I get it — you want to be an entrepreneur who’s going to change the world (or at least a small part of it) with your idea and product.
The problem is that — as you’re probably keenly aware — 9 out of 10 startups fail.
There are a number of reasons for this, and I’m not going to go into them all here. But as a founder of 3 companies — the third of which, search visibility tracking tool Nightwatch, is doing very well at the moment and enjoys a healthy monthly revenue of $35,000. I’ve tested, failed, won, lost again, won again, and I know what works and what doesn’t.
I’ve been in the trenches, and while winning is a constant battle, what I’ve learned along the way is that there are certain things you need to do if you want your startup to be a success and not just another statistic.
Here are 7 lessons I learned from building Nightwatch.
Plan for setbacks
Imagine if you’d given yourself just 6 months to get your app up and running. If it isn’t in full swing after 6 months, the pot of cash will be dry and you’ll have to return to a “normal” job — these are the conditions you’ve agreed with your spouse.
The thing is that there will be setbacks — perhaps lots of them — and they will cost you time. It’s important that you plan for them.
For example, as I’m a developer myself, I honestly thought that the initial prototype for my software would be created in super quick time. Little did I think that all kinds of setbacks would beset us, from our core developer walking out to us having to switch coding programs halfway through.
Hiring remote teams of workers is great — but managing them can be tricky
Nightwatch consists of a team of dedicated remote workers. I’ve totally embraced this 21st century way of working remotely and believe that remote workers can enhance your company.
That said, hiring a remote team of workers can backfire on you if you don’t manage them properly.
Managing people from different parts of the world who have different temperaments and who will likely never be in the same room as each other isn’t easy. Here are some lessons I’ve learned on this front:
1) Communication will be hit and miss — There’ll be some members of your remote team who are just bad at communicating. To make sure everyone is on the same page, I’d suggest arranging regular “catch-up” call meetings with the whole team.
2) Trust people — Hey, you hired these guys and girls to do a job, so let them get on with it.
3) Be clear with your goals — The last thing you want is for a worker to hand in work that is below the standards you expect. Outline what is expected of everyone and set clear team goals.
When I first became an entrepreneur, I sort of knew that work would be following me home. But what I hadn’t so much reckoned on was my remote team following me home.
Once you start hiring people from all corners of the world, you have to remember that
a) They all work in different time zones
b) They have different ways of working
The workload eventually becomes crazy, and you can’t deal with it all yourself. It’s a good idea to hire someone who can take care of the so-called “lesser tasks”, such as micro-managing your remote workers and replying to emails, while you focus your efforts in the areas you excel at.
Free trials work
We offer a 10-day free account to our users, and actually, a lot of our users then upgraded to the paid version once the free trial version was over.
I think it’s key that you let users test your product before buying. Once they’ve used it and can see how much value it adds to their life, they’re probably going to want to keep using it, even if that means paying for it.
Nightwatch is a tech company — so what are we doing with a blog?
1) A blog plays a key role in our inbound marketing efforts. By guest blogging on other blogs and linking back to ours, we are able to strengthen our position in the SERPs.
2) A blog lets us position ourselves as SEO experts. We post fresh, top quality content every 1-2 weeks that focuses on SEO and digital marketing, and our aim is to showcase our knowledge to potential customers. Through our content marketing efforts, we answer questions, solve problems, and show others how to succeed online.
This is something that all companies should be doing in 2018.
Be careful who you partner with
Nightwatch has partnered up with a few companies over the years, but the mistake we made was that we weren’t selective enough. We’ve wasted time with companies in different sub-niches to ours and it’s been a drag.
Like us, you need to be extra careful about who you do business with. If your head and intuition are both saying “No” then stay away.
Listen to your users
Who matters the most to you?
It should be your users. These are the bedrock of your success.
If you don’t care for your users — don’t listen to them, don’t ask for feedback — they’ll unsubscribe without explanation, and you’ll lose cash.
What I’ve come to learn is that the more you listen to them and the more you invite feedback, the more they will ask questions and share their problems. Then, you can address their problems and fix them.
And this sort of communication beats them just silently walking away from your product.
These are 7 lessons I learned from building Nightwatch. I hope you enjoyed them but let me warn you — you’ve still got your own mistakes to make and lessons to learn, too. Good luck!