Life in a startup: five lessons learned three weeks in

1. Getting customers to try a product that hasn’t launched yet is harder than you think is exactly as hard as it sounds.

Got obstacles?

ZOMG stock photos are hilarious.

OpenCal is a fine product, and yet I knew getting customers would be difficult and yet, at the same time, I somehow believed it would magically be easier. You can always picture yourself with success at a later point, but to imagine all the little, difficult challenges you have to overcome to get to that successful point is either no fun or way too easy to overlook.

2. Create value now in order to reap rewards later.

This one is obvious, and should have been even more obvious to someone who considers himself a pretty good gardener, and yet because it feels like a race (as you approach the launch date) you always expect results to come in all the time. But like the seeds you set below the surface, sometimes it seems like nothing is happening at all. If you ignore the seeds you may never see the shoots. Likewise, if you stop creating value (because you haven’t seen any results), you will probably never see any positive results.

Similar to what I’ve learned using social media, there is no easy way to build a following. It is (in some ways) hard work and success is hard won. You only get to where you’re going by having faith that what you’re doing is the right thing to build an audience.

3. Make goals every day.

The morning meeting

I use the morning meeting for...hmmm, yes, planning sounds nicely innocuous...ha ha ha

Because life in a startup is hectic and everything has high priority and importance, it’s easy to get lost in information overload or stuck on something because it’s not perfect. To help combat this we have very short, daily morning meetings to get us on track and moving in the right direction. What will you do, what do you need to do, what are you thinking about doing. For me this turns into a short list of goals for that day. If they’re not actionable (ie. they do not constitute a discrete action) I break them down into things I can do next. Then I knock them off my list.

How do you stay productive? Do you have a system?

4. Create traditions.

Epic win

I will never not use awesome stock photos again

In my first week we set up beer o’clock Friday afternoons. If you had a good week we get these going a bit earlier. If not, we might try and get a couple extra things done. In any case, we take time to enjoy the feeling of the week being over, we discuss what we did that was great and where we’re going. It’s a take stock moment that we don’t have to take too seriously. It makes Friday a great day and I already begin to look forward to the next week.

What are your traditions?

5. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small.

These keep you going.

Shout outs:

A big shout out to Darryl Ohrt of Brand Flakes for Breakfast fame and Bill Green of Make the Logo Bigger – I believe you both put me in touch with the awesome stock photos I have been digging via Awkward Stock Photos.