“What advice do you wish you could give to your younger self?”
That’s one of the questions I find myself asked most often in interviews.
As the co-founder and COO of a fintech startup, trying to envision the future takes up most of my day. However, the forecasts I make and the actions I take to ensure the continued success of my company are firmly rooted in past experiences — both good and bad.
So what advice would I give to a younger John Tyrrell who’s just starting out? Well, it might go a little something like this…
You’re in a secure job with a large multinational company and the world of startups seems like a fickle and terrifying place. But moving into that fickle and scary world will be the most exciting and invigorating thing that you ever do.
You have an idea for a business. You truly believe that it will work. It’s an incredibly intimidating thought to put that plan into action, however.
Don’t get me wrong. Once you eventually make that move, you will be busier than you have ever been before in your life. It will be far more enjoyable though.
Make the decision to do something you love and you’ll never, ever look back.
Pay yourself first.
Pay yourself first… what does that mean?
Well, what it doesn’t mean is that, as the co-founder of a new company, you should look after your own paycheck ahead of anybody else’s!
What it does mean is that you should plan carefully for the future with your own finances.
When you first start out in the working world, every paycheck earned seems like a gift from the heavens. You’re not used to having so much money dropped into your account at the end of every month and it feels good.
Spare a thought for me though — your future self. Make sure that, along with all the other stuff you splash out on, you pay me too.
Every single dollar you earn is an investment opportunity. You’ve worked hard for this money so it should repay the favour in kind. Before you make a significant purchase, ask yourself, “Is this the best investment I can make with this money right now? Is this purchase worth the time I spent in earning it?”
If the answer is (honestly) yes, go ahead and spend. If it’s a no, however, put the money back in your pocket as an investment for the future you.
Actually, take it back out of the pocket and put it into a well-balanced and diversified investment portfolio. That way, not only will it be there for you in the future, but there probably will be a lot more of it.
Filter, don’t ignore.
Every single day, there will be a massive amount of content thrown at you. Under such a deluge of information, it’s hard to figure out which information is actually useful.
Take every opportunity given to you to consume content that will bring you further on, but don’t ignore alternative points of view. View everything with a healthy degree of skepticism and learn to filter the good from the bad.
A crucial part of this filtering process is teaching yourself to not make blind judgements. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of using raw data to lead you to conclusions. Remember, correlation does not imply causation.
Take the time needed to fully comprehend the behaviors and drivers behind what people do in order to fully understand them. In the business world, that’s the only way to understand your customers.
Appreciate the power of culture.
Focus on the culture of everything you get involved in. It doesn’t matter if it’s your fledgling business or local football team — great culture finds great people.
This is so important. If you have a clear and consistent culture in your startup, pretty much everything else will benefit. Your customer retention will improve, engagement will be high, and motivation amongst the team working with you will be off the scale.
Surround yourself with great people. Otherwise, it simply won’t work.
Fix problems now.
And by now, I mean right now!
This one is simple… don’t allow things to fester. It could be a dodgy piece of code or a cultural blindspot within the company, but if something is wrong and you just ignore it, it will always come back to bite you.
If something feels wrong, call it out and fix it.
Put the user first.
“You’ve got to start with the customerexperience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” — Steve Jobs
Long ago, they used to say ‘the customer is always right.’ Anyone who has ever worked in the services industry might beg to differ, so let’s make this a bit more accurate:
‘The customer experience should always be right.’
User experience is unquestionably the most important consideration in the tech industry, so set it as your benchmark. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of businesses develop a product, build it, and sell it. Only then do they say, “How do I make this user-friendly?”
That’s the wrong way around.
To make sure your customers are having the best experience possible, don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and host regular feedback discussions. If they love your product, they’ll more than likely be happy to help out in any way they can.
Remember, the customers are the ones actually using your product regularly. They want it to succeed almost as much as you do.
We’re all products of our experiences, and as such, MyWallSt is nothing more than an experience company.
I can’t go back in time to tell my younger self all of the things that I’ve learned, but that’s ok. The only reason I actually learned any of those lessons in the first place is because I was free to go through life and make some mistakes.
All of our decisions in life are based on our own past experiences. The same should be true of the business world. No matter what industry you work in, make sure you let experience lead the product.
I know for a fact that I’ll take more missteps throughout my professional life. I might even feel compelled to write another blog in thirty years time to my thirty-something year old self.
Until then, I’ll use every experience—both good and bad—as an opportunity to learn more about my business and myself.