I wrote this list of tips during a recent long flight back home when I was reflecting on the early days as a newbie entrepreneur. The thoughts brought back smiles, especially knowing how lucky our company was at times. Some things were done right while some were wrong. This list includes the tips and lessons we learned in our early days building Tech in Asia. I hope it helps.
1. Do your research: Before you start your business, understand how strong your competitors are and how you want to make a difference in the market you’re tackling. You should also find out if the market is worth chasing after. Is the problem you want to address real? Are people willing to pay for your service? Spending hours googling for information about the industry you want in could go a long long way. You should also talk to people within your industry. Not many people are taking enough time to do so.
2. Be super humble and likeable: Being a graduate of some super cool college doesn’t mean much. So stay humble, no one likes an arrogant bastard. You should be nice and be willing to learn. If people like you enough, they are more than happy to help you to succeed.
3. Know who are the pros and posers: While talking to people is important, it is inevitable that you will face some posers. Like it or not, every industry will have bullshitters and you need to learn how to identify them. It isn’t easy and it requires practice. So take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. You know your business best.
4. Understand why you want to be an entrepreneur: Everyone has different motivations of being an entrepreneur. Some are driven by money and glory while some just simply want to make the world a better place. If you are driven by monetary benefits, you should really reconsider. You can probably make more money (with less hours spent) climbing the corporate ladder than building a startup.
5. Talk to your family and girl/boyfriend: Gaining family support is important. If they don’t like what you do, then you better be prepared to face daily pressures from them. If you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, talk to them to gain their support. Building a company is stressful enough so try to free yourself from needless family and friends pressure as much as possible.
6. Build procedures, systems, and culture from day one: Plan out your internal procedures, KPIs, and culture. Be organized from the start so it is easier to scale up your team in the future. Your company’s culture is probably the most valuable thing you have without having to invest in a single dime. Build a great working culture from the start and get like-minded people to join your team.
7. Be extremely selective with your core team members: Not only should they be able to fit into your culture, they should also be good at their work. Or they should be fast learners who could be morphed into a valuable team member in the future.
8. Understand your personal finances, plan ahead: You probably can’t raise money as first time entrepreneurs. So plan your personal finances ahead. Understand how long you can last with little to no income is important. It gives you a deadline on when you need to raise money or start making your company profitable.
9. Bootstrap, ship fast: Even though you’re the boss, please don’t act like one. Stay frugal and keep your operations lean. Ship your product fast so you can get user feedback quickly. Understand how people use your product, then improve, ship, and repeat.
10. Stay healthy: You are driven and passionate so it is understandable that you want to work late nights to drive your business. That’s okay if you do it occasionally but don’t make it a habit. Health is wealth and building a solid business is more like running a marathon than a sprint. Sleep is essential to making good decisions. And as the CEO of your company, you need to stay awake and sharp to plan your next big move.
(Editing by Terence Lee, Image source: the UMF)