We made it – the 3hrs and 47mins trip, twice – with no incident. I say we made it because if you’ve ever traveled anywhere with toddlers (a 3yr old and a 1yr old), you know it takes all kinds of miracles to survive any journey longer than 45mins in an enclosed space… anything can go wrong. We’ve just spent the last 5 days in Sagres, Algarve Portugal on a well deserved break together as a family and I highly recommend Martinhal* for anyone with kids under 4yrs.
Spending time together has been especially beautiful and poignant. Poignant as it’s the last break, before my startup PrognoStore is launched. Over the last 16 months, we’ve built PrognoStore as the 3-in-1 cloud based solution to run small stores. It’s Point-of-Sale, Inventory and Analytics combined software, aimed to be all a small business needs to manage their day-to-day activities.
Bringing PrognoStore to life has been interesting to say the least. And it’s super easy as an entrepreneur to get consumed by the vortex that a startup can feel like. On the other hand, there’s something about being on holiday that frees your mind (yes, thanks guys I wasn’t thinking about work) from the day to day hustle, which in turn sharpens your perspective about work. So here are the 5 things I realised about the journey while on a break:
1. Competition is not your enemy
Not when you haven’t written a single line of code (11 months ago), not when you’re just about to launch (in beta), and definitely not in the first few months after launch. The fact is that there are a thousand and one things that kill startups and they’re NOT all equally important. Your competitors are not that important. A startup is so fragile at the beginning and that’s natural. Fighting this natural state of affairs, is the most important goal and all energy must be focused on doing just that.
Focus on things that are within your power, to worry about. Things like actually creating a product users will love, composing a compelling story, crafting a brand, carving out a team etc. Don’t sweat the small stuff. In any case, who knows what your competitors are really doing?
2. Your customers only care about value
Always think value! That’s all that matters. Not features, platform, killing your competitors, team’s pedigree, technical prowess etc…. Just value from a customer’s perspective.
This is especially true for us as there are so many decisions we’ve had to make in building a point-of-sale with robust inventory management, advanced user permissions, integration to Xero, multi-currency, advanced reporting with audit, offline capability etc…we literally have to continuously ask ourselves;
Will customers care about this?
Yes, by all means be lean. Get out the MVP if you must, whatever you do, ensure that customers obtaining value from your product, is utmost thing on your mind.
3. Your team is your competitive advantage
With the influx of POS startups, it’s only reasonable to think that the main difference between output of teams will be the members of the team itself. We have a fairly large founding team. But we know that team size doesn’t count (see #2 above). However the deep expertise within our team allows us to build a product that customers can say, this is ‘all I need to run my store’. That’s an achievement to be proud of and it does indeed bring great satisfaction.
Being away made me realise that 1) the work will go on in my absence; 2) I’m lucky to embark on this journey with a very talented group of people, and I’m excited about what we’ve built together!
4. Teams evolve, practice resolve
At the onset of any startup, it’s obviously a small boat with no space for mere passengers – everyone has to pitch in. Over the last months, a few team members have simply not been able to stay the course (for various reasons). This is fine and expected. If this happens to your startup, be grown up about it. When people have to move on, be clear on why that’s the right decision and you will find unexpected ways to cope. In our case, it’s only made us more resilient and our resolve stronger, to bring PrognoStore to small businesses. While you’re going through this change, keep two simple rules in mind;
Be transparent (as much as possible), be fair and above all, communicate!
Always create the environment and opportunity for new people to join
5. Startups are not family
Sometimes it’s easy to romanticise that startups are family. This is especially true when you’re still small (<20 people), and you spend loads of time together. The shared experiences, triumphs and tribulations… it creates a bond, sense of camaraderie, affection and you deeply care for each other and don’t want to let the team down. That’s family…sort of.
But when you spend time with family (like I did), you realise that this can’t be further from the truth. They are simply not the same. I play a leadership role in my startup (CEO) and in my home (father), and this difference is glaring to me.
For example, my wife doesn’t require that I do 50% of the household chores (thank goodness), neither do we expect our 3yr old son to contribute to the running of the home (lucky chap). We’re not thinking of team matrix, efficiency & measurement, deliverables & deadlines, etc. In short we love unconditionally and don’t expect anything in return. Startups are simply not like that.
I’ve been opportune to work with close friends and siblings in PrognoStore and this distinction has enabled me keep those relationships intact while disagreeing on direction.
Finally, to anyone reading this and involved in or thinking of doing a startup, remember it’s a journey and ‘the best way through it, is through it’. Enjoy the ride.
P.S We created PrognoStore in April of 2014 and opening to the public in November of 2015. We are currently in limited beta and you can join here to be notified when available.
*If you were wondering, Martinhal is a family resort that caters to everything when you want a family holiday.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Medium.