Practical Matters is a series of conversations with founders and senior executives at companies we know and love.
As a business that helps other businesses, Justworks loves interviewing innovative people. Every month, we ask fellow entrepreneurs and their teams about their experience starting and running their respective companies. It’s insightful to hear their stories and perspectives. Here are some of our favorite tips, lessons, thoughts, and business strategy from our Practical Matters series so far. Go back and read your favorite interviews for some real inspiration!
"Stay focused and be great at one thing first. When you're thinking about your company and your product 24 hours a day, it's sometimes difficult to sort through all of the ideas and identify the ones that matter most. I've seen many companies make the mistake of spending too much time perfecting features that the majority of their users don't need. This brings us back to one of our core values…less is often more."
Christina Mercando, founder of Ringly
"Test your assumptions. Entrepreneurs can be too passionate about their ideas and not run enough tests very early on which can lead them astray."
Art Agrawal, founder and CEO of Your Mechanic
"Never be afraid to speak up. Sometimes you really need to hit the brakes so that you have time to slow down and course correct. Examine everything, and don't be afraid to share what you're thinking."
Kendra Clarke, lead of Analytics and Information Design at The JAR Group
"I worked for three years in the Middle East and never felt like my gender was an issue. There was definitely some reverse culture shock coming to the US. For the first time, I felt like my gender was being taken into consideration when people were deciding how competent I was. I've only experienced outright discrimination a few times, but whenever something (an investment, negotiation) doesn't work out I always wonder: would that situation have played out differently if I were a male? But there are a lot of opportunities for female founders these days. Because we're still so rare, there's a higher probability that we'll be asked to speak on a panel or attend a conference, since there's a lot of attention being paid to addressing imbalances at those types of events."
Gillian Morris, CEO of Hitlist
"Great design and user experience. It's not enough anymore to make sure that things work. Things have to workbeautifully. The most fascinating trend in the last few years has been that there have been startups cutting through the noise entirely based on a more [simple, and elegant design approach]. As a startup, I would spend a lot of time getting the design and UX right."
Saman Rahmanian, partner at Prehype
"Differentiation. Startups have to be doing something fundamentally different and better that creates a wow factor for their users in order to generate buzz. Incrementally better solutions aren’t cutting it in today’s tough funding climate.
Solving big problems for big audiences or doing things in highly leveraged ways to save money or make money is one place to start. Rather than set out to generate ‘noise,’ I would suggest start ups focus on creating the most differentiated value proposition they can possibly deliver and do it as quickly as they can. If you’re successful, you’ll generate plenty of noise."
Maria Cirino, Co-Founder of .406 Ventures
"We worked to think about the company we'd like to build and where we'd like to be in 20-30 years. Thinking long term and about the types of people that get us there has been crucial to how we've developed."
Zach Sims, Co-Founder of CodeAcademy
"Transparency is incredibly important to my team. In a transparent environment, people perform at a higher level and are happier because they can make decisions and solve problems based on a broader and more complete view and they feel more invested in the success of their company."
Jared Cohen, VP of Operations at Kickstarter
"There is a quote I like that says, 'I'm a great believer in luck. I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.' I believe luck is a funny combination of awareness of a need that's not being met, timing, and hard work– in that order. If you nail all three, I think that's luck."
Jeffrey Fermin, co-founder of Officevibe
"Trusts breeds magic.When we started this new model to expand CreativeMornings, we were very careful. We were signing on passionate people (that we’d never met in person) to represent this brand within their cities. It’s a scary thing. It was 'our baby' at the time. The gut reaction was to think through worst-case scenarios, 'What if they do X? Are we okay with them doing Y?'
While that was a valuable exercise, we slowly realized that if we put more time into making sure we attracted great people and then trusted them to experiment, remarkable, unexpected things can happen."
Kevin Huynh, COO of CreativeMornings
"Remember that your startup begins much earlier than the day you formally start your business. That means you can do things to start your company today like working in a relevant industry, meeting with potential customers, thought leaders, and other entrepreneurs, and learning more about the problem you're going to solve."
Nehal Madhani, founder of PlainLegal (now Alt Legal)
Ryan Howard, Founder of Practice Fusion
"To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to work on yourself. Continuing education and self-improvement is necessary for you to grow with your business. Otherwise your business will outgrow you.
It requires you to continually adapt and change as the business grows. I’ve learned how to create systems that hold people accountable, and the organization accountable. You have to have mechanisms that constantly re-evaluate."
Joe Walsh, CEO Green Clean Maine, an environmentally friendly cleaning business
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