Levent Künzi is Co-Founder and CEO of Properti, a tech-driven real estate company dedicated to modernizing residential real estate in Europe
As a start-up founder, I feel that I have gone through many of the challenges typical for the start-up scene. My proptech, Properti, is now up and running. From the experience of launching my own company, I have learned important lessons from this experience and met many challenges along the way. You might meet many of the same difficulties balancing the needs of your start-up with your own. During your own journey, there are four challenges to meet in order to help your success.
Challenge One: Health
First and foremost, health is a typical challenge for start-up founders. We tend to be so excited and enthusiastic about our ideas that we work tirelessly. Behaviors like always being available on messaging tools such as WhatsApp make matters worse since it gets harder and harder to extricate yourself from being available 24/7.
Many people feel sure that they won’t reach a burn-out or that they will take care of their health without a problem. However, in my experience as a start-up owner, you quickly get overwhelmed. In the beginning, your passion will not necessarily make you realize it, but your health will suffer, as will your work-life balance. Try to make sure from the beginning to be mindful of your own body and mind.
Challenge Two: Passion
Passion is a key ingredient to building a successful start-up. But sometimes, we also have to accept that we as the founders cannot do everything at once. No one has all the skills it takes to run and grow a start-up – and neither do we have the time.
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Therefore, one of my most important recommendations is to analyze the extent and the limitations of expertise. This will be very helpful in building a team of skilled people who are ideally also very passionate about the project. At the same time, they can take over some specific tasks, so that the start-up founder can focus on areas like creativity and vision.
It is always a big challenge to delegate certain tasks. The more passionate you are, the harder you will find it to give away tasks. That is why building a team of selected start-up members or maybe even co-founders is so important.
Challenge Three: People
A start-up founder almost always is a leader and a boss. This means that apart from skills directly related to the business itself, leadership skills are also crucial. One of them is finding the correct personnel. Recruitment processes are time-intensive, but particularly important when starting out with a business.
Therefore, I highly recommend taking the time early on to build a bespoke team. Otherwise, there is a danger for bottlenecks further down the line, which can stall progress, impede the rollout of new products or delay services.
A good, thorough hiring strategy is key here. Of course, it is possible that those recruited turn out not to be a perfect match, but some key hires in strategic positions can make a world of difference.
In my start-up, we also place a lot of value on continuous education and mentoring. Having a mentor is helpful for those starting out with a business, but also for those running one. Many successful entrepreneurs, who do not necessarily have to come from the start-up world themselves, are open to being a mentor – it is just a matter of approaching them!
Once a start-up is up and running, retaining the team is another key concern. By offering to be a mentor and by providing adequate education and interesting opportunities, it is possible to inspire more passion and motivation while creating an attractive working atmosphere. The need for long-term focus on retention shows the challenge of finding the right people is an ongoing one.
Challenge Four: Marketing
Too many start-ups neglect to put resources into marketing and sales. Marketing in particular is crucial when starting a business. It helps to get attention from the target group, attract potential team members and secure a successful product launch.
The challenge here is to recognize the target group and direct marketing efforts at them. Instead of hoping that people will discover you automatically, you should have a structured promotion plan. This includes a good, clear website that is search-engine-optimized, social media and tools to analyze marketing results. Again, I would recommend not be stingy at this stage – invest in professional copy, keyword analyses and a good website.
Challenge Five: Structure
Another challenge for start-up owners is structure. This applies both to personal and professional life and can best be summed up with the famous work-life balance. Since for many start-up owners there is never enough time, it is crucial to have a good structure set up.
I can recommend the following steps to create more structure, resulting in an improved work-life balance:
• Eliminate distraction while working, but also while enjoying time off
• Always focus on what has the most impact – ask yourself what is standing in the way of growth and what can wait until tomorrow?
• Make decisions based on whether they will make the boat go faster
Challenge Six: Growth
Once a business is going well, it is time to think of the next steps. Scaling up requires more than a growing team. Again, the start-up owner is responsible for things like strategizing and prioritizing. Therefore, I recommend always having plans for the next year, the next five years and the next ten years. Don’t be afraid to dream big, but keep in mind your back-up plans.
Before scaling up, having a plan is crucial. You will also need to make sure you have enough funds to implement the plan. Key staff members as well as passionate new colleagues can be incredibly helpful – again, you will have to delegate intelligently.
In the end, it’s crucial that you don’t leave the details for later and find the right people. One of my greatest lessons was learning the art of finding my team. In the end, working with the right people will help you tackle all of the other challenges. You’ll have more time to create a work-life balance, to be mindful about your health and to grow your business.