As a founder, it’s easy to get lost in the everyday decisions—big and small—that consume your waking hours. Sometimes it can feel like you’re in uncharted terrain, finding your own way. But when you take a step back, you may find that you're not alone. Many founders face the same challenges, and many have emerged stronger on the other side.
Peruse these hard-earned lessons from several founders who've been there.
Successful startups often have a singular mission that guides every decision. But as your company grows, the market changes and new opportunities arise, your North Star can get lost in the clouds. When this happens, it’s even more important to stay true to your core focus and keep your long-term goals in your sights even through the distractions.
"Even if your resources are growing—whether that's through financing or your business accelerating—that in itself has additional areas and problems to tackle. Focus on the core things to move your business forward. It's about not only knowing who you are, but who you are not.”
— Michelle Davey, CEO of Wheel
You’re making many decisions every day as you grow your company and team. It can be tempting to make choices that solve problems today but don’t consider thornier issues down the road. Approach decisions as good chess players do: always think multiple moves ahead.
"When you go into a rapid-growth moment, all the decisions you've made led up to that moment. Every short-term decision that you made is like a debt, and that debt comes due when you want to grow fast. All those things create a bottleneck and complexity when you're trying to scale."
— Chris Kiple, CEO of Ventec Life Systems
From day one, the key to success usually lies in the quality of your product or service. Build a strong foundation and tailor your solution to customers’ needs and challenges. Once you do that, you open possibilities to expand, diversify and grow.
"For us to be able to build the best boots on the market, we had to know everything we possibly could. We invested a lot of time early on in spending time with our factories and tanneries to make sure we understood not just how the product was made, but the components that go into it—testing different things. That's all part of growing and becoming the best company you can be."
— Conor Wilson, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Thursday Boot Company
In the whirlwind of investor meetings, operational decisions and press coverage, it can be easy to lose sight of your most important audience: your customers. Without them, your startup could be short-lived. Always come back to your customers’ needs.
“I think getting in front of your customer is incredibly important to new product development, listening so that you can be everything that they want from you as a brand.”
— Ariane Goldman, Founder and CEO of HATCH Collection
Why does your company exist? As a founder, the answer is always top of mind. It’s why you get up every morning. You are the keeper of the company mission, but it’s also your job to ensure that your team can see it and pursue it with the same passion that you do.
“As a founder, co-founder or CEO, your role continuously evolves. In the early days, I was still in the weeds. One of my core responsibilities now is unblocking my team. How can I remove barriers so they can keep running at the goals? That's been an evolution; now I'm trying to lead the team to build the business."
— Michelle Davey, CEO of Wheel
Your partners will help define the future of your startup, from hiring a team to bringing on advisors. The relationships you build today will help prepare you for tomorrow—after all, you may need to lean on them as challenges and opportunities arise. Be sure your partners are aligned to your company’s mission and can scale as you grow.
“Choosing your partners wisely is super important. For me, it was J.P. Morgan, our investors and my co-founder, Troy Demmer. The success of Gecko is not two people. It's a bunch of extremely talented people working together."
— Jake Loosararian, Co-Founder and CEO/CTO of Gecko Robotics
There are lessons you can use to improve yourself, your team, your product and your company, but there’s no singular playbook for success. Advisors and peers can share insights, but it’s up to you and your team to pave your own way.
“We've flourished with the people we've connected with and the resources we've been able to draw from. Stay connected, reach out, have good relationships with people, communicate well. That's been part of our growth."
— Dave Whalen, Co-Founder of ZEPHYRx
For more expert insights from other founders and J.P. Morgan, visit JPMorgan.com/startups.
Innovators need a bank that’s seen it all. J.P. Morgan can unleash a startup’s potential at every stage of growth—from pre-profit to IPO—with simple solutions that can scale in a heartbeat. With our unparalleled expertise and world-class network, we’re the only bank a startup will ever need.