If, like us, you got so sucked into the festive period that you temporarily mislaid your lean, agile, startup founder credentials as you lost yourself in Christmas pud, wrapped up like a pig in a blanket, watching old movies with family and friends you’ve seen too many times before, then fear not!
Simply read and act upon the 5 pieces of advice below and we promise you by the time you are done you will be touching those entrepreneurial heights again, thinking on your feet, “imaginising”, plotting, developing, pitching and winning at being (or working for) a dynamic founder!
So, are you sitting comfortably? Well stop! It’s time to open the front door, step out into the freezing, but bracing air, and purposefully stride well and truly outside of your comfort zone!
1/ Re-connect with your business & your business goals!
It’s time to re-read that business plan – if you had been a good boy, or girl (or both, or neither), you would have started planning for 2017 back in September, and you will therefore know exactly what you and your team will be focusing on in the months ahead.
But before you crack on with the tasks and goals you set yourself back then, it is well worth taking the time to reconnect with the company vision and what inspired you to take your first steps on your startup journey?
You discovered a problem that you just had to try and solve? You saw a gap in the market and felt it was ripe for disruption? You are re-inventing a particular niche you feel has the potential to affect the mainstream?
Whatever it was, try to re-discover that thrill you felt when everything was new and feel that energy flooding back through you. A large percentage of the work you do as a founder or startup team member is a kind of glorified hoop jumping, and as such it can be easy to lose sight of why you started the business in the first place; what it was that got your pulse racing and the adrenaline flowing?
Re-connect in this way – not jumping straight back into the thick of the action but taking a step back and seeing your start-up how it was intended to be seen – as a holistic whole – and you will find yourself re-invigorated and suddenly the day to day stuff won’t seem so onerous after all. Remember, being a start-up founder is a privilege, not a burden!
2/ Get Your taxes in order
Here’s a cast-iron guarantee – this year you will pay some tax. But how much depends on a lot of factors.
It can be easy to lose sight of what your tax position is – founders can end up with as many as 3 separate accounts at HMRC – PAYE, Corporation tax and personal tax – and if like many founders, you haven’t hired a full-time accountant yet, it’s crucial that you know when and how much you must pay (personal tax deadline is end of Jan and corporate tax by end of April).
Nobody ever started a company so they got to pay tax, although some founders may have been inspired to start their companies by helping others to save tax (think SEIS and EIS tax breaks, VCTs and charitable trusts); and some people are visionaries without a head for numbers.
Whichever category you fall into you must acknowledge that managing your accounts is part and parcel of running a company – you won’t get thanked for doing it, but will get punished (most likely where it hurts) if you don’t.
Finally, brush up on new tax law – have there been any changes that might benefit your company? Ask around, and google some articles where you can find news and relevant advice. Just don’t spend a fortune on tax consultancy before you yourself are au fait with your company’s tax position. You should know it better than anybody else. Even (if you have one), your accountant.
3/ Re-connect with all your staff!
Christmas is a tricky period for founders – it’s harder to keep track of everyone’s movements – some may have been away for weeks with family or friends, some may have worked the majority of the festive season, either in the office or under their own steam.
It’s important that you, as a founder, an HR manager, or even as dev team leader know who has been up to what.
It could be your dev ops guy has worked most of the Christmas period and may be feeling frustrated that others have fallen behind – or the reverse has happened, staff have come back from breaks fresh and raring to go and are showing up those who haven’t managed to get away.
Christmas and the year-end can be a difficult, sensitive time for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. So, before you go nuclear with somebody who seems to not be pulling their weight, take the time to engage with them and all team members to determine what the lie of the land is. Let’s hope you got a pair of kid gloves in your stocking this year, because you will be needing them to get everybody pulling in the same direction, with similar levels of energy.
4/ Clear your inbox and make your email traffic relevant to your business
How would you describe your email inbox? Are you one of those people who horrifies those meticulous about inbox maintenance by ignoring thousands of spammy looking messages – is your smartphone beeping and flashing like a lightshow at Fabric because of the sheer weight of unread messages, ignored alerts and neglected newsletters?
A bit of inbox pruning at this stage could change your entire year. If you’re not going to read someone (or something’s) messages, consider unsubscribing. Are there lengthy email exchanges you are having that you could switch to Slack, Skype, or Messenger (or even Snapchat – hey, all the cool kids are doing it!).
Personal details (like email addresses, twitter handles, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles) are the currency we use today to purchase goods and services online. And that usually means signing up to the dreaded newsletter.
But you can’t afford to neglect your email either – consider running two separate addresses, one for personal stuff, one for the business. Consider adding a third, just for newsletters and spammy stuff you need to have to log on to certain sites. Check all three regularly, because you never know who may be trying to reach you, or what opportunities are out there.
Whatever you do, just make sure you ensure not to miss any vital communications. Between that daily deals email and that marketing newsletter, there could be a note from your new investor. Only you missed it, so he’s no-longer your new investor. D’oh!
Target the events you want to be at and choose wisely!
We’ve all seen it. Wondering through a demo day, a conference, or a pitching event, you notice 3 or 4 “stalls” struggling to attract anyone’s attention. Desk piled high with untouched business cards, the increasingly isolated figure behind the canvas “investor roadshow” style displays, is slowly realising that nobody at this cyber-security conference is interested in their curated wine marketplace.
Oops – that’s 2 days (and a grand) you will never get back. Bummer. Now in London, there really is no excuse for not attending events – but why not start out with an amazing free event like our HHH Speed dating and Co-founder pitching events, or even our GaP->GaS (Got a Problem – > Get A Solution) crowdsolving symposiums.
Sure, there are times when you are just going to have to splash the cash, put on those company t-shirts, assemble a stand and holler at passers-by like a member of the liberal elite at a Donald Trump victory rally – but don’t forget – London has a thriving start-up ecosystem with hundreds of free events and that’s often where you find the smart people, and the smart money.
Most of all, being a founder is a state of mind – every one works in a different way, and far be it from us to discourage anybody from pursuing the POA’s that suit them most.
That said, there are certain traits and habits that evidence and experience tells us most of the best entrepreneurs use, and we believe we have listed 5 above. There are many more besides – why not let us know what you have up your sleeve for 2017 – or come to our next event and tell us about it in person.