Starting a business is a daunting task. Often we don’t even know what questions we need to ask regarding how best to move in the right direction. This is where mentorship is worth its weight in gold. Who better to offer up some advice than a CEO and leading business mentor and coach in Montreal’s business community. Zetane Systems CEO, Guillaume Hervé, and CTO, Patrick St-Amant, offer here the following words of wisdom to fellow small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
It is important to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the co-founders and employees early on. This serves to avoid doubling-up on tasks; determine right away each of the co-founders’ strengths and delegate tasks accordingly such that there is no overlap in focus by any member of the team. This ensures efficiency under severe resource constraints. This requires developing trust so that you can depend on the other person to execute. In dire times, delegation is crucial for survival!
Start talking to tentative users/customers sooner rather than later. The goal is to get a lot of feedback on your ideas, assumptions and early prototypes so that you don’t waste time developing frivolous parts of the business. Don’t be embarrassed by a simple MVP/prototype; it is way better than developing a more polished product that no one wants.
You may have heard me say: If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too latehttps://t.co/r4JyKzzyWO
— Reid Hoffman (@reidhoffman) March 29, 2017
Surround yourself with mentors that have your best interests in mind. They are hard to find. In most cases, mentors are interested in finding investment or job opportunities and this is why they coach startup founders; these mentors often pressure founders to seek VC investment funding too soon or encourage them to make faulty changes to their product in order to make the company appear more valuable in a context or market the founders wish to avoid.
Prepare for and act like each meeting with a client is your first and most important meeting ever. No one will tolerate sloppy work, poorly structured meetings and presentations. It will kill your reputation. As a small business owner, your reputation is key to success. Never use an investor pitch deck as a product presentation for a tentative customer. Investors and customers are two radically different audiences; thus, your presentation must be distinct for each audience.
Challenges we have overcome to date include building up our confidence to believe in ourselves and to truly feel that we can be successful in this business endeavour. It took time for us to know that, no matter what, we will find a way through any challenge. We had to learn from experience about our blindspots concerning business operations and development; the challenge then resides in correcting for these blindspots by listening to other experts that have different perspectives on your business decisions.
As a final thought, all new business owners will know that entrepreneurship requires a steep learning curve. Ramping up your knowledge of your industry and target market is always an incessant challenge. The only solution is to keep on researching and listening to other leaders in your field.
If you’re a business owner, we’re sure you have many complementary tips to add to this list. We would love to read them, so feel free to make a contribution in the comments section. We’ll be sure to share it with attribution on our social media channels.
Many of these lessons come from many years of experience as well as from the guidance we continue to receive from our business coaches and mentors. We express gratitude for all the support and tips from our mentors at the District 3 Innovation Center and Creative Destruction Lab — Montreal (CDL).