One year since the inception of LeadSift, a name that has been synonymous with celebration, despair, ecstasy, exhaustion, pride – completes ONE year. Saying that it’s been an incredible journey, is not only a cliche but also a sin because it’s a huge understatement. But yes, it’s been a huge learning experience and we’ve made mistakes, had ahhaaa moments and validations along the way. It’s hard to condense it all and put it on paper (blog) but here are top 11 lessons from the year past:
It’s not about technology or finance or pitches – it’s about how you deal with people! If you’re in a startup you probably have an alpha personality, and so does everyone else. You have an ego, you’re stubborn, a leader, you’re vindictive, relentless. These are what will make you survive and succeed but be warned: too many of these people in a room with cheap rent, may cause explosions. The customers may seem to be asking ridiculous questions, the investors may seem to be looking for crazy returns but hear them out and act to bring the best out of each other.
Reasonable. No, chivalrous amount of honestly and transparency still has a place in the world. You might not win it all every time but you will win the respect with it.
Track, measure, improve, repeat. Always, always set goals and constantly measure. Else you’ll just go around in circles.
4. Founders Dilemma
Yes, we have 4 founders, very different people who wear their pride on their sleeves and why not.. they’re so talented. We have tried to poison or run over each other but we’ve survived and learned and respected each other more. We’ve worked with each other for at least 4 years before this on different things and we realized that was very important. Fight for what you believe is right but have a voting process. Divide your roles and give each founder a veto power on selected things. Someone gets to decide who to take money from, someone gets to decide what feature to build next and another decides which database we use. We’re still figuring it out but now I am confident that we’ll make it – alive and happy 😉
5. Don’t whine about employees
Hire, fire. But in between, give feedback. Ample feedback. If you’re unhappy with an employee, it’s your fault. You are either not letting that person know about it and hence not giving them a chance to improve, or you’re doing the company and them a disfavour by keeping them around.
At LeadSift, we have had the amazing fortune of having the best mentors! Surround yourself with outstanding mentors. In the end though, use your gut feeling. Your judgement. Don’t be afraid. Your mentor will respect you for it and you will learn from it.
7. Balance creativity and focus
You must have a big thinker – but you must also have a detail oriented focused thinker. You can’t be big and successful without either. You want to have fun, try new things, build the perfect test system, the best caching, be featured on GQ, but what you need NOW is a stable, usable, feature complete product to be able to ship to get the next customer through the door. Fast.
8. It’s not for faint hearted
No, it’s not easy at ALL! But you got into it because you love it. It takes a lot out of you, patience, hard work, persistence, self respect, it challenges your motivation, your personal life will probably suffer, your finances will definitely suffer, your future will be completely unstable. But you’ll love it. It’s an addiction. If you don’t feel addicted, stop right there.
Always get a fixed price when starting a deal. Legal fees can creep to become more in a month than you’ve ever made in a year. Yes. It was our first time dealing with a lawyer for anything and we’ve had really good council backing us but you do need to watch out for yourself.
10. Reality Check
If you’ve been passionate about building your own company one day and a lot of your dreams have revolved around it, you probably had some fantastic ideas of “must have foosball table”, “everyone gets a week of paid vacation”, “no time sheets – complete flex hours”, “no managers”, “the whole team will go camping together every year!”. A lot of them will not happen, but that’s OK. Some days you’ll sit back and wonder, why, if this is my company, can’t I implement these? It’s OK. Think of the things you wanted to implement because it caused YOU grief and dissatisfaction when you were an employee. Like micro-managing? Feel like you have no voice? Low transparency? No one wished you happy birthday? Fix those. You don’t need an in-house masseuse before a few million dollars in yearly profits and that’s not what will attract honest talent and make your team members truly happy. On second thoughts… you never need an in-house masseuse.
11. The learning is truly endless
No one can say, they know it all. Even the best VC’s make bad investments, the best entrepreneurs start up companies destined to fail, Google and Apple both launch duds every now and then. That’s what keeps it interesting, keeps the chase on! Enjoy it.