It was the early 2000s when I began my entrepreneurial journey. It was the time when entrepreneurship wasn’t the fancy thing it is today and the word startup was unknown to majority of the population. It was the time when the concept of fundraising was foreign to most people and you had to either start focusing on revenues from day 1 or at best get some help from friends and family.
Straight out of college, I saw a problem, i.e. , students weren’t getting skills they required for jobs (and the problem is still there today which means we have a long way to go). I knew it was a problem I had to solve, and I got into the training business. Again, it was a time when people got into business to solve real problems rather than just starting a business in a domain because it’s trending among investors, I am looking at you ed-tech startups.
Since those days, we transitioned a lot as a business and I transitioned a lot as a person. Entrepreneur, business developer, product manager, consultant, editor, marketer, I wore many hats and learned many lessons. If you want startup advice that’s pragmatic, meaningful and most importantly experience–driven, read on: –
1) Keep innovating
No matter how much cliched it may sound, but you need to know that not innovating is not an option. The statement holds true now more than ever. Many businesses fail when they fail to adapt to the times. I know we would have shut down if we didn’t move along with time. Earlier, we would rely only on offline sources for getting students on board, but with times we realized the power of online marketing, adopted digital marketing strategies and today derive most of our business from online sources.
We live in a wonderful time where so much of your work can be automated through brilliant tools. As an entrepreneur, I have never been shy in terms of investing in tools that allow automation. From operations, to sales, to marketing, to even content creation, at WhatAfterCollege, automation is at the center of everything. If you are not automating your business processes, you are building a startup that won’t scale easily. And when you can’t scale, you mostly lose as a business.
3) Invest in people
Over these many years, I have handed out many pink slips and have seen many departures but I have always believed in investing in employees. You can either consider your employees to be a tool to help YOU achieve success or you can align your growth with theirs. The latter option works the best for both parties. Today I have people who have worked with me for years and might be able to handle the business even I am off it. That’s the kind of workforce you get when you invest in them, train them and give them space to grow.
4) Persistence matters
WhatAfterCollege has recently been covered in leading media companies. To those who read stories about us, it might be easy to think of us as overnight stars but the truth is almost always the opposite. Funding, media mentions, all these things might seem as an indicator of success but it’s rather the journey of getting these things that matter the most. There were many times we were about to go out of business, but sometimes luck and mostly hard work helped us sail through these situations. If you want to build a businesses, commit yourself to it because you will have to be in the game for a long time.
5) It’s all about relationships
Copy and paste this on a sticky note and look at it every morning : funding is about relationships, getting clients on board is about relationships, hiring and retaining the best talent is about relationships. Relationships equal to trust and trust equals to good work and business. To be honest, this is the most valuable piece of advice. If you do want to run a successful startup, focus on building relationships with good people, it’s the most important thing that helps in running a successful business.
At WhatAfterCollege, the challenges that lie ahead of us are huge and so are the opportunities. We have grown to over 50,000+ community of readers, students, business owners and job aspirants. I know that as long as we keep following the lessons we have learned , we will grow and honestly, any business would by following the mentioned advice.
To learn more from my experiences, check this out.