Written for EO by Will Dugdale, CTO and co-founder at Zipcube.
The only fact you can reliably say about being a start-up entrepreneur is that you will be surprised, regularly, by things you have not—and could not—anticipate.
As a CTO of an e-commerce, I have discovered many things that would have been useful to know earlier in my journey. Some of these are technical—concerning code and architecture—but most of these lessons concern people who you work with, and rely on, every day.
1. First, understand that your business is the people in it.
It doesn’t matter how good your business idea is or how much starting capital you have. If you don’t have the right team or if they feel disenfranchised, it won’t work. Make employee engagement and employee satisfaction a priority from day one.
2. You need a long-term vision.
At a start-up, your strategy will likely change. This is normal. However, if you don’t have a medium-to-long-term plan, your short-term projects are at risk for not coming together. If that happens, you will lose a lot of time.
Revisit your one-year vision every three months. And remember: Changing your vision isn’t a failure; it’s learning.
3. Once your vision is set, audit the gaps in your knowledge.
Experience can be one of the most valuable assets a small company possesses. But it’s acceptable—even preferable—to admit ignorance in a particular topic or initiative. Be prepared to admit your inexperience and be willing to pay for outside help when doing so could expedite a goal.
4. Experience isn’t everything.
This might sound counterintuitive, but experience can be a major hindrance. It can cause you to resist exploring new tools or new ways of problem solving. In rapidly changing industries such as technology, this kind of thinking may anchor you to mindsets that are no longer relevant.
So it’s critical to understand the difference between static experience (such as 10 years’ experience in .Net) and dynamic experience (such as a proven track record of developing successful tech teams in different companies).
No particular type of experience is useful in every scenario. Be certain you have the right kind of experience for your top priorities.
5. Finally, empower all your employees.
Everyone wants their company to thrive. For that to be possible, each person who works for you must be given the tools and freedom to thrive independently.
Empower your staff to do the work that is most valuable to your company’s growth by minimizing bureaucracy and investing in relevant tools. Additionally, reduce friction as much as possible by creating the optimum environment in which talented people can thrive.
Will Dugdale is the co-founder and CTO of Zipcube, a booking system that connects people with spaces.