Keep communication lines open with your team and outsourced services!
And more advice from Kaylin Marcotte, Founder of Jiggy. Kaylin was the first employee at theSkimm and a brand & marketing strategist for startups before founding Jiggy. Jiggy is a direct-to-consumer puzzle company that's reinventing the humble jigsaw puzzle. Featuring art by emerging female artists, sustainable and elevated packaging, and specially formulated puzzle glue. JIGGY puzzles are art - in pieces.
1.You Can't Do Everything Yourself!
Being too slow to hire was my mistake number one. I was going a mile a minute and didn't have time to do a whole interview process. Two, there's the perfectionist thing and dignity in doing it all. I was the first employee at The Skimm for the last ten years. There is kind of hustle culture of if you're not suffering, you don't even deserve it. It's a whole kind of hustle porn. I felt inside I could do everything because if I was not using every minute, then I was not even a real founder. And I was too slow to hire and get help. I see it much differently now. I'm three years in, and that was the turning point. Things were slipping through the cracks. I learned I could not juggle and handle it all.
For better or worse, once I realized that the impact was not on me because I could suffer in silence as long as I needed, but it was actually on the business. The reframe was this was no longer doing right by the company to do everything myself. I was the bottleneck; I was the limiting factor. So it wasn't just I needed more balance and less burnout in my mental health. But, actually, it was the best business decision. Now I had to think about who is the first hire. What was the first thing I needed help with? I needed help managing our system and all the day-to-day operations. That took a lot off my plate. That whole mentality of I need to be the person doing everything doesn't work. As the business grows, you need to hire and get help.
2.Don't take advice from others at different stages in their businesses!
Stop listening to friends who are in vastly different stages of their businesses. Being in New York for so long, I have been networking with friends and peers who are founders. Most are venture-backed. Listening to friends with 75 employees in their series B was not helpful. This information skewed my benchmark of what is appropriate for venture back compared to what I am, which is self-funded and cash-flow driven. So the margin for error for trying an influencer campaign for $30,000 or new content to make a video for $30,000 isn't every dollar spent is a dollar to get out of the business. I tried not to keep up with the Joneses. I was at dinner with Series B companies, not two-year-old bootstrapped, two-person companies. Be mindful of where everyone's coming from regarding their stage and business goals. If you want to scale, talk to people a couple of steps or stages ahead of you, but bring it back into focus of where you're currently at with your company.
I'm finding more of a community of founders doing a different path and either self-funding or running lifestyle businesses for years. The Shark Tank community (see Kaylin's Shark Tank Pitch) hosts a Facebook group whether they take the deal or not. Many of us are still there because the selected companies are pretty narrow with the consumer space in a similar revenue range, and many of them have not been big around too long. Those are the people who understand where you're at and have that shared experience. So the Shark Tank alum community is building more of a network of bootstrapping founders in the same size and space.
3.Keep communication lines open with your team and outsourced services.
Keep a direct line of communication, and don't be too slow to hire or outsource. Ask for weekly snippets from your team, highlight what feedback you're getting. Keep open direct lines so that you, as the founder, understand what is happening in your company. A couple of the products that we ended up developing were a direct response to what we were hearing on email and social media. And so while now our customer service employee can answer those, it's important for me to understand, for example, that we learned we should include puzzle glue so you can frame the puzzles. The customer experience and being very true to your brand and maintaining that is important. But, it is also valuable for new ideas or new extensions or new product lines. Keep that direct line of communication.
4. Don't expect your service providers to work completely independently from your company.
Understand that any outsourced service provider, for the most part, will only be as productive as you can be a partner to them. You might think that some new marketing or SEO agency can take the account and run with it. But, you will still need to work and partner with these agencies, even if they are good. Getting them all the material, sending questions, and reviewing your dashboard, are key to a more successful partnership. I think being super clear on what the needs are and not getting swept up by shiny offerings is key. It will still depend on your capacity to be a partner to these external parties. I'm on my third performance marketer, and I'm treating them differently. The switch for me was not seeing these service providers or agencies as a full replacement for my time, but as an extension.