WHEN IN DOUBT RETURN TO YOUR FOUNDING PRINCIPLES
There will be many junctures where you have to make pivotal choices. If it's going well, these opportunities and thus questions will increase.
Entrepreneurs are used to be rejected. They're used to pushing. It's hard to say no. But you can't do it all.
You must be plastic and adaptable, but you mustn't confuse your brand offering, go off on tangents that distract and stress your staff, or spend months distracted on peripheral strategies that distract from your core.
When in doubt, think what you created the company to be. Return to that.
To help, these were my founding principles, drawn up in 2010, 2 years before launched:
Vulpine make high-quality urban cycling clothing, hiding technical performance within classic styles, for men and women.
The business will grow the brand and revenue for the best possible exit by trade sale after 5 years.
We need to quickly become and maintain our status as the world's leading urban cycling clothing brand.
We are an ecommerce only company, selling direct to consumers.
We are an inclusive and friendly brand. We want make cycling more welcoming.
We take our work very seriously, but not ourselves.
We will be passionate and opinionated, but positive. We will be real and authentic, not fake, or over-sanitised.
Our creative standards, particularly in imagery, must be outstanding.
Our P.R., marketing and brand building strategies must shake things up and be different. We must always aim to stand out and get attention. In a nice way.
We do not do trade or consumer shows, but instead create our own events.
Our customer service must be outstanding.
We only hire those who love cycling..
Looking back this is really interesting, because what Vulpine was so successful at was when we concentrated on the above. We were poor when we went off piste.
We did experiment with the big trade shows, which failed. We did start doing wholesale, and this was initially successful, but quickly went wrong.
But, we hired people who weren't interested in cycling and they were great (we managed to convert them later!). It was a silly rule, looking back.
From all these mistakes we learned so much. By year 5 I felt we had really nailed the formula.
Save yourself some heartache (though you'll make other mistakes, that's natural), and stick to your founding principles. Keep to that road. Only grab new opportunities that augment those principles.
You will still make mistakes though. That is as constant in life as any business. Just make sure you learn from them.