It’s fun to go to parties and conferences as a young, successful founder, especially here in Miami. I get it. I’ve been there.
But as someone who was fortunate enough to build several businesses and successfully exit, it’s important not to get carried away by the excitement and bright lights. As an entrepreneur building a SaaS company, I had no time to go to events and drink and BS all day. I was nose deep in code, putting out fires, taking sales calls, and trying to hire the right people to take my business to the next level.
As a VC, I know I wouldn’t be thrilled to see one of my founders popping bottles instead of getting down to business. Well, maybe if I invested in an alcohol company, but that’s about it.
I can think of at least five things that are a much better use of a founder’s time.
1. Calling a Customer
How often are you talking to your customers? However often it is, do it more. Speaking with your customers does a few things:
- It shows that you care and that you’re looking to improve their experience.
- It gives them insight into how you’re thinking about further building the product and the ability to ask you to address certain pain points.
- It gives your company and brand a more personal voice and touch. This is incredibly important, especially during the early-stage phase, where your brand and your company’s brand are usually the same.
2. Researching your Competition
If you are an early-stage business and you haven’t spent enough time researching your competition, that is a huge miss. You can learn a lot from the competition, which will help shape your approach to building the product. Take an honest look at your competitors, and ask these questions:
- Is their product live? If not, are there any teasers of it out there?
- Who are their customers?
- What are they doing right?
- Where are they advertising?
- What features do they have that you didn’t even think about?
3. Finding Product Champions
I have news for you: If you don’t find an individual to champion your SaaS product within an organization, it’s going to be very difficult for you to sign them on as a customer. Your product champion will go to bat for you and your startup and that’s something that’s invaluable—and can be the deciding factor in bringing transformative clients on board. You believe in your product. You need to make sure your biggest fans are fully bought in, too.
4. Making Sales Calls
Sales calls definitely aren’t as fun as partying it up at E11EVEN in Miami, but you know what is? Making money. The more sales calls you make the better you’ll get, the better you get the more you’ll close, and the more you close the faster you can create a repeatable sales process and scale. The club can wait. Your business can’t. After all, how are you going to pay for those tables if your business isn’t making sales?
5. Putting Out Fires
Nobody likes fires, but they happen and need to be extinguished before they get out of hand. One thing I realized as a founder was that the faster I could put out a fire (or at the very least get it to a slow burn), the faster I could get back to building. Some fires are bigger than others and as a founder it’s important to recognize which fires need that extra time and care to make sure they won’t reignite.
Although it might sound cliche, all of these tips come from the same, tried and true formula for startup success: doing the hard work when it’s much easier not to. But it’s much more fun to play hard when you’ve handled your business first.
Shane Neman is a Miami-based entrepreneur, investor, and venture capitalist who founded and successfully exited from SaaS and other industries.