I believe one of the privileges of having been in this business for so long is that time gives you perspective. Now, looking back, it’s much easier to realize which decisions were right, and which weren’t the best. Today, I’d like to reflect on some of my past mistakes, and the lessons I learned from them.
Hopefully, the advice I can give out will help some other entrepreneurs when the time comes to make their own decisions.
Which are the main lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
When I think of mistakes during my journey with efficy, a particular moment comes to mind: the second transaction we did, with a Dutch partner whom I believed we knew well because we’d had a previous business relationship. Because of the trust we had in them, we didn’t do the necessary due diligences when working in this transaction. This was a big mistake — as it turns out, we didn’t know them as well as we thought.
At the end of the day, the business outcome was good, but it took us a year to turn around the company. This episode left us a very important lesson: even in long lasting business relationships… never trust blindly.
Another lesson learned I can think of is when I did a takeover from a serial entrepreneur. He had a really small company (literally four people!), and that was way too small and way too risky for us at the moment. I’m not saying I regret it, because in the end we had some alright results, but if I could turn back time, I would be much stricter with the contracts and write them in a way that would put us, efficy, as the priority.
Advice that could help you in your journey as an entrepreneur
I have a lot of good advice that I could give my former self, but I think of myself 16 years ago and, in all honesty, I’m not sure if I would’ve listened! However, these have been proven to work for efficy, so I really believe that it could work for younger entrepreneurs and their companies.
First and foremost, I would definitely advise them to go for their customer’s money early on instead of chasing investors. I talked about this in-depth in my previous blog post, “The Key to Surviving the Start-up Life”, so read it here!
Next, my advice is to build a strong partnership with their banks from the moment their company is created. The relationship you build with your bank is going to be important because they’ll control your money and your loans, so if the relationship is good, it’ll make a difference when it comes to getting more loans.
I definitely would’ve been more comfortable at the beginning if I’d had more credit. The worst time to ask for money is when you need it, so if you start building a relationship and having lines of credit, it can help you in hard times.
In time, you’ll see all the lessons learned
Knowing what we know now, we would’ve done a lot of things differently. With the experience we have nowadays, we probably would’ve won some years in our development: by raising capital when needed, not accepting deals when we thought we didn’t have a choice (because that’s not true, we always had a choice!), caring about equity a bit more in the early days (not giving in too fast), funding the company a bit differently, attracting more top talents earlier on…
There are many things I can think of now, but of course, it’s easy because we already learned what to do and when to do it.
A heads up for up-and-coming entrepreneurs: try to focus 100% on your company and your venture.
I’ve spoken before about how important financial comfort is for budding entrepreneurs. You don’t need to live in luxury, but you should be able to have a safety net that will allow you to focus solely on building your business and making it thrive.
Having a stable situation at home and with your family is also very positive, because starting an entrepreneurship is draining, and having issues in your personal life will make this harder. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, I suggest going for it while you’re still young and have relatively fewer responsibilities. Making mistakes is easier when your venture is smaller, so start making them now!
As with everything in life, when you embark on an entrepreneurial journey, experience is the best teacher. You’re going to make mistakes, but, in time, they will become lessons learned – If you allow yourself to grow from them.
What are the lessons that you’ve learned in your entrepreneurial journey? If you could go back in time, what would you advise your younger self? Let me know in the comments!
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