by Tim Jahn on January 30, 2012
It’s been just over a year since my co-founder Stella and I started Entrepreneurs Unpluggd. We’ve grown a ton over the past year as individuals, as a team, and as entrepreneurs. We’ve grown a great community along the way and learned a ton about business.
Through it all, there are 3 lessons learned that really stick out to me.
1. Get a co-founder.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a co-founder. I’ve tried the solo route and it’s not for me. Instead, having a co-founder has been invaluable.
When you have a co-founder, there’s always somebody to bounce ideas off of, somebody that’s as invested in the company as you are and is as excited about it all as you are. There’s always somebody to solve problems with, to work on sponsorship sales with, to get frustrated about the payroll paperwork with, to freak out about ticket sales with, and to share the roller coaster ride with.
They’re also your checks and balances. When a new product is created or a new direction for the company is decided, it’s not just you saying “alrighty, let’s do it” and potentially falling off the cliff. Your co-founder is there to say “hey, wait a sec, let me take a second look.”
You need that second opinion, that extra brain, and the second set of experience. It’s truly invaluable.
2. Try everything; you’ll learn from what doesn’t work.
Over the past year, we’ve tried a lot of things and learned from each.
We tried having 5 speakers at our first event. They were all amazing and helped us get off to a running start. But we realized after that maybe 5 speakers is too many for an evening event. So next time, we tried 3. That felt much better and is part of our current format.
We tried letting speakers use PowerPoint slides during their time on stage. But it just didn’t feel right. That sort of distraction seemed to detract from the experience we were trying to create. So next time, we said no PowerPoints. That felt much better and is part of our current format.
We tried putting on an event in Indianapolis. We booked a venue, looked for speakers, talked to the community a ton, but it just didn’t happen in time. In terms of putting on an event in Indianapolis, we failed. But we learned a ton about what it takes to put on an event outside our home city of Chicago. I don’t regret trying Indianapolis that early on at all.
If you don’t simply go out and try it, you’ll never learn from it. Don’t be afraid to try.
3. Always ask for customer feedback.
For example, early on, we didn’t worry as much about ensuring speakers left enough time for Q+A at the end of their time on stage. Feedback from our attendees told us that they actually loved the Q+A sessions and would love if those were longer. So for the next event, we encouraged our speakers to leave more time at the end for Q+A. Follow up surveys showed that our attendees appreciated that and it was one of their favorite parts of our events.
Customer feedback is sort of like having a third co-founder. Like your co-founder, your customers help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. And you have nothing to lose from asking your customers for feedback. Just a ton to gain.