What Successful Second-Time Founders Do Differently

Feliks Eyser, Medium

  • Drop trial and error for other people’s experience. Most problems are not unique and don’t have to be solved by the founder.

  • Don’t focus on all the small problems. Either ignore or delegate.

  • Raise more money. For companies requiring investment this may be a useful piece of advice, although experienced founders also understand the value of equity.

  • Optimize for speed in fundraising. Time is more valuable than money as it’s the time the founder isn’t working on value-add for the business.

  • Reflect on strategy and work “on” the business. Continuous review of the strategy and the business model are essential and can’t occur on a “set and forget” basis.

  • Recruit professionally. The cost of a hiring mistake is higher (lost momentum) in small companies than in large corporations, so the best investment of time is hiring the right people and letting them do the work.

  • Hire experienced employees in growth mode. First-time founders tend to hire junior and passionate people. In fact, experienced people with domain expertise are essential past the “start” phase, so they should be part of the team, too.

  • Train and coach employees. First-time founders make a hire and hope they will work out. Experienced founders invest in training and adjustment of employees.

  • Manage culture through values. Experienced founders manage culture actively and some of them make the mission/vision/values statements known to their staff.

  • Talk to customers constantly. Experienced founders are not shy of talking to customers and incorporating their feedback.

  • Learn to manage or don’t do it. Traditional leadership theories separate the skillsets of a leader and a manager; if a founder can’t manage (and the management skills don’t come packaged with the vision) – it’s better to hire a professional manager.

  • Put employees first. Staff is #1 priority, as happy employees are more likely to delight customers thus creating long-term value for the business and its investors.

  • Focus on KPIs. Having goals and metrics is better than not having them – up until employees learn to game them. So KPIs are quite a cliché nowadays.

  • Review unit economics constantly. No explanation needed here.

  • Know your business model. Not all business models are investable or can grow 1000% YoY – the source of funds will be different (revenue vs VC funding), capital expenditure decisions will be different and even the product pricing and positioning will be different.

  • Do the managerial basics right. While it’s tempting to implement the new management fads (or apply the lessons from the “People Management 101” MBA course), experienced people replicate the tried-and-true methods from the past with appropriate adjustments. They also focus on bringing the product to market, not on exploring the future of work.

  • Embrace processes and write things down. It’s not bureaucracy for the sake of one, it’s the way for the company to ensure that repeat tasks are not treated as new ones, draining employees’ time with every occurrence.

  • Do less. Not stressing the team with tight deadlines each time and focusing on the important tasks only helps keep the collective sanity and improve teamwork.

  • Relax more. Things will go wrong, but in the end everything’s going to be OK. Most people are replaceable, there’s more than one investor in the world, bugs can be fixed, etc. Nothing demotivates people more than a nervous founder.