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I’ve never doubted myself so much in my life as I have now after becoming a startup entrepreneur. Whether it’s about a game-changing marketing strategy, a new recruit, an exciting partnership opportunity or something else.
But I’ve learned to make the tough calls! I mask it up, put up a confident smile and once again focus on what’s next.
I’ve given up my sleep, my 5 figure salary, my social circle and what not. But it has all been worth it.
With the hard work of the amazing team behind me and the stars in my favour, we have finally been able to make i4Tradies a success!
But let me tell you one thing. If you are contemplating on starting a business on your next amazing idea but you fear losing the game; Know this: You will still come out to be a much more resilient, confident, iron-willed human being than you already are.
For one, this journey is not easy. But the passion you have inside to make a difference is what keeps you going.
Trust me when I say that this is the best thing that has happened to me. Ever.
So here I am to help you choose the best path there is for your business to take.
What is a Startup
Initially startups do not have any marketplace, customers or initial capital. They face a high level of uncertainty and chances of failure.
Startups begin by analysing the problem and come up with an innovative solution that leverages technology to create a minimum viable product (MVP). This prototype is then introduced to just a few people in the target market to validate the business model and develop the product further from there on.
Startups usually take 3 to 5 years to develop a business plan on how to refine the product/service and make it market ready, roll out the product or service to the existing market, reach potential clients with an offer and turn them into returning customers.
My journey at i4Tradies was more or less similar. The idea behind i4Tradies was simply born out of my years of experience working along with field service providers. I knew there was a gap that connected Authorised Service Agents, Field Service Suppliers and Property Occupants in a seamless way.
Initially we did not have any capital or market share for that matter. With just 3 field service providers who I had already been working with for a couple of years, I rolled out the first beta version (MVP) of i4Tradies.
These Field Service Providers served as investors as well advisors for the business, providing not just capital to develop the product further but also furnishing us with valuable industry insights and consumer pain points to turn i4Tradies into one-of-its-kind
Field Service Management platform Australia has seen to date.
Entrepreneurship and the difference between a startup founder and an Entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is identifying a problem that needs to be solved and taking the necessary risks to create a profitable business by introducing a solution to that problem.
On surface, founding a startup and entrepreneurship may sound very similar to each other. While both a startup founder and an entrepreneur start a new business, the difference lies in the venture itself.
Startup founders find an innovative business in hopes that it will become successful one day and potentially disrupt how an industry operates. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, may not be the initiator of a novel idea but rather help in the implementation of the idea to turn it into a commercial success.
Most of the time, they invest in a new business without having the responsibility of running the company. Their end goal is making profit.
Here are some differences between the approaches taken by a startup founder and an entrepreneur:
Find an innovative and scalable business
Create a new business
End goal is to disrupt an industry
End goal is profitability
Has a vague hope of succeeding
Must be a viable business
High risk taker
Calculated approach to risk
Major focus is on getting the business known
Major focus is on selling
Is closely tied to the business putting reputation at stake
Focus on sales puts only profitability at stake
May not make money for years
Must start making money instantly
Who is a Startup Entrepreneur?
A startup entrepreneur is someone who comes up with an innovative idea with the aim of not just disrupting an industry but also turning it into a profitable and scalable business.
In other words, a startup entrepreneur discovers a new way of doing something and builds a business around it in a sustainable way.
The pillars of making a good Startup Entrepreneur
According to one research, 8 out of 10 or 80% tech startups fail in the first 2 years.
While the figure might be discouraging at first, there is definitely a book of rules you need to follow to make your startup click and to become a successful startup entrepreneur.
With my years of experience in the Field Services niche and plenty of industry connections, I wasn’t sure myself when we first came up with the idea of i4Tradies.
What helped us survive the fierce market competition and turn the odds in our favour, were the four pillars that held up our startup strongly together.
Soon entering our 4th year of operation, let me share with you the secret behind it.
A sacrificing and motivated team
A team that’s willing to give up their weekends, work longer hours and even accept pay cuts if that what it means to keep our heads above the water, is gold.
You cannot fail when you have a motivated team that’s working day and night to make a project successful. At i4Tradies, I am lucky enough to have such a team who has completed deliverables on the shortest possible deadlines and exceeded customer expectations because it’s our reputation that’s at stake.
A well laid out strategy
When you begin with an end in mind, you are able to map out the best route there is to achieve that goal.
Strategy led by a head-strong leadership is an important aspect of a startup business that can make all the difference between one that sustains overtime and the one that will perish when the odds are not in the favour.
A truly disruptive product or service
An innovative business idea is one thing. Turning it into an actually useful product that solves a problem for the users is a totally different thing.
Success lies in the ability of a business owner turned startup entrepreneur to understand this gap in the market and fill it with an offer that’s hard to ignore.
Tendency to always think Customer
A successful startup entrepreneur builds the business around what the customers’ needs are and the best strategy to retain the existing user base. This is only possible when you invest in good product and market research.
At i4Tradies we have a team of industry experts that provide us with on-ground insights from the actual Field Service Providers and Authorised Service Agents, helping us refine our Field Service Management software to meet the market’s exact needs.
Qualities and soft skills a good Startup Entrepreneur should have
The path taken by a startup entrepreneur is not an easy one. To run a business and that too a startup, is a long thorny road towards an uphill climb that may take years before you finally reach your destination.
That is why many startups fail in the first few years because they lack the necessary skills and attitude that’s needed to face the challenges and setbacks this journey entails.
During my many years working as an entrepreneur and having already survived the tough first 4 years of my startup journey, I’ve learned that there are certain soft skills that you need to make your business a success.
Being a Problem solver
A big factor that differentiates successful startup entrepreneurs from not so lucky ones is their ability to put all their resources at work to solve a given problem at hand. Not giving up until the stuff gets done and constantly working to find solutions ensures the business resolves its bottlenecks as soon as they arise and moves on to the next important thing.
A successful startup entrepreneur is able to look at the current market trends and be able to see what the future would hold. This helps the business get ready for the emerging consumer demands before the competitors get even close to it.
Effective communication skills
Equally important is that the startup entrepreneur is able to get a company-wide buy-in from everyone in order to put his vision to the advantage of the business. For this, having effective communication skills are critical.
You would need it to not just convey the company vision, but if you want people to follow your lead you would need to convince the audience as to why your solution is better than the competitors’, why your staff needs to hang in there for a tad bit longer and so on.
Being able to focus and prioritise
Running a business and building a startup are entirely different ball games. Wearing many hats at the same time, startup entrepreneurs need to prioritise tasks and focus on what’s important at a given point in time, otherwise you might miss opportunities coming your way sooner than you realise.
Leadership and management skills
With the overwhelming number of responsibilities you have as a startup entrepreneur, not being an effective leader and a manager at the same time might cost you big time.
Your job is not just to motivate and inspire the team but to get things done timely and in the most cost effective way, even if that means being tough at times.
You need to be open to new ideas coming from the team, make employees feel valued and build a relationship that boosts productivity and efficiency in the office.
Grit, Patience and Resilience
It took me and my team years of hard work before we finally began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade; take one day at a time. Don’t keep assessing your startup as a success or failure, because really it’s just a journey. It’s your journey to change the world. It’s your journey to disrupt an industry. It’s your journey to come up with an answer no one has ever thought of before.
Don’t beat yourself up. If something goes wrong, take your time and recover. The mistakes will only add up to your experience. Like Einstein says: When you make a mistake, you have found yet one more way of how it should not be done.
Pros and cons of being a startup entrepreneur
Running a startup business is extremely rewarding if you have the right team working along with you. After all, you are out to change the world with your incredibly innovative idea and the feeling is awesome.
However, the fact that most startups do not succeed is because being a startup entrepreneur has a few downsides as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of being a startup entrepreneur:
Startups come with a lot of agility due to their small size. This helps the founder to adapt new technology and respond to changing marketing conditions much more quickly than competitors and close profitable deals.
Being a can be extremely risky and if your innovative idea fails to get funding by angel investors or is not taken up well by the market, you could be left with nothing at all.
Efficiency comes by the virtue of lean organisational structure. Startups are fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses and this helps them focus on providing customers with better service in a cost effective way.
As a startup entrepreneur you are unable to switch off your brain. Wearing many hats at the same time, you feel responsible for every little thing happening in your business and this can be extremely stressful.
Startup entrepreneurs are able to directly influence team culture by nurturing a close bond with each employee making sure everyone follows the same vision, mission, passion and values.
Your startup is your baby so you might be working even odd hours to build it. This can set unrealistic expectations from your team as well and can create work inequalities. This can be avoided by setting a clear scope of responsibilities for everyone.
Startup entrepreneurs are able to make a personal connection with their clients since they are the face of the company. This helps them create unique experiences creating unmatched customer loyalty.
Lack of resources including funds, systems and the right talent can make it a daunting task for the startup entrepreneur to meet deliverables and prove the worth of the business to investors and prospective clients.
Startup entrepreneurs tend to have a much higher employee retention rate as they are more open to learning new things and accepting mistakes.
A startup may not make profit for years. This means that the entrepreneur will have to give up his salary at times and might even need to scale back on company resources.
Startup entrepreneurs enjoy the spotlight. It’s extremely rewarding as you are onto something great and know that it will make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Lack of processes and experience when you start anew can expose you to legal liabilities, loss of partnerships and even financial losses.
I would like to end this write up with the hope that now you can decide whether a startup or entrepreneurship is the best way forward for you. Whichever course you decide to follow, the insights here will help you become a good leader and run your teams more effectively than before.
Best of luck!