Starting a new business is always challenging. It’s not a one-way straight line to success. Sometimes it’s messy and confusing, sometimes it takes time and effort, sometimes you just get lucky and sometimes you don’t. Mistakes teach us the most valuable lessons; however, we don’t always have to go through them ourselves.
This is why today we had the pleasure to sit down with Elena Tochilina – a business mentor and expert with over 12 years of experience in the field, to discuss how the world is going to change, what the current start-up scene in Ukraine looks like and what practices should start-ups implement to get even better results and avoid fall-backs.
Elena has an outstanding experience in the field and has notably worked with UNIDO, the Ministry of Regional Development of Ukraine and has been part of the Energy Efficiency projects in Ukraine. Her future-oriented mindset and the drive to create a lasting impact have helped her become an excellent mentor to a number of unique start-ups in Ukraine that are taking their first steps in making a difference. Here are the few key points that Elena highlights and suggests the companies pay close attention to.
Team up with people of a different kind of mentality.
Often times, in work or even regular daily life, we fall into the trap of wanting to surround ourselves with the exact same type of people. We might feel that they get us on every level and that the communication flow is absolutely effortless. However, when translating these interactions into a working business model, it is important to include the team members that bring a different point of view to the table. Everyone certainly has to be driven by passion towards the common goal, but the execution and actions must vary in order to survive the realities of the business world. Letting the flow of the creative mind run free is equally as important as keeping the structure of the start-up and staying on track with the deadlines. This naturally brings us to tip number 2.
Divide the responsibilities and have a clear understanding of the power dynamics from the beginning.
As a team of often drastically different individuals is formed, it is inevitable that conflict will arise at a certain point. Coming from various backgrounds, lifestyles, levels of involvement and general availability – there are high chances that not all the members will see the same picture as most likely they all will be looking at it through a completely different set of lenses. This is when it becomes extremely important to have clear decision-making roles well-defined. Everyone might have a possibility to contribute, but the ultimate start-up navigation is left to several leading individuals. Elena suggests that this specific step is taken care of early on in the process: once all the creative work is done, the structuring of products and processes is at its final stage, yet before the actual launch of your business. You might need to have a hand of a team coach or a facilitator to make sure you don’t fall into conflicts since this is a very delicate matter which requires honesty with yourselves and your team members.
Have a discussion about the share distribution.
The talk that everyone is always a little uncomfortable having – start-up shares distribution. You’ve worked hard, you all seem to have put in the same amount of effort, but how exactly does that effort get measured? This is oftentimes a grey area, especially for the new businesses that are still not very stable with their working structure. It might seem like a good idea to leave this conversation for the times when the share distribution is actually about to happen, but our expert Elena recommends putting everything on paper in the early stages in order to avoid any future misunderstanding and fallouts.
Define your target audience.
Customer segmentation – something that seems to be so easy, yet somehow incredibly challenging to do when developing a new product or service. Being so passionate and driven, it’s possible to fall into the trap of the belief that absolutely everyone would love to have your invention. Having put in hundreds of hours into the development, everyone must be able to see the value that’s being delivered through your offering. This, however, often isn’t the case. No matter how wonderful, innovative, useful and essential the product or service must seem, having a clear customer for it is a must in order to be able to properly sell, market and grow your business.
Talk to as many people as you can.
Sharing your idea and bringing it to the discussion might be an understandably scary thing to do for a number of reasons. However, this is an important step that must be taken in order to solidify and trim down all the unnecessary aspects of your invention. Talking to the experts of the field or even your potential clients may help you bring the idea into more realistic terms.
To sum up, as mentioned earlier, there isn’t one solid plan that will work for everyone. Certain steps will bring you closer to success, while others might hold you back for a while. What is most important though is keeping the true passion for your craft and making sure to utilize your experience for the good.
Yana Basenko is a talented young Ukrainian writer who now lives and works in Finland.