Looking forward to Churn and some lessons from the past

Here we go!

We’re very excited to be starting on this new adventure with Churn Labs.   As we take these first steps, it seems like an opportune moment to pause and reflect on some of things I’ve learned from the past 10 years and 5 startups.  Some these have been published elsewhere, and some are probably just common sense, but I’ve never posted them anywhere all together.  So, here we go 🙂

– omar hamoui

….

ideas and launches

– solve your own problem
The best solutions will come when you are working to solve a problem that is deeply impacting you.  Avoid solutions in search of a problem.

– the first idea is probably the most important
Many great businesses were built on the back of one fundamental insight.  Much of the rest is just execution.

– you shouldn’t have to push
You want an idea that gains traction and accelerates on its own after you give it the first push.  If you have to continuously infuse energy to help it grow, you should probably go back to the drawing board.

– pay no attention to common knowledge
Too many people claim to know too much.  The largest opportunities are found in ideas that go against the grain.

– try often, fail fast
What you are doing is wrong most of the time.  Don’t spend too long examining every rock.  If it’s really a diamond you’ll know.

– businesses make money
Think about the business model from the start.

– break the speed breakers
Whatever is slowing you down isn’t helping.  If you KNOW the launch will do damage, then investigate.  If you don’t know what it will do, then go faster so you can find out.  If something ALWAYS slows you down, get rid of it.

deals

– understand what you really have to lose (which is usually not much)
If you are a person with a laptop and an idea, don’t worry about messing up the 100m dollar business you think you will someday be.

– leave something on the table
If your partner feels as good as you walking away from the table, you are much more likely to have a successful relationship.

– easy is better
Sometimes it just feels like the negotiation is painful.  If that’s the case, the relationship is not likely to be much better.  Try and keep things simple and easy.

– wait until the rubber hits the road to evaluate a deal
Don’t get too excited until the results actualize.  Most deals are not as good as they look on paper

sales and marketing

– focus on the second sale
If you aren’t going to get a second order from a potential customer, don’t bother getting the first.  In order to grow the business you need to be able to build on a solid base of relationships rather than burning one and moving on to the next

– customers LOVE to hear you admit what you don’t do (it’s usually very refreshing)
Pretend you work for the customer and tell them exactly what they should expect from working with you.  If you meet their expectations and don’t over promise, you’ll build significant trust and loyalty.

– don’t underestimate the power of being nice
Too many companies think some technology solution or design principle is going to be the only thing needed to catapult them to success.  At the end of the day business is a transaction between people, and simply being a decent human being goes a long way.

– don’t announce vapor
You’ll start to get known for it and the one time you actually have something to say nobody will listen.

– large amounts of small media > small amounts of large media
With the fragmentation of media you are much better off getting mentioned all over the place than in a few central locations.  Keep an eye on what the blogosphere is saying about you and try to figure out what they should be saying.

– information is not that important
Too many people think that all the details of their business are state secrets.  The fact of the matter is that having an idea is FAR easier than executing on it.  So relax.  Besides, if the only thing standing between you and failure is an errant conversation you’re probably not in a good place anyways.

competition

– ignore the competition
If you need to constantly look at what your competition is doing in order to guide your next step, you are not an entrepreneur, you’re an opportunist.  You need to set your own agenda and execute against it.  If you define yourself by how you differ from the competition, you’re probably in trouble.

– <insert big company here> probably won’t kill you
Big companies are almost always far to slow to actually kill a small competitor.  If you do end up failing it will probably be because you simply weren’t needed, not because a bigger competitor actually out-executed you.

people

– find a mentor (or know when one finds you)
You can’t do it alone and you don’t know everything.  If you can find someone who is not afraid to tell you you’re an idiot, and who really brightens your day when they give you some positive feedback, you should make sure to keep them nearby.

– where you are matters
Your environment will have a huge influence on how your career ends up going.  Put yourself in the BEST place to do what you do.

– nothing matters more than the team
The most important factor in your journey and your experience while you are going through it is the team you are with.  If you find that you do not like/respect the vast majority of the people around you, you should figure out how to get on to what’s next.

– hire people you feel like you’ve known your whole life
Pretty self explanatory.

– avoid arrogance at all costs
Never, never, never, hire people with an attitude.  You will regret it.

– no one matters as much as you think they do
As soon as you have more than a few people then chances are your business will be fine without any particular individual.  No one should be indispensable and they should earn their spot on the island every day.

– you work for them as much as they work for you
When you bring someone onto your team they are implicitly putting a lot of trust in you. You have expectations and so do they.  Your job is to deliver whatever success and satisfaction they are expecting.

– don’t waste peoples time (from a career perspective)
Make sure that whenever the ride is over everyone has benefited from the time they spent with you.  Try your best to make sure that no one comes off as the same person that got on.

– think about measuring your success by how many people will be better off for having worked with you
Again, self explanatory.

– don’t carry any passengers
Working on an exciting new venture is an honor and a privilege. Don’t waste it on anyone who is just along for the ride.

communication

– don’t hide anything
It’s not worth the trouble and it will come to light eventually.

– re-ask the question if necessary (get a real answer don’t just go through the motions)
Some people have conversations as if the only thing needed is for both people to move their mouths and make noise.  Pay attention to what the other person is saying, and make sure they give you a real answer rather.

– be right (unless you have a right to be wrong)
It’s ok to say you don’t know, but it’s not ok to be dead wrong about things you SHOULD know.  Choose your words carefully; people build their opinions about each other through lots of small interactions.

– say no or say when
If someone asks you for something provide them with a clear “No” or a delivery date.  Constantly providing open ended “I’ll look into it” answers generally builds frustration after a time.

most important

– don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to get fired.  Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or change your mind.  If you find that you are doing or not doing something simply due to a fear of what might happen, chances are you need to rethink the problem.  Fear is an awful guide and people tend to be awful judges of the true “downside”.  One of the most amusing things in the world is watching MBA students at the best business schools in the world fret over their career opportunities as if they will be living out of a cardboard box if they don’t get the right internship.  The best advice I have is that whatever you do, it should be done as you are reaching for a new opportunity, rather than shrinking from a phantom anxiety.

most most important

– optimize for the journey, not the destination
It’s hard to understand this without going through it, but it’s extremely important not to optimize for or aggrandize an exit, or any particular goal represented by a single point in time.  The thing is, whatever that goal is, it will be a temporary and fleeting moment, and it simply starts another journey.

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14 Responses to Looking forward to Churn and some lessons from the past

  1. Thanks for sharing these concise tips.
    Looking forward to seeing what you Churn out!

  2. David Weisburd says:

    Great post and concept. Good luck!

    Best,
    David W.

  3. inspiring, professional, true…

  4. Martin says:

    Great. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

  5. rachnaspace says:

    Thanks for sharing your lessons Omar – this makes so much sense. As I am building my startup – I can relate particularly to what you say about ideas and people.

  6. Peter says:

    Some great points. Thank you for taking the time to write this..

  7. Patrick Shawn says:

    Some of the most relevant, useful and insightful business advice I’ve read. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to see what you do next.

  8. naushad says:

    Really good advice. As I was reading it I was thinking of our team members and where they fit into some of the advice above. Also, you raise some interesting points on management in there which gave me some ideas to mull over.

  9. James Hu says:

    Good practical advice that could be applied to life in general! Looking forward to the next innovation.

  10. Joshua Quick says:

    As a serial entrepreneur, this strikes home. GREAT insight! I especially like “don’t underestimate the power of being nice”.

    🙂

  11. Basem Asfoor says:

    Great and helpful advice. Thank you for sharing these excellent points. I myself have gone through many of the things that are mentioned here.

  12. Ivan says:

    Awesome! Inspiring! Great Summary!!

  13. julian x says:

    I like this advice very much – thanks for sharing

  14. Junshien says:

    Thank you so much for this great post. I’ll definitely be re-reading it again and mulling over what you said. Incredibly applicable for any entrepreneur.

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