Why I’m Starting Over!
A letter to my former self
3 years ago this month, I started my business. Very few startups get to celebrate their 3rd birthday.
This is the letter I wish I could have written to myself 3 years ago. I hope it brings you some wisdom to guide you through the first 12 months of your business adventure.
Month 0 — Just do it!
Just launch! Stop procrastinating. It doesn’t have to be pretty or fancy. Create a simple site using Squarespace and put your business idea in front of customers. The biggest cause of startup failure is not starting!
Key Tip: Seek Progress not perfection
Month 1- No product, no problem
Find customers first, then worry about finding suppliers. By month 2, I had 2 potential customers but no suppliers to help me provide my service. The ultimate best problem to have. When seeking out partners, try to create a win/win model and question all industry norms.
Fix all your costs where possible. This will let you calculate your profit margins much easier. You will live or die by this.
Key Tip: Test all your assumptions. Avoid reverting to old habits that no longer work. Be brave and try new methods.
Month 2 — Adapt or die
Don’t have a fixed mindset. Continually question how your business works and how you think about it.
To be truly successful, you need to understand the difference between being busy and being productive. I learned that my business would never scale or even reach profitability if I was earning a fee per hour.
Key Tip: Don’t work harder, work smarter.
Month 3— Unintended consequences
You are going to f**k up! This is going to happen. Don’t panic. Deal with the situation decisively, and move on. Don’t procrastinate or put off decisions until tomorrow.
Key Tip: As an entrepreneur, the best choice is the right decision, the second best choice is the wrong decision and the worst choice is indecision.
Month 4— Keep a clear head
Test who your customer is and what media they consume! Don’t be biased by your own views on marketing and advertising. Test all marketing channels, especially traditional media, they wield a huge amount of power in the older demographic.
Key Tip: Challenge your biases daily. Talk to people with absolutely no connection or experience of your business and industry.
Month 5— Trust the process
A bad system is better than no system. Create systems from day 1. I had most of the business processes in my head until I hired someone else. Document and create processes even if you are a solo founder. Hopefully, one day, you’ll have employees and they will need very specific instructions.
Key Tip: If you got 100, 1000 or even 10,000 customers overnight would your business be able to meet the demand?
Month 6— Follow the money
The only way you will survive year one is to track every cent of income coming in and out of your business. This will tell you if you can pay yourself and how much. Pay yourself a wage as soon as it’s financially sound to do so. Otherwise, you have a very costly hobby.
Key Tip: Most startups die by suicide not murder — Paul Graham
Month 7— Trim the fat
The reality is, you don’t know, what you don’t know. Meaning, in the early days of your business you have no real idea of what products will be successful and what will keep you busy but make no real profit.
The key lesson here is to adjust your worth as the business grows to focus on the tasks that deliver the most profit or have the greatest impact.
Key Tip: Know your margins and double down on what works! Be ruthless and kill the rest
Month 8— Know your niche
Don’t try to be all things to all people. Know your ideal customer niche and focus your energy on them. It will feel counterproductive but don’t try close every sale.
Not every customer is right for you and you are not right for them. The time and mental energy it will take to service a customer who is a bad fit will cost you, countless other profitable customers.
Key Tip: Your marketing focus should be like a laser beam, focused on the exact type of niche you wish to profit from.
Month 9— What gets measured, gets managed
Start automating any parts of the business that are repetitive or don’t require human attention. Continually ask yourself if there is a better or more efficient way of doing things. Your time is precious now so start making strategic decisions.
Key Tip: The minute you sense the market moving in a certain direction, you must take immediate and often critical action.
Month 10— Get ruthless
Be ruthless with your time management. Plan your week in 30–45 minute segments and stick to it. Avoid task hopping as this creates a firefighting mentality of swapping attention to whatever grabs your attention at that moment.
Key Tip: Know exactly how much an hour of your time is worth. If a job falls below this, it’s time to tweak your offering.
Month 11— Seek help!
You are killing yourself with long hours. Hiring new team members will allow you to focus on higher value aspects of your business.
Hiring is a tough process and will take longer than you expect. Have a detailed process for every aspect of your business and allocate plenty of time for training your new hire.
Key Tip: If you have money to solve the problem, you don’t have a problem.
Month 12 —Remember why you started
Your motivation is going to dip. You are only human. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself why you started.
Key Tip: I take a walk and watch everyone rushing to their office jobs. Always remember why you started and never take that freedom for granted.