Running a Startup is a very interesting proposition, you could be a well established entrepreneur, with people to do every possible task, but when you start something new, and ensure that you are going to do it as a startup, you learn some new lessons, the journey for starting SproutBox though is about 5 years old, but we started construction in April 2015, and we opened our doors on the 1st of June 2015 to our coworkers, and in the last one month of operations, there are several things we learnt, several things we are yet to learn, and surprises that we did not think of, so if you are a startup, an entrepreneur, a freelancer, a coder, an artist, or a blogger or just someone who is looking at starting out to do something on your own, read on – I promise you that you will go back home and say to your self “Why Did I not think about this earlier?”
Lesson 1: Use Technology
Well there is no debate, technology is a tool if you can use it, and have it work for you, from our messaging tools (slack), to our ticket management system (groove), and even our mailing list manager (mail chimp), technology has helped us come this far. Ensuring that everyone in the team from shared resources from our existing business’s to dedicated resources we have for SproutBox, needs to be updated with all the operational information.
Lesson 2: Have a Strategic Plan, Not just a Business Plan
Over the last few years there has been so much focus on the business plan, that we all end up forgetting what our strategic plan would be, and having this ready helps. Though there is not much to talk about it here, ensure that your Business Plan covers the “Who” and “What” of your new business wile the strategic plan covers the “How” and “When”.
Lesson 3: Define Your Vision Statement
Remember the elevator pitch, well we did enough exercises, and said we are a coworking space, but that was just not enough, over the first few days we realised, we were more than a coworking space, we are designed to be an accelerator, a conducive space for growth, a place where you come to collaborate, network, exchange ideas and grow.
Lesson 4: Delegate Authority
I am not good with finances – there I said it, though if you know me personally you would have already known this. Yes I am good with numbers but when it comes to checking the cheque books, updating balances, and planning cash flows – I am not the best person there, luckily Rajeev ji is, and this is what brings me to delegating authority. Trust is the first factor of a partnership, make sure you trust your partner, and delegate authority. While I manage the technology section, our website, and work with our Digital media team, we meet up once a week and discuss where we are, where we want to go, our revenues, our cash flows, and how things are.
Lesson 5: Build a Community
When we started out, Happy Hours Wednesday was more of an Idea, now it is a reality, the first Wednesday we were just 3 coworkers, and Rajeev ji and I, now a month later we are roughly 15 coworkers and us, but Happy Hours Wednesday is one of our bonding events, where we get together over lunch time or the evening, enjoy a snack together, have a conversation and build connections.
Lesson 6: Something will go wrong
Yes we planned for everything, backup Internet connections, Backup power from a Diesel Generator, backup manpower, backup everything – but something will go wrong! A fan will stop working, an electric appliance will mis-behave, or even a monkey will come and take away the cover of your water storage tanks (yes this happened to us) and then break the plumbing pipes (this happened to us also). You may have planned everything, but something or the other will go wrong – so be prepared, and take the challenges head on, make sure you communicate to everyone that you are handling it, and wherever possible delegate and get it done.
Lesson 7: Never be afraid to ask
Though I have always believed in this, but during times of trouble one tends to forget, yes there is always a web search on how to do something, but what I have learnt time and again is – it’s great to ask, pick up the phone and reach out to someone who is in a similar business, they will answer – always.