Startups and Lessons Learned

In September, 2009, I decided to truly commit to the idea of creating an iPhone App City Guide development company, APPCityLife, Inc. After untold hours of work setting up the business and developing our first iPhone app, APPCityLife, I am finally “a business owner”. I did not go to college to learn how to become a business woman (although I’ve played a reporter who wrote about them). And, in fact, the work I did as a freelance journalist covering businesses helped me find my way through some of the minefields involved in establishing a business.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Nobody – not even your kids or your mom – is as excited about your new business as you are.  Sprinkle the details of your journey to business ownership lightly into conversation as one would cinnamon, not chocolate syrup.

2. A majority of the offers for help you will receive are actually other business owners wanting to make you their newest client of their particular suite of services. Go easy on accepting these offers of help until you know exactly what you need and who is the best in that line of business.

3. If you don’t want to wear 17 different hats throughout the course of the day and work 18-hours days, you should not start your own business.  Clock in and out on someone else’s business and let them wear the multiple-hats and work the crazy hours.  If you don’t complete a task, no one else is there to pick up the slack.

4. Some things are worth paying for the best.  Patent, Trademark and Business attorneys and your accountant are among these things.  Earlier rather than later is always better when it comes to setting up your business and protecting its assets before you even have any assets to protect.

5. The lure of infused capital, either through investors or loans, comes with a multitude of attached strings and obligations.  Make sure you really need the money before you choose that path, because once you’re on it, your future is no longer in your own hands.

6. If something is new, hasn’t been done before, and no one else has thought of it yet, it may mean you have no competitors as you start your business.  But it also means there is no research or statistics to tell you what to do next.  You’re in unchartered territory, and YOU are the one creating statistics for the next guy to know what NOT to do.

7. Some people are just plain nasty.  If you don’t have thick enough skin to hear the legitimate points in a truly hateful complaint, you’re not cut out to be in business for yourself.  And resist the temptation to get down in the mud with your critics.  It may feel good at the moment, but it looks very embarrassing when your words hit the Google search engine with pages upon pages of hits.

8. Your ability to perceive complaints as tools for growth is vital.  Thank clients who take the time to tell you what you did wrong.  (There is no need to tell you to thank the ones who give you praise; that comes quite naturally.)

9. When things look the hardest, the most impossible to succeed, it could be right before the breakthrough that makes it all work.  While it is good to know when to throw in the towel and “stop throwing good money after bad”, successful business owners are not faint of heart. They pursue and believe in their idea, struggling to find a way to success in the face of tremendous odds.

10. There is nothing wrong with switching horses mid-stream.  Yes, you have to find focus and direction in your path to success, and flitting from one flash in the pan to another is a recipe for sure failure, but don’t be so afraid of change that you’re not willing to look at a new idea that has cropped up during the development process.  It may actually be the “big idea” that brings the most reward.

This is a re-print of advice I wrote for writers seeking to establish a writing business, and I’m sharing it again because I think the lessons learned are good for me to read again as I move into the next stage of growing my business.

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About APPCityLife

APPCityLife connects people with cities through a complete end-to-end mobile and cloud platform where cities, developers, civic hackers, nonprofits, schools and enterprise can publish robust mobile apps with seamless Open Data integration. Our platform is powerful enough to support rapid prototyping for experienced coders and developers, but it is also easily accessible to those without any previous coding experience; we empower individuals to create solutions and build mobile apps which address challenges they see within their own community.
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