An inside story — 9 lessons of focus, life balance, beginnings and hard work
1. Being a morning person really helps
A morning routine is usually important, the sooner you start the day, the more productive you will be. You’ll have plenty of time for your habits and routines and also time to plan your day.
Here are some tips on how we start our early days:
Adina Jipa: I’m a morning person, so I try to split my day into two parts:
- thinking & creative work
- execution, emails, and ‘everything that has to be done for the startup’.
Andrei Serbanoiu: I try to be a morning person — I feel like the early hours are the best, productivity-wise.
Usually, the first thing I do is check if things are running smoothly and then head out to the “office”. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and decide on what I want to get done that day. Once the plan’s laid out — start getting busy.
Răzvan Vișan: Try to wake up as early as possible to get some feeling of ‘just me awake and the whole city is sleeping’ and to sort my thoughts for the day/week.
2. Work from home? Make sure you separate things
When you are working from home, there is something you must do, and that is to separate the “office space” and the rest of the house. If you are not doing this, you will be surrounded by distractions such TV, the kitchen, Facebook and your work process will be much harder.
Try to stay focused:
Adina Jipa: Definitely not from home. I worked from my apartment for the first year and a half, and now we’re trying to find a socialinsider’s place. Working from home is tricky because you don’t have control over the personal space and work. It’s just working. Unless you have a superpower, and you could transform your whole body and mind into a homey person in the evening.
Pubs & coffee shops don’t work for me. My brain is always attempting to talk or to look at other people. They are just places where I can meet new people.
Co-working spaces could be a better option than coffee shops. You could meet people with the same struggles and challenges as yours.
Andrei Serbanoiu: Although I’m writing this from home, I don’t like working at home.
If the situation requires it, I could work from home, but I love to separate things as much as possible. A cafe, local hub or any other place that has internet and it’s not really noisy works way better than doing things at home.
The why is really simple — I get a lot more distracted at home, go to the kitchen, get something to eat, play with the cat, look at that Youtube video about how poorly made Christmas lights can kill you (What?), you get what I’m saying. It’s easier to drift away and ruin my productivity. Whereas in another place, I would be more focused and less prone to distractions.
Răzvan Vișan: Used to work from home, but now in a hub. Discovering how important is to box things like work and to have different spaces for different activities and how space resets your brain.
3. Work-life strategy — it’s a must
The difference between being employed and working for your own dreams is that when you work for you most of the time you forget about your personal life. That’s why you must have a work-life strategy.
Most of the time (especially in the beginning) it’s hard, but here are some tips on how we manage our work-life:
Adina Jipa: This is my 2018’s goal :) I’m not satisfied with 2017’s work-life strategy, so 2018 will be more about personal development, hobbies, family, traveling and work. Not in this order, but I’ll try to maintain a constant shift between them.
Andrei Serbanoiu: I’m still looking for the balance point. Currently, work creeps into kinda all other aspects of life if I’m not careful about it. I try to keep things balanced most of the time, and not working at home helps a lot, but I do sometimes find myself at 11 PM answering to questions on Intercom or deploying a fix for that annoying little thing although it could have waited. Eh, startup life, I guess.
Răzvan Vișan: Work-life balance requires a lot of work. But it’s ok since work is part of life anyway. So it’s work-work balance: startup work and other types of work I have in my life.
4. Entrepreneur’s enemies? Cut all of them
Loss of focus, cloudiness of vision, Facebook, news, notifications and so on . All these things are keeping you away from your purpose. We, like any other startup person have our own enemies, but we are working hard for keeping them away.
These are the distraction we confronted with and how we manage to stay focused:
Adina Jipa: Lack of focus. Distractions. Phone’s notifications. Not being fully involved in the present moment while you work, think, talk with the customers. You loose energy, insights, and you are not the owner of your agenda.
Cut off all the distractions, close all the irrelevant tabs when work, mute your phone’s notifications. Repeat that every day. You decide when it’s time a for a break to read all the 1399 WhatsApp notifications, see the Instagram stories and what’s new on Facebook.
Your ego. You don’t have to wait to build the best product or to wait for the best people or best resources. Just do it. You’ll figure out later what’s working and what’s not.
Andrei Serbanoiu: Distractions can be a big problem and keep you moving away from your set objectives for the day. — This can be almost anything — news, messages, facebook etc. Neglecting your needs — not looking after yourself, not eating right, not sleeping well or enough — It might look like you could run on sugar and coffee for just to get one more thing done, but on the long term it’s really important that you pace yourself and take care of you, you’re the only one that you’ve got.
Răzvan Vișan: Loss of focus, cloudiness of vision, an unbalanced life.
5. We wish we knew this when we started
Building a product from scratch is hard… it takes time, concentration, and a lot of not so great ideas. As I said earlier, nobody knows everything from the beginning, some things are learned in time.
Here is a list of things that we wanted to know from the beginning, but that we learned in time:
- Day one should start with: USERS INTERVIEWS.
- Build your product based on a community needs, and not on hypotheses.
- Spend more time with your customers, gain an in-depth understanding of ‘why they go to shopping’ instead of ‘why they buy’.
- That it would be a lot easier for us to build something if we create user personas first.
- You don’t have to do everything yourself, some things you can just buy.
- Put yourself in the users’ shoes a lot.
(I still don’t master any of these, but they are great things to realize)
- That all was going to turn out just great in the end.
- Just let go of fears or anything in your mind that blocks you.
- Do great UI/UX from the beginning.
6. Things we’ll apply starting tomorrow
Sometimes helps having a list of things you want to change, or things you want/have to do. If your ideas are in order your work-life will be in balance.
Here are some things we want to try:
- Print our customers’ answers from the last survey and keep them close.
- Work on my life-work balance goal.
- Be more courageous with project ideas.
- Read more on product development.
- Worry less and less about the not so important things in life.
8. Stay open. Every day has its story
When you decide to start a startup, you have to be aware that there will be days and days, and also that you are not an expert in everything. There will be stressful moments; some days will be bugs in your product, some users will be angry and so on.
Here is a list of things we’ve learned through the years:
- Focus on the customers’ needs.
- Don’t try to be an expert in everything.
- You don’t have time to get through the trial& error process with every action. Ask for help. Talk with other co-founders. Let go the ego.
- Consciously choose what to do with your time.
- Play more with the marketing techniques.
- There are some things I really suck at, and there are some things that I’m really good at. (There are also things that I think I’m good at but am not and things I don’t know that I’m good at yet, but in fact, I really am, and — Oh this is getting out of hand).
- I should stick to doing the last one and, when possible, find a guy for the things I’m not good at. At least until I can improve. If I ever decide to improve, some things are not worth it. (I am at peace with the fact that I will never become an awesome illustrator).
- Having bugs is not the end of the world — people now software is not perfect.
- Having awesome co-founders is a must have (Love you guys ❤️)
- Be more of a product person — Less code, moar business!
- Startup work gives you a lot of (sometimes false) confidence in your own abilities.
- I learned to code frontend (badly)
- More product work, more business work.
9. Our advice for the young entrepreneurs
We are aware that we still have to learn things, we still have some skills to develop, but we would like to give you an advice:
Adina Jipa: The world is over-supplied with ‘unicorn startups’ and ‘how to build a unicorn’. Build something based on your core values. Stay human. Don’t start with the product, focus instead on the users’ needs.
Andrei Serbanoiu: I’m still young, are you saying I’m old?! Advice to me or any other person doing their thing would be to get to know your users intimately — Not that intimately though — unless you’re building something in that market, then it’s ok — I guess — you weirdo).
Once you understand their behaviour and what their pains really are as people or businesses, you’re going to have a much easier time choosing a path for your product.
Răzvan Vișan: Just do something you like doing and break barriers. Most of them are just in your mind.
Even if there are books of ‘How to be a great entrepreneur when you start a startup’ there is no manual. It’s just you and your team trying to figure it out if you are doing the right things.
Enjoy the journey ahead: it’s long and treacherous, but incredibly rewarding.
P.S: If you could ask us one question, what would that be? :)