There’s so much great advice out there on how to start a business, but you never really know what’s real until you do it. I not only dove in head first, but I also did so with my mother, Katherine Eskandanian-Yee.
Together, we learned real-life lessons in entrepreneurship by starting our company, LeaderEQ. The entire process of developing our business idea to launching and growing the company has taught us some valuable insights to share with other entrepreneurs.
Identify gaps in your market
A new business idea doesn’t have to be something completely new and groundbreaking. In fact, some of the best business ideas come from a market that you’re already familiar with, or by building upon a product or service that is already being provided; but one that could use some innovation.
For example, before we founded LeaderEQ, my mother, Katherine, was already in the human capital space, and we were running a recruiting agency. In running this agency, we both came to realize that we wanted to have a deeper and more ongoing involvement in our clients’ organizations. We wanted to help them through transitions and provide longer-term support and solutions through their careers.
In a way, we were not reinventing the wheel or doing something that was totally different to us; we already had expertise and relationships in this field. But we wanted to go deeper into solving a particular problem and filling a gap in the market. That’s where so many great entrepreneurship opportunities can emerge.
Build upon your strengths and find a partner to compliment your weaknesses
We built our new business by going deeper into what we already knew, and by building upon our existing strengths. Every entrepreneur has strengths and weaknesses and different preferred styles of work and leadership. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
For example, our company is dedicated to providing a high-touch service throughout the process of working with our clients. We want to create a culture of empathy and continuous learning, which is reflected in the way we work with our internal team and the way we engage with clients. All of these are trademarks of our business.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to have self-awareness about their strengths, as well as preferred work styles, and to find partners and colleagues who can complement their weaknesses.
For example, let’s say a company founder excels at product design or technology, but is less confident in building relationships with clients or being the public face of the company. In that case, they might need to find a great partner to serve as the Chief Marketing Officer or COO who can sell the vision to investors and customers.
In another case, one entrepreneur might be great at articulating a strategic vision and might have a powerful sense of mission for what they want the company to be, but they might need help in developing the technical aspects of the product.
Work with trustworthy and inspiring people
There’s an old saying to “choose your friends wisely,” and this is especially important when choosing your business partners, hiring employees and navigating your professional relationships.
At LeaderEQ, we have a special advantage. Since we are a mother-daughter team, we obviously have a high level of trust and understanding between one another. Try to work with people who light a fire under you: find talented, passionate, inspiring people who also have the highest standards of ethics and integrity.
Learning how to hire new people and deciding who to trust can be difficult for new company founders, especially in fast-growing businesses that need to scale quickly. Not every new hire will work out, and not every business partner will be the right fit. But if you stick to your values and vision for what kind of people you want in your organization, you will be more likely to succeed.
Face your fears, transcend your boundaries
My mother and I are startup founders in a field (AI-driven technology) in which women are often underrepresented or have faced systemic barriers to entry. As women, we feel that it is essential to embrace the possibilities of this moment and overcome any fears or limiting beliefs. We want to see more women and people from underrepresented groups succeeding in entrepreneurship, and we want to see more women becoming engineers and tech startup founders.
Believe in your mission, operate your business according to your sense of mission and the spirit of your values. It’s fine to have some fear, but you don’t have to let it rule you: just acknowledge the fear and push through it.
Feature image courtesy of Chessa and Katherine Eskandanian-Yee