8 min read
The opinions of the employees of You are personal.
- There are truths that few dare to say.
- The paths to success can be so different.
- Focus on the value of your brand, not the competition.
After graduating from college, I woke up at 6 a.m. with the question: should I do my best and focus solely on entrepreneurship? To hell with the consequences? Or looking for a full-time job that gives me a sense of stability (and allows me to make the rent).
Let me rewind a little. In 1999, while studying computer science, my first software product idea was a free, open source membership program for a student website. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when this turned out to be an unexpected success.
After getting positive feedback from users, I decided to start a paid version that soon became lucrative. So he was a budding entrepreneur.
Friends insisted that after graduation I follow my dream and jump on both feet (a tempting choice for a twenty year old).
But after all this back and forth, I decided against the more seductive option and listened to my instincts.
1. Overnight success stories are overrated
This isn’t the story you probably expected. In the tech industry, you’ve probably read about brave dreamers who started their startups through thick and thin – those who chose to build businesses from scratch instead of seeking the security of a nine-for-five job.
I understand the charm of these stories. Overnight success is not impossible. However, this narrative can be misleading if people think they should start a business before they’re ready.
I am quite a risk averse person. I mean, I think moderation is king when it comes to most things. What did I do all those years ago? (It’s not as exciting as all of the founders who made it straight to the top of TechCrunch after graduation.)
I found a full-time job as a programmer for a New York media company.
But here’s the thing: I haven’t given up on my dream. Instead, I used my day job to fuel my passion and learned valuable lessons about business and team management. Five years later, I felt better prepared and confident to quit my job and start my own company, JotForm.
Of course, during that time I had the privilege of even getting a job.
Because of the current crisis, many of us are re-examining different aspects of our lives.
You may be wondering if you should turn your skills into a business, or you may be among the tens of millions of people who lost their jobs and were forced to make that decision due to the coronavirus recession.
While new opportunities are always exciting, the main thing I want to do is stand up for your situation, regardless of your situation.
2. A real conversation about entrepreneurship
In his fascinating article for Harvard Business ReviewAuthor Emily Heyward notes that there are a few things to consider before taking that blind leap with your business idea.
“As a founder who works with many other founders, I saw firsthand what leads to success and what can go wrong,” writes Heyward. “It has never been so competitive. The barriers to entry to starting a new business continue to decrease as technology becomes more accessible and user-friendly. “
This doesn’t stop you from giving it a try. While Heyward describes the excitement of starting a new business, he also offers some guiding principles that aspiring entrepreneurs should take seriously.
“Regardless of how you came up with the idea, you must feel like you have no choice but to start this particular company right away,” he says. In other words, having a real connection with your idea is the key to success.
I couldn’t agree more. As the CEO of JotForm, I’d love to share the expert-assisted advice and lessons I’ve learned over the years as I’ve brought my company to over seven million users.
3. Surround yourself with trusted mentors and colleagues
Unlike other entrepreneurs, I’ve chosen not to have a co-founder to build my business with. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t trust incredibly bright people to help me do this.
Before diving into your idea, make sure that you surround yourself with the right people like mentors and colleagues who are a few steps ahead of your needs.
Sheila Eugenio, who writes for , argues that having a mentor can help us in difficult times: “The valuable connections, timely advice, the occasional check-in, and spiritual and moral guidance that you get. A mentor literally leads to success. “
4. Focus on value versus the competition
JotForm is starting and we have never received a cent from outside investments. I mean, we’re not exactly the “cool guys” in the startup world.
Here’s my point: there will always be competitors more popular than you. If you go to the TechCrunch main page or play the comparison game, you will get stuck.
What is moving the needle forward?
Focus on creating value for your customers rather than chasing trends. As Heyward puts it, “It’s not about who comes first, it’s about who does it best, and the best thing these days is the business that offers the most value to the consumer.”
Keep asking yourself: How can I make the best possible product? How can I further improve my services?
Conclusion: We reached over seven million users because we preferred to listen rather than compare.
5. Do it with passion or nothing
While there is no way of knowing how long this recession will last, taking your role as a founder into account early on will go a long way in ensuring where your business ends.
“People care a lot about who is behind the companies they buy from,” Heyward says. “It’s hard to feel a personal connection with a faceless, nameless company, and it’s much more rewarding to support brands created by people with compelling stories.”
Whatever you do, don’t be generic. You need to be ready to communicate with your consumers, share your purpose with them, and what drives your efforts. Developing an authentic voice and relationship with the people who buy your products not only helps you get down to earth but also makes your work more meaningful.
Perhaps Heyward put it best, “Realize that the long, exciting, scary, arduous, but highly rewarding journey ahead of you only begins when you are fully committed to your vision and take control of its outcome.”