I've been fortunate enough to be present when new startups come to life. And I've also been lucky to track them as they grow.
When a new company is taking off, the amount of information flooding the brain and personal computer space is quite overwhelming. There just isn't enough time to prioritise good habits over burning tasks. And to be fair, in the very early stages, there’s only yourself and your co-founders, a phone call away from each other.
One thing that every founder learns from an (un)successful startup, is that starting out on the wrong foot can feel like taming a 9 headed hydra. There will always be things that they would do better and differently next time around, but getting it mostly right from the get go can help immensely.
So here’s my 10 cents on “lessons learned” on getting a company set right from the get go - to minimize growth pains and build it from the ground up with the right building blocks.
In this day and age, with so much technology and software for us to use, organising everything should be a no-brainer - it’s easier than it’s ever been.
But still, we love to hide the first pitch decks, image assets or valuable contacts to the deep ends of our personal computers, and then follow a play of hide and seek to recover them.
Avoid this mess and set up a Google Drive or Dropbox from the outset, and religiously make sure everyone in your team adds the documents in the right place, names them the same way and contributes to cleaning up after the spill of uncategorised items.
It might just seem like a good habit, but it’s actually related to psychology where our brains need that organised crunch to find and sort information quickly. Our working memory has limited capacity to keep up with the mess, so why not make sure your whole team is in full gear.
Limit the bus factor
Not only does organising from the beginning save time, it massively reduces the risk of running into communication bottlenecks and unforeseen circumstances, like the bus factor - a project shouldn’t get into trouble if any of your team members get hit by a bus.
It shouldn't be common practice just in software development teams, but throughout every department/role in your company. If it lives only in your head, it is no use to anyone.
Building a company is not a one man show and your team needs to have access to your data. If you need time to write stuff down, block it out in your calendar and make it happen. If your team is being lazy, call them out. Once it becomes a routine habit, it will be hard to look back.
Accommodate how your team works
As our CEO, Michael, recently wrote in his blog about ‘How to Make Remote Teams Successful’ - make sure you and your team understand how everyone works at their best and empower them to do just that.
There is no cookie cutter method, but I do believe that most of the world is coming to a consensus that the conventional 9-5 work day just doesn't work - especially for remote teams.
There are people who work better in sprints and under pressure (I tend to fall into that category); there are others who love the daily routine of full length work hours; often, people enjoy working odd hours with longer breaks in the day (a toast to all your creatives out there).
So to accommodate all that - it might seem as crazy as herding cats - but it actually comes down to one simple thing - measure output not input and agree upon a time when everyone can be available for Q&A.
Be customer obsessed from the day one
I’m sorry to sound like a broken record, but so many people are still making the same mistakes over and over again, so I can’t not mention the importance of being customer obsessed.
You need to be customer obsessed. You need to ask your client 5 times why they aren't using your awesome new feature or product, why they aren’t engaging and how they would like you to change. It’s a matter of getting to the root cause and figuring out the hard stuff that can later make or break your company.
Asking people their opinion and taking this into consideration is possibly the best way to cultivate healthy and long lasting relationships, which will help to spark the light in early adopters who will stand by you even when times get rough.
Make customer success your success
When you really, really listen to your customers, you can figure out a way how to make them greater.
At JRNY, we believe in our customer’s success so strongly that we have made it part of our DNA - after all, our customers are why we exist and their success is how we measure our outcomes. What we offer to customers is tangible results that are related to their business, which we strongly tie to our KPIs and metrics.
If your company is also in the early stages of having paying customers, measure their engagement with you. Measure how quick your team is to interact with them and their intention to purchase your future product.
Become a “client first” company before anything, and make customers part of your team. At JRNY, we try to include them in processes and update them personally as frequently as possible, so they know what we’re up to, and how the process works.
Show and share some love
On a human level we are capable of sharing our feelings and gratitude to people personally close to us, and it should also be part of your team’s routine (at JRNY we have a quick round of celebrations on Fridays), but it should also go beyond and reach your customers.
As an early stage company, the days are filled with more tasks than an army can accomplish, so something as simple as saying “Thank You” can easily be overlooked. Don’t underestimate the power of acknowledging and appreciating your clients, your resellers, your early adopters being with you. Even if they have said the ugly “No” to buying your product, thank them for giving it a thought. Something as simple as this, will convert to customer success and customer success is your success.
At JRNY, we thank each other internally as a team, and we thank our clients for being on the journey with us.