There is no silver bullet when it comes to building a successful business, rather you need to have great execution of many different parts.
That may not be what you want to hear if you’re looking to launch your big idea, but it’s sound advice coming from former Google Engineer and Shoes of Prey co-founder, Mike Knapp.
He’s running two-day course on entrepreneurship with Zambesi in October, a new education company recently launched by entrepreneur Rebekah Campbell.
Below, Mike shares his five tips for entrepreneurs.
Plan ahead. We planned for 4 years to start Shoes of Prey before we left our stable corporate jobs. While our friends were buying houses and taking out mortgages, we were furiously saving as much money as we could – roughly $350,000. We knew we’d need lots of cash once we started our company. That turned out to be a stroke of genius. We lived off – and sometimes paid salaries – out of our personal savings for the first 3½ years. Without proper planning Shoes of Prey wouldn’t exist today.
Find people who compliment you. The great thing about Michael, Jodie and I is that we compliment each other enormously. Jodie is brilliant at communications and has a lot of soft skills for running a company. Michael is the consummate salesman; he raised $26m in venture funding for us. My strong suit is building complex computer and physical systems. Had all three of us been, say, computer programmers, we wouldn’t have got as far. The one regret I have is not having a shoe making expert in our original team. That cost us a lot of time early on.
Work on something you’re passionate about. Too often I see people working on things simply because they think it will be lucrative. While it’s perfectly fine to want to make money, remember you’ll likely be working on this idea for 10 years or more. A good video to watch is Simon Sinek’s: Start with Why. What change do you want to see in the world? What drives you on a deeper level? You want something to leap out of bed for, especially when the going get rough.
Validate, then build. Before you write your first line of code, or sign expensive development contracts, challenge yourself to build a working prototype without building anything at all. In the very early days, we just used pen and paper to take custom shoe orders. That taught us a lot, and helped us hone our ideas. Far too many teams embark on large development timelines, only to build the wrong thing. That’s startup suicide.
Skill up. The best thing about doing a startup is the rate of learning. You need to cover everything from sales and marketing to product development, management, finance, employee motivation and a lot more. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have experience in those things – the buck stops with you. One minute you’re negotiating a lease, next you’re giving a performance review or pitching an investor. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and put off critical tasks. (Who loves doing taxes?) In order to stay on top of things, you need to view every challenge as a learning opportunity. Read books, talk to other entrepreneurs, take classes. Your startup relies on you continually pushing yourself and others to new heights.
A bonus tip: have fun. Remember, of the journey is more rewarding than the destination. Enjoy the ride!
Mike’s course runs on the 14th and 15th of October for a small group of 12 people. Women’s Agenda readers can get a great discount using the code AGENDA. Whether you’re starting out or scaling up, this intense two day course enables you to work through your business plan with one of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs, before learning how to scale customers at a low cost, engage software developers, partnerships and raise capital.