Tales From Two Entrepreneurs – Tips for Starting a Business

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We’ve both had many jobs over the years. Babysitter, lifeguard, aerobics teacher, investment banker, executive coach, career advisor —but none fully prepared us for the number of hats we needed to wear as tech entrepreneurs. Since starting Jobtreks, a digital platform for job search, we’ve worn so many hats that our next business could be a hat company.

In an ideal world, we’d hire experienced people for every role. However, in lean startup-land, founders are building their companies with limited resources, and must broaden their own areas of expertise with on-the-job training. This is the glory and stress of being an entrepreneur, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Looking back, we’ve learned a lot since launching Jobtreks. Here are twelve things every entrepreneur should know:

Develop Your Product AND Your Strategy

We developed a product that solved a pain point. But in order to succeed, we created a strategy to build a business around the product.

Get to Know the Legal Jargon

Yes, we hired a law firm to set up our company, file a trademark, write contracts, etc. But we learned about trademarks, patents, and the pros and cons of alternative corporate structures to ensure the documents reflected what we really wanted.

Outsource Where You Can – Even Software Development

When it came to programming, the hat just didn’t fit. We can’t write a single line of code. But we became great product managers and have learned how to identify, recruit and hire a terrific tech team.

Manage Your Project and Manage Your Expectations

Project Management UI/UX is important. We learned lean and agile tech development and how to manage the process and timetable between our vision and the tech team. We learned how be reasonable and to manage our own expectations along the way and to make sure that our customers wanted what we were building.

You Are Your Own Best Accountant

Invoices needed to be sent, vendors needed to be paid, books needed to be balanced. We spent a lot of time on Quickbooks.

Be Prepared to Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

And that may mean becoming a salesperson. We identified institutional clients and used our networking skills (after all – we are job search advisors) to reach out to potential customers. We did a lot of cold calling – completely out of our comfort zone – but we believed in our product, which made it easier.

Make Sure You Know What Your Brand Is

We had a terrific product, but we still had to create a brand and figure out how to spread the word and market the product on a limited budget.

Be Available For Your Clients

Think Anne Hathaway in The Intern, who as CEO of her startup firm, packed up inventory and fielded customer calls. Many a late night we have been in email conversations with users explaining features or listening to feedback.

Get Serious About Fundraising

We went back in time to our b-school days and remembered how to write a business plan. We reached out to potential investors and pitched, pitched, pitched.

Somedays, You’ll Have to Do It All

We’ve answered phones, filed papers, proofread documents, poured coffee. We still do.

Do Your Own Hiring — and Find the Best Candidates

Once our team started to grow, we researched payroll companies, created job postings, attended career fairs, recruited talent, and read a lot of resumes. We found an amazing group of professionals that we are proud to call our team!

Get on Social Media, and Be Prepared to Promote

We learned how to post, tweet, count characters, like, and blog. And I guess we’re doing ok — you’re reading this article after all!

Now that our business is off and running, our firm is fortunate to have a talented team taking on many of these roles. But as we wake up each day on the roller coaster of an entrepreneurial venture, we are prepared to jump right back into any role — and often do. And there are some hats that a founder always wears — visionary, handholder, troubleshooter, cheerleader, mentor, and party planner (to celebrate success, of course!)

Some hats never come off, and we’ll tip our hats to that.