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7 lessons learned from my first year as a founder

Twelve months ago, I took the plunge and started my own company. As SalesWorks turns one, it’s time to look back and take stock.

We’re officially past the year mark since I founded SalesWorks. What a year it’s been! It’s been a year of hard work, overcoming challenges and finding solutions. It’s also been great fun.

With my first year behind me, I feel grounded, with a clear vision of how I want my company to move forward. Drawing on feedback from my customers and the market, I have defined a direction for SalesWorks, which you can see from the different services we have added in the last six months, such as 'Supercharging your SDR team' workshops and call Coaching As A Service.

One of the things that has most surprised me is how much I’ve learned in a year. In this article, I’m going to tell about seven of them. If you run your own company, maybe you recognise some of them.

1 – It’s all on you

It sounds obvious, but it still hits you hard when you start your business. You are steering the ship. Everything is down to you. No one else is going to build this business.

It’s a balancing act that takes a while to master. You know you have to let go of your old 9-5 mentality, but you don’t want to burn yourself out. It took ten months before I took my first holiday, mainly because I felt guilty if I wasn’t working all the time.

A year on, I find the feeling of responsibility liberating. The freedom to set my direction is something that I never had before.

2 – Take risks

As a founder setting a course for the growth of your company, your head is always buzzing with ideas you want to try. In amongst those ideas, there could be the a-ha moment that helps you scale your business.

Don’t be afraid to take risks to achieve your goals. Act fast and measure everything; that way if your idea doesn’t work, you minimise the damage and can move on knowing you tried. Learn more from your failures than you do your successes.

3 – Celebrate your successes

Failures are there to be learned from; successes are there to be celebrated.

In my first year in business, I’ve achieved some notable victories. I’ve worked with some of the largest and fastest-growing software companies in the industry. I’ve delivered results that have made a tangible difference to the performance of their businesses.

It’s good to reflect on these achievements. Don’t let them pass without considering their significance. Use them to spur you on to future success.

4 – Grow your network

Before I started SalesWorks, I worked at a 10,000 person company. Moving from that to just me was a big change. Things can get lonely if you don’t have people around you. However, from the first day, I decided to make a conscious effort to expand my network.

In the software sales industry, there are some excellent organisations putting on events where you can meet people, learn and share insights. I make sure I attend as many of these events as I can. Plus, when I connect with someone, I always try to grab a coffee with them to help build a stronger relationship. Basing myself at a WeWork has also been useful for meeting people.

It’s not just meeting people for the sake of it. Through this strategy, I’ve been able to partner up with other innovative tech companies and execute joint go-to-market initiatives.

5 – Spot your opportunity and move

We’ve all heard the sayings ‘The riches are in the niches’ and ‘If you sell to everyone, you sell to no one.’ However, when you’re trying to find your first customers, you feel you shouldn’t limit yourself. 

My background was in enterprise fintech, so I had a window on the SaaS industry. The nature of SaaS sales was changing dramatically. Companies were spending larger and larger budgets on digital marketing. This was creating a disjoint between sales and marketing, with account management teams sitting on a huge base of accounts that they were not actively managing. There is a massive opportunity here for them to cross-sell and upsell, that they were not taking.

If organisations could improve inside sales and sales development, it could make a significant difference to the bottom line. This is what led to the start of SalesWorks.

Find your niche and find it fast.

6 – Invest in the right places

You don’t have the skills to do everything you need to do when you start a business. Even, if you do have the skills, you certainly don’t have the time to execute on them.

Don’t try and do everything. Bring people in who can help you with marketing, finance, content, web design etc. This helps fuel the engine and streamlines your time, meaning you can focus on what you do best.

7 – Grow your ecosystem

An effective strategy for growth is to look for companies in your industry that complement what you do. If you can forge a partnership with them, you can help each other grow, as well as offer your clients end-to-end solutions.

At SalesWorks, partnering with the right tools, tech and service providers has enabled us to scale, while we delight our clients. An excellent example would be our partnership with Refract, the AI-powered call recording and analysis platform. By combining Refract’s tech with SalesWorks’ coaching expertise, we built an offering, Call Coaching As A Service.

Find out more

Thank you for reading the seven things I learned in my first year as a founder. It’s also important to note how becoming a founder changes you on a personal level. I’ve always been resilient and confident in my abilities. However, spending a year overcoming challenges and hitting targets with my business has made me even stronger in this way.

I look forward to writing an update to this article this time next year!