The number one thing I wish I knew before I founded Monarc Global is how to practice patience, and that it would be a critical skill to have for the success of the business. Whether it be during development, fundraising, management or operations, patience is vital to progress.
When I say patience, I don’t mean the kind where you get frustrated and have to take a second to relax. I wish I had the kind of patience that zen monks and parents of four kids under five possess, as it would help me tackle the daily grind of startup life.
While I haven’t learnt patience, I have learnt to channel it into productive energy instead. When a situation arises that tests my patience, or lack thereof, I focus my attention on our end goal instead.
My lack of patience is tested when deadlines are promised and they’re not delivered on time, or close to on time.
For example, our initial Travech software was due for completion on November 1, 2019, but when the day arrived we realised the software was not complete and wouldn’t be finalised until November 14 due to unforeseen variables in the backend. By this point, we had customers waiting and no product to roll out, so you can imagine my patience was tested. That felt like a long two weeks.
The second biggest thing I wish I knew is how hard fundraising would be. There are no handshake deals anymore, and you can’t take someone’s word that they are in for the next round.
As an early-stage startup, you need to prove enterprise-level numbers even to angel investors now. That in itself is extremely difficult when you are at a proof of concept and minimum viable product (MVP) stage. Knowing this now, I would recommend having more runway available however you can, or creating a revenue stream with your MVP that is able to fuel your business until investment — even if it’s vapour that can see you through the fundraising process.
Always allow for a longer timeframe than you expect when fundraising. You would rather be pleasantly surprised by how quick it was than running out of runway before the investment is likely to be finalised and cleared.
The third thing I wish I knew is the work and time that goes into the development of the technology behind a platform. I have a huge appreciation for our development team and all the hard work they put in to get products off the ground.
It sounds hilarious now, but I used to stand next to our development team waving my hand at their screen, saying things like, “can you please throw in a button here”. I was assuming that would take a couple of minutes.
Building pathways to that kind of thing is not as magical as I once thought. Developing strong, intuitive technology involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Mainly my tears.
And the fourth thing is the complexity and importance of employment law and hiring.
I have made critical mistakes when it comes to employment law. Looking back, if we’d had the right counsel, it could have saved us lots of time. And time saved would have meant saved valuable runway.
Some of the earlier mistakes involved taking people’s words to heart and assuming they had the companies’ best interests at heart.
For example, someone promised to deliver technology on a deadline so we agreed to pay for systems and external development, and all the while, their objective was not to produce any technology for the business but to compete against the business, even though the payment was handed over in full.
The lesson was to make contracts more airtight with less room for external interpretations.
It’s also important to be extremely transparent when hiring. Explain your expectations so a potential hire will know exactly what will be expected from them, allowing both parties to make the right decision about whether this is the right position for them, rather than trying to make the role seem shinier than it may be in reality, which is easy to do when hiring is so competitive.