, try implementing Scrum methodologies (read Agile), to fill in the gaps. In small team, a Scrum owner and Scrum master are enough of a leadership, to maintain quality of work and also keep communication on a high level. We’ll get back to Scrum many times during this blog post.

 

The luxury of flexibility.

Give your employees all the flexibility you can, in its own boundaries. Provide the possibility to work from home, have flexible work time, remote working. Especially if their work requires a lot of creativity and brain activity.

Moreover, do not stop here. It is a small team, so bureaucracy is set to minimum. Let the employees decide what’s the best for the product. They’re experts in their field, right? Let them be. If you have an IT company, let them programmers experiment and work with the latest technologies in the industry. Once in a month, reserve a Friday for SMART creativity. Let them work an entire day on something they want to, a do a presentation about it, at the end of the day. Let their own inspiration bring the best for the company. They’ll sure appreciate it.

 

The team will change. Eventually.

Workers will come and go. You have to deal with the stress of that. It happens to big corporations, and to startups as well. Especially, if you are in an industry where employee turnover rate is high, like the IT industry. In order to keep your employees, at least the most talented ones which are crucial to the future of the company, you have to take care of many factor in your work environment. Here are some things to think about:

We had problems with clear deadlines. Since we develop software, we tried to keep up with the latest trends in technology. Unfortunately, as much as we wanted to do that, deadlines prolonged up to the point where the best of our employees left, because they didn’t feel and see the end of it coming. So, get the first version out, and modify it afterwards based on user feedback.

Control, in its limits, can be a good thing. Let’s face the truth – all employees are more focused on work, when supervised. Control is connected to measuring results and therefore, feeling accomplished when something is finished. We mentioned Agile before. Use it in your favor.

Clear goals – not all employees are self-initiative. Many of them need great leadership and someone to give them tasks to work on. Either of them, need to work towards a common goal. Make goals, objectives and tasks, clear. Write them down and measure progress.

Wages – employees may not work ONLY for money, but being well paid is a huge plus. Especially, if you put wages below the average in the industry, or if they do not cover employees’ living costs, wages can be a big problem.

Invest in team building. The best teams are built. Build your own. Send them to interactive games. Even bring games in the work office. Take them out. Organize internal events. Take their suggestions and hear what they have to say. Make it comfortable for them to be in each-other’s company.

Invest in training – Talented employees love to invest in themselves e.g. in their professional and personal development. You should invest in it, too. Provide them with the necessary resources to spark as employees. Whether it’s a summit, a workshop, or just a subscription fee to an online course, they’ll really appreciate it.

Corporate identity. The feeling of really belonging somewhere is just as powerful, as all the other factors for retaining talented employees. Improve corporate identity as much as you can. Create a powerful logo, company colors, slogans that represent the vision and communicate the right messages all the time. Build some culture. Since it’s a startup, company culture is yet to be built, employees do not just fit in. Set up some ground rules, but leave them flexible to improvement and adaptation to see what’s working and what’s not.

 

Getting the first client should be on your priority list.

Most startup entrepreneurs think that the first product should be a perfect one. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. One aspect is that, products should be improved continuously, as you receive customer feedback. On the other side, employees validate themselves and their work all the time. Especially if they’re starters in their job, they need to see that what they’re doing, works. Moreover, it will help you get some financial stimulation and profits are what you started this thing in the first place, right?

 

Everyone matters more than you think.

Since you’re a startup, your team must be diverse and small. That’s not a bad thing, quite contrary. Suppose you are an IT company: you maybe one senior programmer, 2 junior programmer, one system admin, one web designer, one marketing manager. The absence of each one of them gets noticed immediately. And each of them will be absent once in a while. Therefore, pick employees that can learn fast and handle cross-functional activities effectively. That way, they can replace each other, or at least cover the smaller gaps when the other one isn’t here. Include everyone in all of the discussions – you have the luxury to afford it, so that way all of them can establish a sense of ownership of the product.

 

Little awards go a long way.

Reward all of the employees included, whenever a good job for a project is finished. Take them to dinner, send them to some workshop over borders, or give their kids a New Year’s gift from Santa. Let them have one more day off because of wedding, child birth and similar important events in their life. They’ll sure appreciate it a lot.

 

Startups are easier to manage than great corporations. Everyone knows everyone really well. But, there are some downsides, also. You will have problems finding the right path. You will be uncertain about  whether you should stop this journey and call everything off. Just keep going.

 

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