Lessons Learned: Five months into my first company and the road ahead.

Five months into it I have learned many valuable lessons about running a business and delivering projects with value.

  1. On-the-fly learning. Theory evaporates very quickly to give way for a more practical learning-by-doing approach, which is vital for any startup to survive. For this learning to take place you need to be ready to accept that there are many things that you don’t know and to use that as an advantage rather than an obstacle. Years of experience can be a blessing or a curse. Basically, if you don’t know that something is difficult then there’s no reason why you cannot do it, right?.  Your mind set is not how hard is it to achieve this but rather how do we get this done in a more effective and inexpensive way. Of course, that is not to say that risks shouldn’t be measured and that plausibility shouldn’t be taken into consideration. You need to be realistic but without letting that reality bring your ideas down.One of the great resources that I would recommend to anyone thinking about starting their own business is the The Lean Startup blog by Eric Ries. Eric gives you a great framework that you can use to think about your business as an entity that it is always changing and evolving. One thing that I have very clear now after five months of running a business is that everything will evolve from day one and the opportunities for learning are endless.I would actually recommend it for anyone running a team at a company and high-tech marketing managers that want to learn about how to manage high performing projects in this new world of social media and real time updates.
  2. Work hard but work smart. A nascent company (especially a services company) is the perfect environment for good and bad things to happen and both can be equally stressful. Sometimes the situation will present itself in the form of an insatiable client that expects triple the number of hours contracted or a server breakdown in the middle of the night. Other stressful events can range from being cash flow negative to the departure of a key employee. There are some great things that can be equally taxing and stressful on the team. Things such as the sudden on-boarding of a big client with a few rush projects that need to be done by “yesterday” or the need to ramp up your staff from 3 full time people to 7 in less than a month. All of these things have happened already at Tangelo and we are continuously learning from them.In these situations it is easy for folks (clients and agencies) to get passionate about time constrains, resources and deadlines and if there is not a firm and sober monitoring of the client-agency relationship, a lot of time can be lost in explaining everything.The bottom line is that freaking out is bad for your health and it really doesn’t help. You can ready more on that on a post by Caterina Fake (founder of flickr.com) where she discusses how working hard is overrated.
  3. Fail fast and move on. Learn from your failures and control them as much as possible. A new venture is about big wins and controlled failure. Mitigate your risk as much as possible while continuing to promote a creative environment. Don’t wait to do a postmortem of your project down the road.
  4. Hire good people. A small team of highly committed and strong individuals can take you further than an inexpensive team of loosely tied individual contributors.
  5. Celebrate successes and incorporate the processes that lead to the success into your projects in real time.
  6. Know when to move on. There are certain projects that should have never seen the light of day. Cut them early and for good because if they drag on it will consume valuable resources that your company cannot spare. Also, you need to have a plan on how to deal with a potentially bad outcome. In my case, the company is self-sustaining and the projects that we have worked on are excellent but I have to weight the current benefits and analyze the lost opportunity and I have decided that it is time for me to shrink the operation that we have to handle a handful of clients and to concentrate in developing a travel tool that we’ve been planning for months. In the meantime, my partner will take care of the company and I will be looking for full time employment. If you are interested in hiring me please check out my resume or if you know of any open positions that might be a good fit please feel free to let me know.
  7. Meet new people all the time. You never know when that relationship will pay off.

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