The three hats I wear

As an entrepreneur with a startup, you are required to wear very many hats.......usually you start with the product development hat. Once I have settled on an idea to pursue, I usually embark on refining the product or service, then marketing ,then human resource as the company scales. I would like to suggest that this is the wrong order.



DEVELOPMENT HAT


THIS IS THE HAT WITH A TRAP. While developing product and services is great ,we shouldn't spend alot of time on it. What is the point of developing and expensive app that no one wants? As entrepreneurs we justify working on a project or product for years and years thinking that when we are done our customers will buy the product. The assumption is that they must buy the product after I have created it. No , they dont have to. We can tweak the website, make the most navigable app, optimise SEO or create the best ergonomically designed product. The fact still remains that if we don't build the product customised to the customers needs.they will not buy it. A minimum valuable product can do the job to begin with.


A business plan is a faith based plan. All things remaining constant, all businesses should be successful. In reality, the only real thing in a business plan is the gap in the market (problem you are trying to solve). Once that is established, we proceed to implement the rest of the business plan as if it is already proven when that is not the case. I am not saying that's wrong , I am saying we should start businesses with a FAIL FAST MENTALITY. When our assumptions and beliefs are disproven and they will be, the question is how much time will you have wasted learning a lesson that you could have learnt in a fraction of that time. Time that you will not get back.


MARKETING HAT


This leads with the question ..how do we know what the customer wants? I would like to suggest that this should be the first hat any entrepreneur wears. Not the development hat. By talking to customers whose problem you want to solve, you get a clear idea of what they will pay for ,why they will pay and how they will pay. The faster we learn the answers to these questions, the better off we will be.

How do we do that? I am glad you asked. I have been an entrepreneur for 3 years and I have written several Business Model Canvas.While this was a great business tool ,it never made a whole lot of sense until I used a software called Validate. In essence, it is a BMC combined with testing. Testing of our business plan hypotheses is important because it saves us time. When combined with Eric Ries "The Lean Startup" you realise you can test, feedback and iterate very fast without waste. You will build a sales machine with value propositions that change to reflect the customers needs every time you close a sale. This means you can have repeat sales.

For those entrepreneurs who are worried about Intellectual Property, the more iterative you are , the harder it is for people to copy what you are doing. The product versions will always change based on consumer feedback. Since you are not stagnant, it is very hard to hit a moving target. You save time, money and resources that you will never get back. This is the FAIL FAST MENTALITY


HUMAN RESOURCE HAT


Leadership is not about being in charge, it's taking care of those in your charge. Most leaders think people work for them.No they do not. You work for them. You make sure they are valued , feel valuable and they will naturally want to cooperate and deliver your vision. It is like a parent or a coach. Train them and give them the opportunity to try and try again when they fall. But if they fear the leader , then they will take steps to protect themselves and there will be no trust. If people have to cover their backs from their own leaders and organizations through keeping a record of emails, projects done, then that's a toxic environment. This is an excerpt from Simon Sinek's Leaders eat Last.

This is awesome until you realise that most startups are made up of a team of one. How do I shift hats and more specifically to this human resource hat? Most of us burn the candle on both ends at the beginning of the business and possibly ease up when we get our first employee. Easing up is hard. Yet the Icarus paradox applies for all entrepreneural efforts. The fact that the business' success hinges on one person is a risk. If you get sick or life happens, there goes the business. I was making a lot of traction when I was working 14 hours a day but when my body gave up on me , I had to stop. Fatigue is real. My mind wanted to keep going(that is its job) but my body was done. I learnt a new verb REST.

I think this is what Simon was referring to. Leadership is taking care of those in your charge even if that's you!! You are more important than the business! If you dont believe me keep working those gruelling hours and your body will tell you who is boss. There's only one of you. That make you a limited resource. It might be time to admit that your business can no longer grow beyond a certain point without other employees. I am emphatically suggesting that this hat should be worn from the beginning and must never come off.






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