Key Learnings From a young Startup Founder: @ShaneBlueChief
My business partner Keith O’Neill and I began our Startup BlueChief Social over 2 years ago, in that time we have pivoted, adapted and stayed alive. We changed our business model from developing software and tech solutions to becoming a leading social media agency… Why? Simply because we want to bootstrap BlueChief and felt this was the best way to do it.
We identified a service at which we excelled, while realising a lot of major MNCs, HPSUs (High Potential Startups) and Universities were struggling to adopt best practice approaches across social media. Opportunity presented itself, we met it head on and grabbed it with both hands. We have dealt with major companies, ran many courses and provided training to some of Irelands leading universities with great success.
This has been a major lesson in learning how to adapt, pivot and deal with issues, it has been an intensive course of self-doubt and realisation but at the core it has been just another stepping stone towards achieving our dreams. It has been quite the adventure and if I’m realistic… we are only getting started.
To add some substance as to why this has been such a learning experience.
- I never knew what Entrepreneurship or #StartupLife was all about before and even during my time in college. Naively coming into a startup, I believed being your own boss was total freedom, that you can work when you like, do what you like and make lots of money with relative ease. In reality though, it has been and continues to be a very different experience so far.
- A year in the life of a human equates to 7 years in the life of a dog!!
I think the same of startup Founders. We definitely live 7 years for every one year, learning 7 times the amount and having to mature at 7 times the pace!!! It is not for the faint hearted.
When I look around me, I see young people who have committed to their dreams. They seem to develop more rapidly than people who waddle along figuring out who they are, wanting to travel to figure out what they want to do in life and failing to commit to anything that they are really passionate about. I’m not in any way saying travelling or taking your time to figure things out is a bad thing – What I’m stating is my belief “Once you commit to something you truly love and that becomes more important than anything else in your world – Life changes and so do you – really, really quickly”. Life and achieving your ambition become more urgent. In a startup, it is about putting you and your idea out there, every single day presents a totally new set of challenges, you are continuously failing and doubting yourself. This fear drives you on to learn, to progress and to adapt not only as a founder but as a person.
In reality I believe it is down to – Being a Startup founder is a seriously humbling experience. From my experience, only a Founder realises this, how successful they have been is irrelevant. You are always open to criticism, continuously being judged and your guard has to be down most of the time, so you can learn as quickly as possible. When you are that vulnerable and you know it, it’s at that moment when you become at one with yourself. You figure out who you really are, you understand what way you react to both positivity and negativity… at the core of it, you are developing into a person who has the ability follow their passion and execute their dream.
It really took me a while to figure out what I wish I knew, below I’ve Identified my key learnings. (These will change over time I’m sure)
10 learnings I wish I knew from the Beginning:
- Every founder/startup is on a unique journey, with different goals, ambitions and expectations. They are not you – do not spend your day measuring yourself against everyone who believe is “successful”.
- Your team is essential!! Building the right team, with the right environment around you does not mean success but it certainly gives you the best foundation to achieve your goals. Success is a by-product.
- Not every startup founder is not fully committed to their vision, sorry but they are not!! A lot lack confidence in their ability to deliver. In reality, it is not up to anyone to judge them but is this why 4 out of 5 startups fail??
- There is and always will be way too much work to get through – I’m not complaining and neither should you, this is what I signed up for and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I hate when people say they are tired in Startup Life – this is what you signed up for, get on with it.
- Ideas have a role to play BUT execution is and always will be King in StartupLife. The second King… Cash Flow!!!!!!!
- The best advice I can give you? As a Founder don’t take all advice to heart. Listen to it, take it on board and use what you need… get rid of the rest and do not think about it. This is your baby you will possessive over it. In reality, negative thoughts corrupt your mind and can really drain you. “No one said it would be easy, They said it would be worth it” Thank you, Harvey MacKay.
- Follow your gut and Believe in your intuition – Nobody knows your startup/vision like you do. END OF!
- Constructive criticism is beneficial, BUT Negativity kills creativity, thought processes, beliefs and plants a seed of doubt. Learn how to deal with it and come out smiling. Only you control your destiny. Remember that – it took me way too long to grasp this.
- Startups are hard work, they really are for every Founder. Not everyone can handle the relentless pressures involved, not everyone can be disciplined towards process, execution and growth. Simply some people are ok taking no for an answer. No real Startup Founder is!!
- If you focus, if you believe, if you put in the hours, if you are relentless, if you really innovate, if you can offer real value, if your get your timing right and if you can find the right Partner/Team/Investors. You will achieve any dream you can imagine – Now that’s a lot of IF :).
The phrase “If it was simple, everyone would be doing it” comes to mind! – It is not meant to be easy, life is hard no matter who you are, where you are or what you do. Everyone has personal problems they are dealing with, it is the people who can handle the external pressures in their life the best, that will survive in StartupLife.
A startup is a wonderful experience, I have truly found my passion. It is an exciting space where anything can happen. Your commitment, focus and approach allows you control your own destiny and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the best life ever, I know I have found my calling and I hope you find yours.