Anyone who has worked in a start-up environment knows that the lessons learned are a plenty. You have to be comfortable figuring things out on the fly, without necessarily having adequate information. For me, this reality has resulted in a few lessons learned that has helped me along the way.
1. Question the experts. In my experience, the “experts” rarely know everything that they pretend to know. Besides, by definition the experts are part of the establishment and the status quo, and often have much to lose from a disruptive change. Entrepreneurs would do well to closely examine the advice they get, have a healthy level of skepticism, and not treat expert opinions as established fact.*
2. Grow a thick skin. Entrepreneurs are usually creative people. And creative people often tend to be thin-skinned and sensitive to criticism. I believe it is essential for those starting a new venture to learn to grow a thick skin. Many people will tell you why your product or service will never work, why the big company will easily crush you, why your revenue projections will never be attainable. There are usually hundreds of reasons why one shouldn’t do something, and one really good reason to do it. If you have found that one good reason, ignore the others who haven’t.
3. No jerk policy. This is the most important one in my book. At Bloom, we followed a no-jerk policy from the start. We decided not to take money from jerks (not an easy proposition, for those familiar with the world of VCs), we decided not to hire jerks (even if they were supposedly “the best at what they do”) and we even walked away from customers that we thought would be jerks to our employees. A key (sometimes only) competitive advantage an early-stage start-up has over established incumbents is its culture – that undefinable, immeasurable, and ultimately fragile thing that makes people put their blood sweat and tears into working together towards a common goal. A no-jerk policy is absolutely a necessary condition for creating the right culture.
*For the record, I am well aware of the irony that this post falls into the category of “expert advice”, and fully expect my readers to treat it with the said healthy skepticism!
- Abir Sen, Chief Executive OfficerTweet