Speak to any founder or CEO and they will tell you that running a business is a constant learning experience. You’ll be dealing with investors, trying to raise funds, creating new products, dealing with customers directly, staying one step ahead of your competitors whilst keeping an army of employees motivated in their day job.
The London Startup Grind recently brought on Pete Dowds and Tom Brooks from Mopp.com to talk about a secret they’re well familiar with: how to build and exit a startup in 2 years. Mopp.com was sold to on demand services leader Handy in a multi-million dollar all shares deal in 2014.
Before you decide to quit that day job, here are some lessons from the two founders to increase your chances of success when building a business.
Leverage Your Corporate Experience
For those working in an SME or large corporation with a genuine desire to quit the day job, you are in a great position and learning environment of which you can make full use. When you start and grow your business, you will inevitably replicate each function of a small to medium organisation, from Marketing to Finance, to HR. Gaining experience outside of your core skillset can be a real help as you develop your business.
Both Pete and Tom came from the city, with Pete working as a lawyer and Tom as a trader. Pete’s experience as a lawyer for DLA helped when it came to dealing with term sheets whilst raising money with the VC’s. They both agree the corporate life has taught them to thrive with long hours and a dedicated work ethic, while the city taught them the soft skills they needed to charm investors. Their advice is to make sure you network with other people within your company, take an active interest in the HR policies and procedures, understand the legalities and corporation structures, and brush up on your sales. You will need to hit the ground running from day one when you run your business full time.
Delegate Tasks and Motivate Your Team
Pete Dowd mentioned that a lot of entrepreneurs (including themselves) lack the ability to manage staff. For those new to the role, the task of hiring, training and managing staff can be quite daunting from the outset. As a manager you are required to deal with providing direction, setting goals / KPI’s, and deal with poor performance whilst also carrying on with your day job. One of the hardest tasks for entrepreneurs to deal with is delegating. Where possible seek to address this either in your own company or at a hackathon where you are forced to work in teams. Even if it feels uncomfortable, take up the leadership role within your team, delegate tasks and spend more time motivating and counselling your team mates rather than actually physically creating or executing the product. If you are unable to attend any events, study the best managers around you, take up a management or team leadership position so it doesn’t become another skillset you have to learn on the job.
Find Good Courses and Networking Events
Depending on which major city you live in, there are at least a minimum of three startup events to attend every week. Two of the most prominent networking platforms - Meetup.com and Eventbrite - are a great place to find some of the nearly daily entrepreneurial talks in most cities.. Meeting other like minded entrepreneurs or listening to founders talk about the difficulties you will face will help you launch that business of your own. Keep every business card, connect with people on LinkedIn, write down where you met each person and remember to keep in touch with the individual.
Find a Co-Founder or Team
If you want to be taken serious by investors or accelerators, find a co-founder or two to improve your chances of success. Tom Brooks from Mopp.com said that having Pete (they were best friends from University) as a co-founder was crucial to the success of the company. A co-founder is beneficial to bounce ideas off, act as a sounding board and prevent situations where founders over analyse rather than seek any external guidance. There are a host of co-founder networking groups, websites, that you can find like minded entrepreneurs looking to create or disrupt an industry. More often than not, a lot of the successful companies that have had a team of two or more have known their co-founders either from school, university or work, so look within your existing network first before you start seeking to create relationships elsewhere.
If you have aspirations to start a business, take the actions now to improve your learning and understanding of building a successful business. Within your corporate job, take on additional responsibilities, help out other teams outside your remit, learn about what they do on a daily basis and read as much as you can about these subjects.
Attend local events to build your network as much as possible, and use the events as a training ground to develop yourself and your ideas during your search for partners of co-founders.
More importantly, enjoy the learning experience and make the most of it whilst you have a lot of time on your hands, because time will be a luxury when you start your business full time!