Five lessons for startup CEOs from someone living it right now

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Starting a new business is exciting, stressful, liberating, terrifying, and yet always comes with a sense of fulfilment. There is no question that there is little in life quite as extremely satisfying and rewarding. I know this because that’s exactly how I felt three years ago when I started TruBe and still feel the same now. We have gone from an idea on a pad to becoming London’s leading personal fitness app. The three years have gone incredibly quickly and despite being a significant period of time, in business terms, we’re very much still a start-up. The ‘bit’ before you launch a business, when others tell you it is too early, when you begin to question whether you are truly ready for such responsibility, feels a lifetime ago, but I’m very much in the thick of it. The reasons to launch a start-up are far-reaching and diverse, much like the nature of the hundreds of start-ups I’ve met since I began this journey. For me, it was dream opportunity to connect people and improve the fitness of busy Londoners. Something dear to my heart. Something I think is important and also somewhere I saw an opportunity.      

While it is understandable that starting a new business can be an overwhelming task, entrepreneurs should not be scared by taking on the challenge. It is a chance to embrace change and make their mark on society through hard work and sheer determination.   

While talking to a group of young female entrepreneurs recently, it struck me how worried they were about failing, putting a lot of pressure on themselves to do everything perfectly. We need to re-work this mindset. Yes, we all want to run a successful business, but I think the fear of the unknown is stopping many entrepreneurs, especially women, reaching their true potential and achieving their goals. We must teach ourselves to embrace the unknown and see it as an opportunity to thrive. The unknown, that leap of faith is not something to fear, it something to embrace. When we let go of our inhibitions regarding what we expect from our professional life, I truly believe we, as entrepreneurs will thrive.    

Looking at the success rates of new startups in the UK, I can see that the facts are not always on our entrepreneurs’ side. The  Office of National Statistics,  reports that startup failure rate in the UK has increased to 11.6% in 2016 compared to 10.5% in 2015. This should not put entrepreneurs off, in fact it should drive them to succeed and push to do better. Throughout the last three years, I have learnt a lot of lessons and I hope that sharing my insights here will help other budding entrepreneurs have the confidence to start their own business. I am also still learning. I am, as per my earlier comment – still a start-up CEO. I’m feeling, seeing, living and facing the same challenges as many people who will (hopefully!) read this. So, these lessons are ones I’ve learned, but also ones I’m still understanding! 

Lesson #1: Learn how to adapt 

I grew up travelling a lot, this has taught me how to adapt quickly to the environment around me and to be strong and face any challenges I encounter. I can’t stress enough the importance of this quality. The business world is constantly changing, and we need to keep up with that. At TruBe, we always look for new ways to improve our service. We don’t always wait to see a change a react to it, we try to lead the way and shape those changes.   

Lesson #2: Know your market 

If you asked any business owner, they will tell you that the key to a successful business is creating a product that is unique and adds value to the market, I do agree with that. However, I think that listening to customer feedback is as important as the product itself. Customer feedback will not only help you adjust your offer to their needs but will make it easy for you to understand the market and your competitors.   

Lesson #3: Build a long-term vision 

What is your long-term vision for the company? What are your values and objectives? Building a company with strong values and having a clear vision to its future is crucial to the sustainability of your business. Turn your vision into a plan and a set of guidelines. This will help you lead your team and will set a clear map for them to follow. 

Lesson #4: Hire the right people   

I believe that having the right team is the most important factor in building a successful business. Choose people who are willing to learn from their mistakes and adapt to change.  Make sure they have the skills you need and share your value and passion for the business you are about to start.   

Lesson #5: Learn from your mistakes 

Making a mistake once is fine, there is no need for you to panic over it.  Whatever the mistake was and no matter how small it is, you should always study it, know why it happened in the first place. Was there anything you could have done to avoid it? Figure this out and then move on. I take inspiration from women such as Alexandra Shulman, the longest serving editor in the history of British Vogue. Here is a family woman that kept her head down, worked hard, and inspired a whole industry with consistent creativity and outstanding business skill.   

If I were to give one advice to young entrepreneurs, it would be to learn how to embrace your fears and see it as an opportunity. Use your experience to your advantage. Try to teach yourself how to always look at the bigger picture, understand why you did what you did at the time and why. It’s simple, but the best method to ensure you always stay ahead of the game is remember that you are your greatest critic!  

Daria Kantor, CEO of Trube 

Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO / Shutterstock