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3 Essential Skills Every Founder Should Develop

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A lot of people will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to starting up, yet few are speaking from genuine experience. One female founder who knows exactly what she’s talking about shares the top three skills she believes every founder should put into practice.

By Karmen Buttler (Founder, Primpt)

My name is Karmen Buttler and I’m the founder of Primpt, a style image-sharing app and social network for professional hairstylists, make-up artists and anyone doing professional style design. We now have an international community of over 3,000 users, and we’re establishing a place in the beauty industry with wide brand and professional support. So how have we got ourselves this far? Let me share with you the three key skills that have helped me along the way so far and that I believe every founder should adopt.

Be Open to Problems That You Can Relate to and Are Truly Keen to Solve…

… regardless of whether or not they seem like gazillion dollar hits.

I founded my startup in late 2011 after many months of thinking about, talking about, and literally dreaming about my core observation: why, in such a visual industry, do so few stylists document their work and keep a living portfolio of their clients and creative careers? How can technology make stylists more connected, informed and visible within the industry? In asking that question I was speaking directly from personal experience as a stylist (having been working in the beauty industry for more than 13 years) with almost no record of my work. My intimate understanding of that core problem sustained all of the energy output I had to expend during those early days. Getting started, especially on one’s own, takes an extraordinary amount of time and courage, and the fact that I was seeking to solve a problem that I personally encountered kept me excited and fearless in the beginning.

Maintain the Self-Awareness Required To Measure Your Own Effort…

… and when you can feel the needle moving past the red line, choose to step back and recalibrate – for the sake of your start-up, if not for the sake of your sanity.

People often describe doing a startup and, more importantly, sustaining the existence of your startup, as requiring some kind of Herculean strength. They may tell you that you must be impermeable to hunger, sleep deprivation and social isolation. That, if you really really want it to work out, you will pave an impeccable path of clarity, quiet and uninterrupted peace, free from the average distractions of normal life, and that within the confines of this perfectly protected path, you will flex your mental muscles, and start pushing. And pushing. This is not necessarily the healthiest course to pursue.

True, it can be hard to juggle the hours that a new project demands with another full-time “day job” or your family. This is a challenge I still struggle with as I maintain my 40+ hour per week job in a SF salon. Both out of income necessity and a love for the work, I continue to straddle both worlds and sometimes worry that both Primpt and my ability to offer the best to my salon clients will suffer.

But over time, especially since our launch in October, I’ve begun to embrace the idea that “painfully hard” is overrated. In fact, I’ve become skeptical of the idea that relentless output and effort somehow means one’s chances of succeeding are better. Of course this begs the question of how we define “success” anyway, and to ask that is to open a whole other can of startup philosophy soup. I will say this though- if it feel more like pushing a giant bolder up a hill, rather than pushing it down a road, you may want to step back and reassess what’s going on.

Talk Talk Talk About It…

… and while your mouth is moving, keep one ear listening out for input gems, and the other standing guard, weeding out the nonsense that wants to make you believe that “you can’t” achieve your goals.

If I were to guess, I’d say that everyone who’s ever shared a startup idea or project has been told by someone that they know exactly what you should do next. And, what you should not do. How you should grow. How you should monetize. WHEN you should monetize… You’ve probably also had some naysayers tell you in more detail than you could’ve imagined all of the reasons why your idea won’t work, shouldn’t work, has already been tackled, doesn’t solve a “real” problem, won’t be funded, and otherwise why it will most certainly fail.

If you haven’t heard any of this yet, you aren’t talking about your idea enough! My feeling is this: talk to everyone and share with everyone. At the same time, however, don’t take everyone’s input too seriously. The first reason this is essential to the startup process is that talking about your idea is a process for you. Think of yourself as being in a constant “getting to know” period with your startup, where you’re becoming close, intimate besties. The more you share your ideas, the better you will know them. Heck, if talking out loud about your awesome startup to a blank wall doesn’t make you feel creepy, do that. The wall will bring a lot less criticism to the conversation than most people you speak with.

The other reason why sharing your idea with a lot of folks is crucial is that, once in a blue moon, someone will say something surprisingly insightful which will become essential to the unfolding of your startup process. These moments cannot be planned, and will most likely come from people you never expected this from, and at times that truly shock you.

If you love what you’re doing, know how to measure your needs and out-put, and aren’t afraid to wave your idea around EVEN in the face of Eeyores then your idea will blossom and you will succeed in whatever way you want to. When it comes to your startup, approach one day at a time, as we should with most things. Follow your nose, the noses of a few trusted others, and hold your nerve.

Women 2.0 readers: What other advice have you found useful in helping you organise your working life?

KarmenAbout the guest blogger: Karmen Buttler is the founder of Primpt, the new SF Bay Area style startup that promises to change the way beauty professionals, trends, and brands are experienced and ultimately discovered. She is a passionate stylist, educator and team leader, with more than 13 years of hands-on experience in the industry. When Karmen is not working in her office or styling hair on the floor of her SF salon, Karmen strums and sings original tunes at weekday open mics. Follow @primptapp.

Photo credit: Erica Kawamoto Hsu via Flickr.