No matter how seasoned a startup founder is, it goes without saying that there will MANY surprises along the way. As a former venture capitalist and the current general manager for a marketplace startup, there is a long laundry list of things I have learned along the way. Some of the things I’ve learned through this startup, I wish I would have known as a VC, and some things I learned as a VC have very little use to me in my current position.
Here are the top 5 things I’ve learned during my journey that I think are the most valuable.
Be Prepared for a Dizzying Amount of Everyday Tasks
As a VC, there were other departments that were responsible for most of the functions I am now responsible for. In a startup, however, you have to be prepared for anything and everything, and learn to effectively juggle a multitude of responsibilities. I knew that working in a startup, I would be responsible for taking on a variety of tasks, but I didn’t really think about what some of the basic daily tasks really entailed. If you are still in a corporate environment, but a startup is in your near future, take this time to learn everything you can about the responsibilities of each individual department.
Learn to Adapt to Change… Quickly
One of the most important things I’ve learned in my current position is that while it’s obviously critical to have a thorough business plan, it’s just as important to learn and accept change. The success of your business depends on your ability to change the path you have outlined. If something isn’t working according to the business plan, there has to be room to adjust to changes that will help you reach the end goal. You cannot control everything that goes on in the market, but if you stay on top of the latest trends and adjust to these trends, it will help you to get one step ahead of the competition.
Remember That Perfection Takes Time
It’s important to understand that even if the ideation of your product suddenly came to you and the actually manufacturing of the product is fairly simple, perfecting the product will take time. When you make the decision to market a product to the public, you are announcing that you have a solution to a problem. So, it’s vital for your business to make sure that the product actually does what it says it will do, which means working out all of the bugs until the product reaches perfection.
Get Ready to Network… A Lot!
Talking about what I do is perhaps one of the most difficult things I have encountered in my current role. As a VC, I avoided talking to others about what I did to earn a living because the conversation usually turned to whether I could fund their business or not. For startups, however, success depends on talking about what your business is all about. Developing a market for your product depends on you telling as many other businesses and/or individuals about your product as possible. Building interest in the company by talking about it is a critical and valuable marketing strategy.
Doing everything yourself may seem like the only option when you’re a startup on a tight budget. But, trying to be a marketer, bookkeeper, web designer and manager all at once will often lead to more problems in the end. Recognize what you do well and stick with it. For the benefit of the business, build a team of skilled people who complement the skills of each other.
Also remember that things in business change often and quickly, so meeting your goals depends on your ability to adapt to change. In the startup space, and in life in general is to keep in mind that the best part about making mistakes is learning from them. Your decisions may not always work out for the best, but it’s far better for the business to go out on a limb and try something different than to sit back and wait. A successful startup begins with the motto “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: this is a guest post that was submitted by an author who wishes to remain anonymous.