10 Things We Learned From Starting a Business
by Michael Burdick, on Mar 29, 2016
At Paro, we know first-hand what it takes to start and run a business. Many of our founders are serial-entrepreneurs who had successes (and failures) before Paro. Here's a list of the 10 most valuable lessons we learned along the way:
- Fail and fail often If you don’t take risks, you’ll never succeed. Failure tends to leave you with a permanent imprint, both personally and professionally, while learning from successes can fade fast. Failure allows you to grow and evolve more rapidly.
- Don’t worry about your name. Our name has nothing to do with our business because there are far more important problems to solve than what to call ourselves. If you’re still trying to determine your target customer or how to position your good or service, don’t pigeonhole yourself with a name.
- The CEO must be the jack of all trades. At the beginning stages of your company, the CEO needs a heavy hand in sales, marketing, product, operations, and HR. Put away your ego. You’ll be making high-level strategic decisions one day and getting coffee creamer for your team the next.
- Forget about your weaknesses and instead focus on strengths. Hire self-starters that complement your and each other’s weaknesses. Don’t just clone yourself. Make it a goal to hire someone who is so brilliant that he / she frightens you.
- Get scrappy around sales. You may not know what you are selling or to whom, but you should talk to as many people as possible. Be flexible and tweak your offering and pitch to match your target’s pain points. The goal is to empathize with your target audience. Get inside their head and understand how they think about purchasing your goods or services. Join trade groups that align with your target audience, network, and give advice for free. Ask for referrals, give referrals.
- Know your role and key differentiator. If you are a service-based business, then customer service is the name of the game. If you are a product-based business, then early adopter usage is key. Either way, measure these customer / client satisfaction scores through NPS.
- Communicate openly and transparently with your team. Transparency (about financial projections, the future of the business, etc.) creates an open and empowered workforce. Therefore, don't be afraid to share "bad news" with your team. Anxiety is a catalyst for action. As a CEO, set the tone for how to handle problems without instilling fear or paranoia. If you've done your job in hiring the best and the brightest, your team should rally behind you to tackle every obstacle that comes your way.
- Have a unified go-to-market message / value proposition. Have your elevator pitch ready and make sure that it makes sense to a 5 year old. Potential customers must understand what you are selling, and in order to develop a compelling message, you must know your audience intimately. Don’t dilute your message by contradicting yourself in your marketing / sales materials.
- It’s the CEO’s job to make tough decisions. That means he or she must do what is right for the business all of the time, without fail, even if people’s feelings get hurt along the way. Whatever you do, though, make sure you do it with compassion.
- You have to give a lot to get a lot. Always be looking to pay it forward (and be genuine about it). Make introductions for potential business prospects and have no expectations about being paid back or holding an IOU. By helping others with no strings attached, you’ll be amazed how human tendency for reciprocity kicks in.