There will be bad days, bad weeks, let’s be real… bad months even.
By Alex Meliones (Co-founder, Chief Creative & Marketing, BitWall)
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
There is no “perfect founder." Startups are crazy and require more work than you can imagine, and every startup is different. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way, but have learned from each mistake to enable myself to be a better founder.
Everyone out there is capable of doing these things (women, men, minotaurs, and others). The key is figuring out how these apply to yourself and doing it. My learnings as a founder can be summarized in nine key takeaways.
1. Remind Yourself Daily You Have the Right to Be Here
No one is inherently better, smarter or more worthy to be a founder than you. Do not let anyone make you feel as if you do not deserve to follow your dreams and ambitions. If you put in the work, you have every right to be here.
2. Choose Investors Wisely
Your investors are your pit crew. They pull you up when you fall on your ass, and know when to kick it into gear. The right investors believe in not only your dream but also your team, they understand that things will not go to plan, and they know when to reel you in. Big ideas grow from small executions.
3. Know Your Users
Understand their problem, talk with them and research the space. You can build an amazing product that has all the right bells and whistles, but if your users are not going to use it, you have wasted time and resources. People love to talk, especially about things that can make their life easier, so reach out and actually listen to what they are saying.
There will be bad days, bad weeks, let’s be real… bad months even (yep, an entire month will go completely wrong) but there will be little wins along the way. Take the wins when you can and continue to learn and grow from the bad.
A key to surviving is maintaining a lean lifestyle. By making two simple changes you can save significant amounts of money. Cook food instead of eating out all the time. You will eat healthier, save money, and you will spend more time getting work done because your food is already in the refrigerator waiting for you (cook a ton of food on Sunday before the week begins!). Second, take public transportation. Yes, it is slower. Answer emails. Gameplan for meetings. You can spend that time well, and you will save a lot of money.
5. Remember Newton’s First Law of Motion
"An object continues in a state of rest, or in a state of motion at a constant speed along a straight line, unless compelled to change that state by a net force." a.k.a. stop talking about it and do it. Start a company, build something, get in motion, once you are moving, don’t stop.
6. Tell Yourself the Truth
If something is not working — a team member, a product, a business — own up to it. Understand your numbers, where they are coming from, and why they look the way the do. Good numbers do not always equate to a good product, a smart person does not equal a great team member, and a large market does not equal a large business. Be honest with yourself about what is working and what is not.
7. Stand up for Yourself
Everyone has an opinion about what your company should be doing better. Develop a strong filter to know which nuggets of advice actually make sense. At the end of the day it is your company: you talk to your users, you have done the research, and you know the market. You have to believe in your decisions as a leader.
8. Surround Yourself With a Good Support Group
Accelerators are great at building this network. You instantly get good investors on your team and a team of founders going through the same wild ride you are. Find good mentors and advisors who have been through similar experiences, and ask them for advice. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is admit when you need help, but it is important to send the flare early to your support team. They are here to help you, and if they are good, they want you to succeed as much as you do.
9. Always be Learning
People say the outcome of a start up is binary: fail or succeed. I disagree. If you can learn from each experience and grow as a leader, founder, and person, then you have already succeeded.
Chances are you will not join the unicorn club this time around, but it is important to learn from each experience, take each high and low as a building block for a better founder foundation.
If you're a female (or a male, or a minotaur, or anything in between), and you want to learn to excel in these nine areas, then you have the right to be here too.
About the guest blogger: Alex Meliones is co-founder and creative lead for BitWall. She does design, front-end development and leads digital marketing initiatives. She graduated from Pepperdine.