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A Founder’s Manifesto

The new year, above all, comes with hope and promise of a new beginning. It offers an opportunity to turn a new page and start over anew. 

Traditionally, people begin with writing new year resolutions. Of course, hardly a few manage to keep them. The resolve often dies out before the second week of the new year. But in the spirit of a new beginning and optimism, here are Future Startup’s eight suggestions for founders to ensure an excellent run in 2020. 

These suggestions essentially don’t make overnight success possible. They, however, are likely to improve your chance of moving forward. 

1. Build systems: Startups are designed to be fast-paced organizations. This is a good thing. Which is not good for these organizations is that many founders consider systems slow organizations down. Rather the opposite. Good systems, unlike bureaucracy, tend to speed things up. Smoothen up the rough patches. Ensures continuity despite necessary changes. Produce consistently. As organizations grow, systems are essential for both scale and speed. It will pay if founders spend some time in designing systems that generate. 

2. Prioritize revenue: If you have raised money from external investors of late, this is even more important for you. Earn your own money. Good businesses are self-sustainable. It is always better if you can build an operation that does not need external funding to survive. Moreover, the overall funding environment remains sluggish in Bangladesh. Focus on accelerating your revenue generation efforts and diversify your revenue streams and get rid of unnecessary expenses. 

3. Build an efficient organization: 80% of Bangladeshi organizations operate suboptimally. You have two persons for doing a task that one person can do. This happens with startups when they raise money. With money comes optimism and a willingness to spend. Control that feeling. Find out pockets of inefficiency in your systems and address them. Often, you will find that you can do more than what you are already doing with the resources that you already have. Plan better. Be ruthless when it comes to optimization. 

4. You are what you do: Companies are a reflection of their founders. If you work hard, come on time, detail-oriented, customer-focused, respectful to others and empower people, your people will do the same. If you belittle people, don’t take responsibility for your shit, that is what everyone at your organization will do. Be mindful of your actions. Lead by example. What you do is your culture. 

5. Don’t run out of money: Startups die because they run out of money. Always be mindful of your expenses. Frugality is a virtue. Hire an accountant. If you can’t afford one, take that responsibility on your shoulder. How much you have in the bank, where your money is going and how much money is coming in, you should always have this information on top of your mind. 

6.  Invest all your time building your company: Many startup founders spend an unnecessary amount of time building a public image and running after transient fame. Don’t be tempted by speaking gig, social media stardom. It is not only that you have to invest time in building stardom of any kind, but you will also have to allocate even more time to maintaining it. Do the hard work. Maintain a low key strategy and spend all the time that you have in building and growing your company. Remember that building a company is tough. It would take everything that you have got. 

7. Give time to your people: Listen to your people. Share your ideas and vision with them. Do it often and regularly. Spending time with your people will allow you to better understand them, groom some of them to become leaders at your organization, and building a better culture. People feel empowered when their founders pay attention to them. 

8. Don’t be mean: Paul Graham of Y Combinator famously said, “mean people fail”. Don’t be mean to others. Don’t look down and belittle people. Be nice to people. Often you don’t know probably someone you don’t care about today will be your biggest ally in the future. It does not cost anything to be good to people but the upside of being nice is huge. 

Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based writer, researcher, and entrepreneur. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and the author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about entrepreneurship, business, strategy, technology, and culture. He can be reached at [email protected]

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