17 Responsibilities Of Non-Technical Founders In A Startup And My Advice

Are you a tech entrepreneur, but not a coder? Neither am I. Here is what I have learned about my role as a founder in tech startups for more than 15 years.

There is no such thing as being the idea person in a startup. Idea generation is not a role. Great … [+] entrepreneurs can take an OK idea and turn it into a successful venture. Here are 17 roles non-technical founders are responsible for in an early-stage startup.

Source: 17 Responsibilities Of Non-Technical Founders In A Startup

It is interesting really, we tend to forget that a startup is a young company, too. A vast variety of roles are needed to make a company really work. Now, not every founder is the same and thankfully, we do not all have the exact same repertoire of tools that make us who we are.

If there is one key thing I’ve learned over the past 15 years of entrepreneurship, is that it takes a collective of different people and skills to make a startup, or any project for that matter, work.

Should tech entrepreneurs take the spotlight?

It is sexy to be an absolute crack at your work, be as much of a nerd as possible. Because, the common belief is that tech skills are the ones that can change the world.

However, some of the most brilliant founders, like Jack Ma or Marc Benioff, do not have coding skills of their own. A great founder can be someone with a clear vision of the future, a marketeer or simply someone who is excellent at executing.

These founders do need to understand their role within the organization. A non-technical founder, needs to supply its team with resources, ideas and make sure the tech teams can do their job. Those who “get it,” are the ones that tend to do best.

Why do teams fail?

Interestingly enough, most young startup founders fail. They do not fail because the product was poor, but mostly because everything around the product got the best of them. It all starts with an idea that turns into something tangible. Sometimes even a beautiful first product.

Yet, the failing starts when tech entrepreneurs do not manage to turn their products and ideas into viable businesses.

It is:

  • A lot of work to run a company.
  • Time onsuming to manage a business.
  • And it takes a team to run a company.
  • You cannot do everything yourself.
  • Not a single person in the world has all the skills, required to single-handedly run a company.

Message to an aspiring founder

I have founded a number of tech companies, but I am not the best programmer in the world. My strength is translating tech developments into marketable products and using online marketing to bring it to market.

Hence, I know that when I want to bring a new product to market, I need strategic partners. These can be partnerships, or co-founders. It is key to know and acknowledge your own role within a startup. That way, you can find the support that you need to make it work.

Raise money to put a good team together, not just develop your product.

Furthermore, I have learned that I need partners around me I can rely on. Especially when it comes to IT development, and administrative work (finance and accounting). When founding GANDT Ventures, I didn’t make the same mistakes I made 10 years ago. The foundation is stronger. Nearly 5 years in, our growth rates continue to be in the double digits.

I firmly believe, that is due to the fact that I know what kind of a founder I am; what I can contribute and bring to the team. Have a look at the roles in the article above. Determine your strength and understand who you are. It will help you be more successful in the future.

Active Recovery Is Not For Entrepreneurs

Any sportsman or woman will know the concept of active recovery. You lower the intensity of your training significantly, after a prolonged period of heavy duty training, to recover from the work you‘ve done. These training sessions can be a pain, but also a blessing; they remind you that you do not need to push your body to its limits every single time.

I generally train this way as well. I do two-three days of heavy exercise and then take an active recovery day. Go for a walk, bike slowly, stretch. To a certain extend, I apply the same logic to my work. After an intense period of „brain exercise,“ I try to take a step back and simply do less.

Doing less to me, means getting up a little later than usual – check my mails irregularly and only respond to requests instead of pushing for improvements all-the-time. I used to think that a bit of digital downtime as a means of „active recovery“ would do the trick, beautifully.

Yet, last week I took a number of full days off and it might have been the best thing I‘ve done for myself in a very long time.

Our brain needs to disconnect sometimes

I have a constant knack for improvement and change. It is appalling really, I find it really hard to do and/or say nothing at all when I feel things could be done differently or better.

The curse of the perfectionist, combined with the fear that nothing lasts forever and business can change as much as the weather does – a great recipe for an entrepreneurial mindset, but a disaster on my mental health.

It is so important to simply „let things happen“ from time to time. Last week, I took a full week off. I didn‘t look at my emails, I didn‘t set up any client meetings, nor did I feedback the work of my colleagues. Just to disconnect from my day to day operations entirely.

It turns out, I really needed that.

A bit of stand-up paddling can work wonders

Fact of the matter, I feel so much better

Okay, I must admit, I did not last a full week without my phone or tablet. However, I did not check my messages every hour, nor did I request anyone to update me on the current state of affairs.

It took me a while to get into it, but after about three days, I felt liberated. The world hadn‘t stopped, things were still moving forward – not the way I would want it to, but honestly who cares?

It made me aware of the fact that I need to let go more. Even-though I did notice that „things“ moved significantly slower than without my input (ehm, or best to say without me telling „everyone“ what to do next), we as a team did more than alright. Each and every team member took responsibility for their tasks and most went a whole week without reaching out to me.

We are far from done yet, but I feel as though we‘ve made a stride in the right direction as an organization. Furthermore, it gave me a feeling of liberation; we are doing just fine. Yet, it also made me realize, I need to take care of myself better. Active recovery is not the same as a mental break, away from everything.

I needed a holiday and I‘m glad I took it. I feel great, full of energy and ready to make things happen. Have a great start to your week and don‘t forget to take a break from time to time as well! #mentalhealth #entrepreneur #vacation

Entrepreneurial Thought: My Perception Of Time

One of the things I struggle with most as an entrepreneur, is to acknowledge that my perception of time is different from everyone around me.

It is hard to focus on one thing for a full day. There are so many things that keep me busy. Things that preoccupy my thoughts and drive my actions.

My train of thought is unendless, I want to get on board today, not miss a single opportunity, build the road ahead and know what my destination will be at the end of the journey; needless to say, an impossible task for any single human being. Yet, I cannot really help myself.

My thoughts are what they are. I want to move forward, build the future and dictate the general direction, intrinsically.

It is my own perception of time that I often times struggle with. The constant need for speed, wanting to know where I am heading and making sure that everyone is on board. I believe our perception of time drives our actions. And it is this sense of time, that is intrinsically different for various people and stakeholders in the life I lead.

Employees

My team members‘ (employees‘) time horizons are nice and long. Their personal goals shift as they are with the company longer; become a part of the organization.

It starts with the simple need to „make it passed“ the probation period; an important milestone for most. New team members need to prove themselves to their peers. The actions they take in the first initial months, are an important indication of how they will perform in the long run. Even-though I personally do not feel highly of probation periods, they are an important part of the employee life-cycle.

It is a challenge for me to recognize their needs on time and understand what it is each individual wants to achieve, next.

After teamies have become an integral part of the group, their goals change to gain the next position within the company; regardless of whether or not they want to move up or horizontally within the organization, the employees generally think in roles. Let‘s say they „know“ it will generally take them three years to reach the next level within the organization, they will work toward that goal.

You could argue that bonus payments are time goals too, but I believe an employee hardly ever changes their time / personal plans based on short term monetary goals. It is the perspective that counts. They don‘t think in days or weeks, but half-years and possibly years at the very least.

Clients

My clients have mid term goals. 9 out of 10 customers need to achieve something within the next few quarters; show traction and promising developments.

They usually know where they would like to be in a couple of years, but not necessarily what the short term future looks like. The clients I work with, are always in a hurry, but it does not truly hurt them to not finish something this week – or next month.

The time horizon of larger companies generally fits my perception of time, too. Yet, the speed of execution is different and most importantly, the attention to detail of the steps in between. Corporate clients know where they want to be 5-10 years from now, but they hardly ever know what the stops are they need to take in between and how to build the most efficient road to get there.

What is challenging, employees and teams in larger companies, hardly ever really feel time time pressure. When a deadline is missed, you set another one. As an entrepreneur, I do not have that luxury. Missing a deadline could be fatal to our cashflow and/or a huge blow to our (still very young) reputation.

Me

My time horizon is incredibly short and ridiculously long at the same time. I am regularly torn between the need to provide for the team, tomorrow and the thought of my long term legacy, 10 to 20 years from now.

I want to create an organization and a company that will last. I will create a foundation for others to build on; significantly larger than me and my vision of the „near“ future.

So, how do I combine all of these different time lines and expectations as an entrepreneur?

I can’t. I need to recognize that they are there, try to understand the complex nature of time and learn to work on expectation at all times. But, I cannot change the fact that my perception of time is different from that of everybody else.

Train of thought

Time is the one thing that is not on my side. I feel this is the single biggest challenge I have as an entrepreneur.

I need to make things happen to be relevant.

By relevant I mean „market relevant,“ fast enough to tailor to the current market needs, those of my clients and more importantly, the team around me. I know that as an entrepreneur, time is never on my side.

There is just one way to move forward, ride the train of time.

However, I have the ambition to be in the first carriage, and ideally become the driver of that train. I need to determine the pace, have a clear view of the road ahead and lead by example and leave no one behind. Everyone on my train of thought must understand the direction we are taking and why we are in this together.

Never too late

Those in the last train carriage, will travel at the same speed as the ones in the front, even if they feel the information on where we stand today, reaches them last. I have learned that I am not afraid to arrive late at my destination, simply because my time goal is far faster than that of most others.

However, I am afraid of missing the train altogether, and not communicating enough whilst on the train to keep everyone happy, enjoy the ride. Time is not on our side, but we must get on board and enjoy the ride.

Thoughts on: How to use word of mouth effectively to fuel B2B sales

B2B sales are not very easy to come by. It takes a lot of effort to work your way into the minds and hearts of a company and to promote your products. Therefore, it is important to come up with strategies that help you promote your B2B business effectively.

I have elaborated on some of the strategies and my thoughts on word-of-mouth marketing for B2B businesses in the short podcast below. If you would like to dive deeper into this subject or have some great ideas on how to do and promote B2B sales, leave your answers in the comments section below or reach out to me directly.

Podcast: Word-of-mouth B2B marketing

How to promote B2B products and services through word of mouth

Summary: Quite possibly the strongest asset a B2B salesman can have for his product or services is word-of-mouth “marketing”.

The reason I call it “Marketing” is that you CAN and should take a systematic approach to promoting word of mouth. Yet, this is something many sales reps tend to forget. The rely heavily on their own personal network (alone) for B2B sales.

When you are in B2B sales, you need to make sure that others speak about your services and products. As a salesman, you will want to extend your communication network to as many people as possible, promoting your product and services.

Why not start with your employees and colleagues in your organization?

Brand advocates from your own organization can help promote your products and services tremendously. Especially when it comes to B2B-sales, be sure to share your work. Give your colleagues a reason to be proud of working at your organization. Each and every single individual in your company can be that sales person you dream of.

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