For New EntrepreVenturers
1. Learn how to strategize, set goals and measure your progress!
A calendar can be your best friend if you use it well - or your worst friend, if you look up and a month has passed by without you realizing it. For our team, learning how to set goals, identify Key Performance Indicators, and create a monthly and annual strategy has helped us move from doing our best to planning and executing. Also, I snuck measuring in this one, however this step could be its own Top 10! Learning about and building Lean Data collection into your every-day practices will help you analyze what works and what doesn’t so you can take small bite-size steps without fear of investing lots of time and energy on a solution that doesn’t work. Lean Data is also very important to help you continue innovating and checking the pulse of your community.
How to? There are a number of great books and courses out there that can help you learn more. Some of my top recommendations include: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses and Monetizing Innovation: How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price. These books come with worksheets and guides, and a Book Club is a great way to get through the material together. Encouraging your teammates to incorporate walks and listen to Audible is a great way to fit learning and exercise into your day! We have also just begun a great course from Acumen called Lean Data Approaches to Measure Social Impact.
2. Build in time for reflecting into your strategy
One of the most important pieces of that strategy is taking the time to look backwards and evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
How to? One of the practices that we do is a Stop, Start, Continue Reflection at the end of each month. This reflection involves looking at your past month and identifying what you would like to Stop (practices that aren’t working); Continue (practices that are working); and Start (new ideas you want to put into place). It’s a great idea to stick to these for a month for measurement purposes and then check in again! Another neat reflection strategy is to build in a Resume Refresh at the end of each quarter where you and your teammates reflect on the new skills, technologies and knowledge you have acquired. It’s fun to see your growth in action!
3. Use your resources - they are all around you!
Can I tell you how many resources are available to you (1) as students and (2) as entrepreneurs? Especially if you have an idea that is going to have a positive social and/or environmental impact or change society for the better, there are smart, caring, experienced individuals who are interested in helping you.
How to? Wildcat Connections is a great place to start in search of mentors. The Small Business Development Center is located right here at the University of New Hampshire. SCORE Mentoring offers support to new entrepreneurs. Accelerators and incubators with programs and funding to help you grow. One important caveat with this is to not take anything for granted, practice appreciation, and do your part. There are likely many individuals you will meet, however at the end of the day it is still a small world - and you never know how burning bridges may affect you later in life.
4. Set up regularly scheduled meetings
Once you find an advisor or mentor who resonates with you and your company mission, set up regularly scheduled meetings. Again, your Calendar is Your Friend and will help you become more consistent and productive. When you put regular meetings into your schedule, you will begin to have accountability for your work. This is also important for weekly team meetings and check-ins.
How to? I personally have a very simple google docs note with each of my advisors or for any meetings that I have. Interested in a more organized document? Here is a Google Doc template that we use for our weekly meetings that can help you build out your agenda and create organized action steps to keep you on track.
5. Learn about Team Dynamics, VALUE conflict and differing opinions
Our team’s favorite team assessment is called True Colors. Our core team has individuals who are Blue, Orange, Gold and Green as well as folks who are combinations of those. When conflict arises, we read each others’ profiles to build empathy and appreciation for what each other sees as important. We authentically understand that different and different perspectives help us as a team and make us more well-rounded. For example, brevity is important sometimes (getting things done / quantity ) and being more detailed and analytical in others (doing things well / quality).
How to? There are so many great assessments - the DISC Assessment and StrengthFinders along with True Colors Inventory (link to the Inventory) are a couple of my favorites. Complete these with your team and then plan a time to come back to them.
6. Identify the Most Important Things and find people to be in charge of them
Clarity is key! Take some time to create a visual of the most important roles that need to be filled for your team to be successful. Some examples include: Product and Services (Research and Development), User Acquisition via Marketing, User Acquisition via Sales, User Retention (Implementation and Customer Success), Financials and Accounting, and Executive activities. Another role that we have found to be very important is Project Management, a person to be in charge just of making sure all the things get done! When everyone is very clear on what they are taking on, accountability and productivity will be much higher.
Our Top Learning Experience: If you have a key component to your company, seek out another co-founder to run that area of the business. For us, this was especially true in the area of technology. I can’t stress enough - if you are in a university, it is very likely there is another student on campus who would love to work together with you. They just have to learn about the opportunity! If you’re building a tech product, find a tech co-founder - don’t hire one! By covering your key roles by co-founders, you can save cash and get more done with less stress! Once you have to outsource and begin paying people, cash flow becomes an ever-present need and can change your focus from quality to whatever will make you money.
How to? Share about your cofounder position on the board at the E-Center, in relevant Facebook groups and on cofounder websites. Tell your friends about the position you’re looking for and see if they know anyone from classes!
7. Attend The Thing!
Similar to Use Your Resources above, there are so many different and amazing events in the New England area alone. You should sign up and go! To this date, I have never signed up for an event and not had at least ONE great connection that helped propel Kikori and/or me personally.
How to? Look for Meetups, join groups on Facebook, find out about events on LinkedIn and Twitter. Once you find a group that you like, invest a bit of time and attend regularly. You will build a community. Most importantly, offer to others as often as you request for yourself. It will come back ten fold, I promise.
8. Be intentional about balance and wellbeing
As you can see above, I talked about Doing (forward-facing strategizing) and also Reflecting (backward-facing evaluation and feedback-gathering). This is important for business and also important for YOU. Being intentional about setting boundaries can be very helpful to your team's overall health and prevent burn-out.
How to? We are intentional about starting each meeting with a check-in to see how team members are doing. Along with building relationships, knowing that a team member just had something difficult happen in their family can also change the way you react toward them throughout the day. Another fun practice we put into place is creating Wellness Buddies with our advisors where we have a scheduled 15-minute check-in focused on an individual goal of our choosing. This goes both ways, and each quarter, we create new Wellness Buddies so as to get to know other team members.
9. See challenges as opportunities to get outside of your Comfort Zone
Your feelings follow your perspective. If you can begin to view resistance and anxiety as an opportunity for growth, then you can change the way you react to hardship. My favorite bumper sticker is “Oh no, not another learning experience!” If you have the right outlook, you will begin to see mistakes as beautiful opportunities for growth, and the faster you fail, the faster you learn!
How to? Practice self-awareness around your feelings. When you begin to feel overwhelmed or scared, remember that is a normal part of growth. Practice self-care, take a break, go for a walk, complete a guided meditation, call a trusted teammate, advisor or friend. Create a plan that starts with ONE step and focus on that one step rather than step twelve. Congratulate yourself and take note of the new skills you have built once you have gotten through it!
10. Have FUN
Period. If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it. Life is too short, and this is your only life. On top of that, fun is contagious - and so it’s not just good for you, it’s good for your team also!
How to? Incorporate an evening meet-up where you aren’t allowed to talk about work. Plan one work day a month where all team members have to go into nature. Identify team work times where a new team member gets to choose the music playlist. Build silly check-ins and fun ice breakers into your team meetings.
Written with love by Kikori Co-founder, Kendra Bostick