Starting your own business is an exciting adventure many want to embark on these days. And while there are plenty of reasons to take the plunge – including that steaming pot of hatred you find yourself brewing for your boss during lunch break – chances are, your journey towards creating your own startup will be fraught with endless challenges.
That’s just survival we’re talking about. We have not even come to the good stuff yet.
Like, Kdan Mobile being in business for 9 years,
So trust us, when we say, we know a thing or two about starting a small business, and growing it over the long run into a successful business with millions of raving fans. Recently, at a workshop we organized with National Cheng-Kung University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Office, we shared the five mindset shifts that took Kdan Mobile from a small team of three to a global company with offices in Taiwan, China, and USA.
Now we’re sharing them with you, so you know how it’s done the Kdan way. You’ll also see how teamwork and self-cultivation take centre-stage throughout the mindset shifts we used to 10x our results.
Mindset Shift #1: Learn to deliver value first, then communicate
We are in a constantly changing environment with new business models and cross-industry partnerships threatening to disrupt the landscape everyday. It’s so easy to get sucked into the media blitz, that you end up trying to sell a product you haven’t even started iterating yet.
If this sounds like you, STOP immediately. Your customers are more discerning and skeptical than ever. The only way to break through their defences and communicate your value, is deliver solid value right from the get go. Once you frontload the hard work of delivering value, you won’t have to communicate so much because our value will be immediately obvious to your prospects.
In the past, companies delivered value in a user experience based on products. What we’re really doing now is delivering value by changing our users’ way of life. This takes an immense amount of teamwork to accomplish. Every stage in your customer’s journey has to be mapped out painstakingly. Every detail teased out and analysed for potential underserved markets. It’s practically impossible for one person to do all this on their own.
No surprise then, that Kenny Su (Founder & CEO, Kdan Mobile) believes, “As the company grows, we need to work with people from different backgrounds. You need to keep everyone on the same page and keep the management transparent.” We learned this first-hand as we grew from a three-person company to one with over 50 employees in Taiwan, China and the US.
Mindset Shift #2: Cultivate financial talent in your team – don’t farm everything out
We’ve noticed some startups outsource their financial documentation and focus resources on developing new products. This might seem an attractive option if you don’t have financial expertise. But in our experience, you don’t need to be a financial expert – but the least you can do is to understand your total comprehensive income and balance sheet. If you are serious about the long-term vitality of your business, Clara Cheng, our Chief Accountant comes down firmly on the side of investing in your own financial staff and including them in decision making: “If you are looking to raise funds or expansion, learning how to organize financial data is inevitable.Startups, should not 100% trust so-called financial professionals you deal with. You need basic financial or accounting knowledge so you know what’s really happening.”
In fact, farming out your finances to third-parties can be risky. Their cost-structures simply do not incentivise them to propose comprehensive suggestions to help your company grow. And you can be sure your engineering and marketing team need to take financial and administrative feedback into consideration if they are to make better decisions as a team.
Mindset Shift #3: Stop chasing after the latest shiny growth hack!
The role of marketing is very dynamic. You face constant market changes at different stages, and the responsibilities of your marketing team evolve fast. Being flexible and willing to take on new challenges are the most crucial characteristics for a good marketing staff.
That being said, it is so easy to succumb to “shiny object syndrome” in marketing. In this era of information overload, you can find thousands of marketing tactics online – all promising six-figure launches as you frolic on some nameless exotic beach.
The worst thing you can do is aimlessly try them all at one go. You might feel productive and engaged with so many ongoing tactics, but before you know it, you’d have been spinning your wheels for 6 months with nothing to show for it – or worse, burnt all your seed funding.
Frank Lin, our Global Marketing Manager, agrees: “…not every marketing strategy is good for your product. You need constant experiments to figure out customers’ lifetime value and find the best model for your team.” A calm, methodical approach is always best.
Often, your best marketing resources can be found in something as basic as your users’ testimonials or competitors’ feedback. So stop chasing the latest shiny growth hack, and immerse yourself in your market! You’ll be amazed at what you can find.
Mindset Shift #4 : Mix your own ecstasy – just make sure it’s systematic
A designer needs to understand a client’s need, and present the solution in a creative way. And as the company expands, they could be put in charge of multiple projects at the same time. At this point, project management and documentation become crucial. Ian Wu, our Assistant Design Manager, for example arranges the priority of each task, and takes pains to label all the files chronologically.
Because Ian has a system, it’s easy to manage the team and find the materials at a glance.
Ian also believes whether it’s 2D, 3D, animation or video production, or any new requirement, designers should face different challenges and learn new design trends from all platforms.
A designer who is a great team-player takes every new requirement from other team members as a learning opportunity.
“A designer needs to try to communicate and figure out the reason behind the requirements. You might just learn something from the experience.”
Mindset Shift #5: Bake sustainability into your coding
When a company reaches a certain scale, coding necessitates teamwork. To ensure everyone is on the same page, Sung Hsu Tsai, our Senior Cloud Platform Engineer recommends using Git as a version control system for tracking changes.
This is important in the long run. According to Sung Hsu, “For engineers, sustainability is very important. You spend a whole lot of time coding before launching a software or website. Then it’s all about maintaining and updating. So it’s crucial that the coding is readable and easy to maintain.”
Even after the product or website is launched, bugs or system breakdown can happen anytime. So always be prepared to decouple the architecture, use Behavior-driven development (BDD) or Test-driven development (TDD), and maintain the readability of codes to avoid errors.
Sung Hsu also firmly believes being an engineer is not just about coding. You need to stay connected with the market in order for the company to succeed. New challenges such as different email systems, SEO developments, or responsive web design are always looming on the horizon, so be prepared to cultivate your skills!
Every startup or small business has to make adjustments in their hiring, finances, marketing and products as they grow. We’ve learnt to focus more on the market’s needs. But we’ve also realised the most powerful changes – the ones that lead to a million app downloads, attract top VCs, and keep our customers coming back for more – had one thing in common.
They were all mindset shifts grounded in fantastic teamwork.
So if you are part of a team in a startup or small business, bookmark this page, print it out, and pin it to your wall, share the love. Because if these mindset shifts catapulted our business to VCs-throwing-money-at-us success, we think they’ll work for you too!
Comment below with your successful startup or small business story!
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Also published on Medium.