What is your big idea? How will you bring your new product or service to life, to the world, to the future? If you are like most entrepreneurs, you have an ambitious goal and want to redefine the way business is done. It may seem like the sky is the limit, but what happens when you get a gut-punch from reality and realize that you still need to pay the bills?
The question to ask is: how can you provide the most value and remain humble in the process? With startups, the key is to be clear to yourself with your business model. Where do you expect to be in a year? Or in five? What model can help support those goals? Is the right model for you an enduring, long-lasting business, or a startup with a clear exit strategy?
When you have a great idea, it’s tempting to only listen to the opinions that you want to hear. But with a one-sided perspective, you risk losing your audience and the most important step in the process, which is competitive and customer research. At the same time, you must remember that you cannot be everything to everybody. You should pick a niche, know your stuff inside and out, and fill a unique need that will keep customers coming back for more. Building a startup from the ground up can certainly be a tricky thing. But with passion, conviction, and the right tools, you may learn your way to the top.
Thirty year-old Lior Shabat is an entrepreneur from Tel Aviv, which is known as “the startup city.” His background is filled with a variety of experiences which helped bring his idea to life. For example, in the beginning of his career, Shabat partnered with his brother in leading a large online company specializing in trading software. In his five years as a CMO, he built a 30-person team, where he learned his most important lesson: what not to do.
After that, Shabat launched an ad-tech company similar to Airbnb, but for advertising. There he learned a lot about the space, his competition, and potential customers. He also learned a lot about himself, his strengths, and weaknesses. He discovered that while he had a deep knowledge of how to build a product, his true passion was for marketing it.
After many brainstorming sessions, Shabat established 45 Degrees East, a company that connects teens with employment opportunities, offering them valuable skills and the ability to lead self-sufficient lives through adulthood. So, what’s his secret for success? Surprisingly enough, it’s Instagram. With Gen Z as the target audience, Shabat ventured to learn everything possible about the platform, learning to fine-tune his target audiences with a well-developed strategy in mind.
Shabat understood what features would complement his business, and from there, he was able to drive real results, creating a recruitment empire and an interface for effective Instagram advertising. Instagram advertising is an important building block of the company and is an element of business that Shabat would like to develop further in the future. This will transform the ways in which businesses handle their media efforts and go about increasing engagement with younger audiences.
Here are the five things Lior Shabat has learned along his journey:
Measure everything. When you start a business, you have to be able to measure the impact of everything you do. Make sure every test, ad, or investment, can be measured. Every penny you spend should yield either ROI or a lesson.
Starting your own business takes grit. If everyone could start a business, we would all be self-employed. Be prepared to be a secretary, a cleaner, a sales person, a customer support agent, and an IT person.
Believe in yourself. This sounds cliche, but you need to know that you have the skills to succeed. When you start a business, you hear “no” 99% more often than “yes”. A “no” means that you haven’t conveyed the value of your proposition well enough, or clearly enough. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your product isn’t good enough.
Keep your model lean. When I started my business I opted for an office at WeWork and full-time staff. I can’t say this was a wrong approach, but building your way up slowly will make you more creative and resourceful. Today, I employ mostly freelancers, which gives me both results-based work and the flexibility to pay only for what I need. Plus, running lean helps me keep prices reasonable for even smaller businesses.
Keep an open mind. In many cases, you set off to build A and end up building B. Acknowledge that you may start out building a startup, but end up recruiting through Instagram. Circumstances and perspectives change, so being flexible is a must. Keep an open mind and be present in your journey. Don’t assume too much, and don’t count on everything falling into place the way you thought it would. Welcome those shifts and changes. There is a lot to learn along the way, and it’s an individual process for everyone.
What have you learned in your journey as an entrepreneur? Share your thoughts in the comments below and join the conversation.