As the end of the year looms large, VRB is starting our quarterly and annual process of debriefing the past and planning for the future. Part of that process is taking stock of what I've learned and codifying those learnings into my operating system moving forward. After all, you actually need to learn from lessons if they are to become lessons learned.
So, in no particular order, here are a few of my lessons learned from this year as an entrepreneur:
- Nothing matters if your products are not great: Your product or service has to be incredible. Everything else (acquiring and retaining customers, growing, building a brand, etc.) is hard to do. It's impossible if you don't have a great product. You'll know your products are great when customers reach out to thank you for solving a real problem they've had (*thank you to all of you who have reached out to let us know you love VRB – we read every single comment, and they mean a lot to us!).
- Choose your partner(s) wisely: Going into business with someone is like going into a marriage. There are ups, downs, and unforeseen obstacles that will test you, the company, and the relationship. When assessing a potential partner (and this goes for life, generally), consider the following:
- Values. Do you value the same principles? Do they live with integrity? Are you operating under the same general outlook on life?
- Skills and experience. Partnering with someone with a different skill set frees you up to focus on what you are good at and is a force multiplier for the team.
- EQ: We are emotional animals. No matter how much of a hardass you think you are, you're not. Find a partner who takes responsibility, knows how to disagree respectfully, knows how to apologize and accept an apology, and has their life priorities in order.
- Note: I’m grateful to have found that kind of partner in Evan….lest you read this thinking, I'm bitching about my guy!
- Define success and set clear and quantifiable objectives: If you don’t know what success looks like – specifically – you don’t know how to get there. Be specific about where you’re going so you can set intermediate objectives to move the ship in the right direction.
- Keep it simple: The plan should be concise, clear, and easily communicated (and understood) across the team. If your team doesn't understand, you have not made it simple enough.
- Bias for action: What you do is what matters. Not what you think or say or plan