When I quit my job a year ago to focus on my business, I didn’t realize how hard the startup life would be.
I did read a lot of articles and books documenting the hurdles of entrepreneurs: from the sleep deprivation to the perpetual fight against imposter syndrome. Oh and the obsession over Product Market Fit, of course…
But there is a huge gap between knowledge and experience. And, as an entrepreneur, I realized that closing this gap was essential if I wanted to scale my business.
Unfortunately, no book, documentary, or conferences helped me close that gap.
I needed to act on it.
Here are the 3 lessons that experience taught me about entrepreneurship.
1. Hunger is the best fuel for growth
Starting a business is a huge leap of faith. I had to give up my comfort and routines for a story that might end before it starts.
When I started my business, I had to give up a challenging role, an amazing lifestyle and lifelong friends in Melbourne, Australia.
I was doing what I was good at, dilly-dallying at free music festivals and exploring the Australian West Coast in weekend escapes.
This was my comfort zone.
Starting a business meant leaving this lovely package behind and hoping to recreate this bubble with the satisfaction of building a platform that empowers people to share their life’s stories.
This was a very ambitious goal which required a demanding lifestyle made of full dedication and solid determination.
As the idea grew on me, I realized that keeping my day job was an insult to both my employer and my future business: a few hours a day — after work — weren’t enough to develop what slowly became an obsession and eventually a mission statement.
I decided to quit my day job and started working full-time on my business without safety nets: no seed money, potential investors, nor prospects…
I deliberately put myself in a state of hunger.
After a full year in, I can comfortably say that our product roadmap would have fallen short if we stayed in our respective comfort zones. Let it be a part-time or full-time job to pay the bills...
Hunger is the best fuel to grow your business. It forces you to experiment and iterate faster, work closer with your power users, fine-tune your value proposition… It naturally brings focus and discipline.
2. Fear is a guide
90% of startups fail.
They either fail at reaching profitability, finding Product-Market Fit or they scale too fast.
In AMAs, some entrepreneurs remind us that most businesses don’t lead to financial stability, self-appreciation or happiness.
I’m not gonna lie: I was sad and terrified by this perspective. Sad to leave a comfortable life for such an uncertain outcome. Terrified that this new venture might not work.
So I did what most humans do when they feel cornered: I sought for help.
Since I didn’t have many entrepreneur friends, I lost myself in piles of books.
For months, I read for 2 hours a day. Lost And Founder from Rand Fishkin, The Lean Start Up from Eric Ries, Hacking Growth from Sean Ellis, Zero to One from Peter Thiel…
When I wasn’t reading, I was listening to inspiring podcasts or watching keynotes from successful entrepreneurs.
I had a great time doing that. I learned so much from these incredible people who took the time to share their fears and bold moves with the community of entrepreneurs.
Accumulating this amount of knowledge certainly helped me overcome my fear... But I realized that it was useless if I didn’t do anything with it
If you don’t infuse this knowledge into experience, you’re just wasting your time.
Instead of solely relying on inspirational ideas, motivational quotes and case studies, I’ve actually used this knowledge to create a robust framework I could rely upon: a business plan, a product roadmap or simply a list of features for an MVP.
Don’t let fear paralyze you. Use it to build the foundations of your startup. Truth is you can’t gain initial traction without these. It’s the essential part of every story.
3. Documenting your journey is vital
I used to be a Growth Marketer.
My previous roles required me to keep track of every campaign, initiative and long-term project.
My managers could ask me how a channel performed on a single day for a certain type of content and I’ll give them an answer right away.
That was just part of the job.
When you are your own boss, you have to do the same… while documenting your journey.
It takes time but if you don’t articulate your hurdles, fears and joys, I realized that you’re missing out on 3 levels.
- First, telling your story is an acknowledgement that you’re living a hell of a ride.
The entrepreneurial path is probably not changing who you are. But it’s certainly changing the way you show yourself to the outside world. You can embrace your vulnerabilities and even lead public conversations about them.
This realization is priceless.
It feeds you with determination when times are rough. And, more importantly, it brings perspective when unexpected events occur.
- Second, keeping a log of your progress is crucial to grow your business. Because you can’t grow if you don’t know.
As a marketer, I’m an avid-reader of pivot tables with dozens of columns and thousands of lines. To me, identifying a positive trend or a glitch are as essential as writing a blog post, pushing an ad or bidding on keywords.
Your business should get the same attention.
Whether you’re testing a pitch or a new user interface, make sure you know your numbers. Understanding your business is the key to improve your product and, therefore, increase your user base.
- Finally, your journey also tells the story of your brand.
The internet is crowded. It’s not only about building the smartest app anymore. It’s more about getting the attention of the people who need your product.
Creating content to make noise is efficient. But it’s also time-consuming.
As a former paid acquisition manager, I used to spend hours to source my imagery, craft some witty copies, set 3–5 variations for each of them and structure them in ad sets…
Documenting your journey also takes time but it leaves you with an authentic and relatable story. Your readers will be more likely to connect with you.
Now is the time to write your own story
Starting a business should terrorize you. You might read articles, watch TED talks or listen to interviews that give you the false impression that it’s an easy road.
But it’s not.
It’s pretty scary and, as crazy as it sounds, that fear might never leave you.
Like hunger, it’s a great fuel for your business as it forces you iterate faster and improve your flexibility.
If you are thinking about launching your business, quit looking for inspiration. Act on your idea. Take a piece of paper, grab a pen and write down your own story: how your idea came up to life, what does it solve, who can benefit from it and your plan of action.