Jane Lu is the Founder of Showpo, one of Australia’s most recent online success stories with over 370,000 Instagram followers, over 400,000 Facebook fans, and having recently celebrated their first $1 million dollar month in sales. Jane was kind enough to share some of the tips she’s learned along the way.
Enjoy Jane’s take on the ‘Top 10 Things That Entrepreneurs Should STOP Doing!’
Now please, take everything I say with a grain of salt! I am, admittedly, a bit of an idiot, so please apply with discretion and/or common sense!
It’s a bit wanky, but I admit I’ve done this too. Despite the annoying glare on your laptop screen, the background noise of hipster yarn and the uncertainty of leaving your laptop during a bathroom break, everyone loves working in a café as part of their “I’m now an entrepreneur” journey. And of course, it’s not complete without showing off to your friends on Facebook first (hoping they see it during their lunch break as they make a brief escape from their cubicle).
So I don’t want to turn you off but don’t be mistaken. Don’t think being an entrepreneur means you’re finally free (for the first few years at least). It means hard work, stress, anxiety, manual labour and isolation. Don’t get lost in the romantic side of it. Shit only got real when I was slaving away in a dimly lit garage and hustling in a shopping centre kiosk.
(Ironically, this may be where you start to fantasise about working in that CBD high-rise with your friends whilst enjoying company supplied cookies.)
Girls, there’s 3 lifestyle changes that typically lead to mass weight gain:
1. A relationship.
2. Travelling abroad (yep, I gained 13kg in 5 months when living in Sweden. And yes I do have pics and witnesses!)
3. Starting a business.
There’s no better instant gratification than making a tasting platter by heating up all the leftovers in your fridge. Especially when you’re in the “working from home” phase of the startup journey! When you’re having a slow and unproductive day – you need to be wary of over-snacking!
8. Lower your expectations!
Don’t wait for things to be perfect! Lowering my standards has really helps with business… and life in general haha. 😉 A lot of startups wait for their website to be perfect before launch – F that! Our website still has so many glitches and bugs, but it’s not stopping us from trucking on!
And definitely don’t over-plan – we’ve never had a written business plan, and until recently, we didn’t have much of a plan beyond selling pretty clothes, and posting funny pics on Facebook. This isn’t ECON101, don’t get too caught up with paperwork (unless you need a loan or investment of course). There’s no time for that in today’s dynamic and fast-paced business environment, just get out there and learn by testing and doing.
7. Don’t kid yourself.
I’ve seen it time and time again, startups rationalise and predict the success of their ideas based on unfounded and inflated assumptions. This was the underlying mistake that underpinned the eventual undoing of my first attempt at starting a business – e.g. if we get PR, then we’ll get X number of people talking about us, and that’ll mean $Y of sales and we’re going to be millionaires by next year!
(Yep, hard to believe at first that everyone else doesn’t love your business as much as you do!)
My advice, if you’ll take it: ensure your MVP (minimum viable product) is profitable before you start adding bells and whistles. Make sure your core business is strong enough to last on its own merits. Don’t kid yourself, if you think you have a great product but you can’t demonstrate why it’ll be profitable, then you may only be as successful as these underwear gnomes…
6. Be unconventional – there’s no “right way” to run a business
Okay let me clarify, there’s a lot of popular beliefs and literature on what startups need, but I insist that you don’t get too distracted by it all. At the end of the day, you need a good MVP and you need to believe in yourself.
You don’t need to be an expert. When I told people I was starting an online store, I was ridiculed with statements like, “What do you know about retail? The fashion industry is so tough, etc.” But that didn’t stop me despite how right they may have seemed – it’s true, my only experience had been working in corporate finance which couldn’t be further from fashion retail.
5. Spending too much money
I started Showpo with $20k of personal debt and $30k of HECS – I built the website myself by googling how to use HTML, used social media for free advertising and sold stock on consignment. There’s a lot of people in the business of ripping off bright-eyed overly-keen startups – so be frugal with your hard-earned money. Maybe it’s the Chinese in me, but you can always haggle a better deal.
(One book I recommend on this subject is The Lean Startup. Disclaimer: well I haven’t actually read it, because I haven’t read a book since I was 12, but Durka (our 2IC) swears by it, and I trust my Showpo baby with her, so you know it’s gotta be good!)
4. Work yourself to the bone
I’ve done the hard yards when starting – working 7-days a week in our crappy little Broadway store for the first 6-months and spending every other waking hour working on the online store – but it’s not sustainable. Don’t forget part of the reasons why you started a business – to have a f*cking awesome time!
(Seemingly somewhat contradictory to #10, but do maintain balance and remember to celebrate your wins! See next point on how!)
You need to trust your team!
It’s definitely hard at first, because you’re SO busy doing everything and you think that no one can do a better job than you, but when you take the time to train someone, and when you pick the right people, you can pretty much make yourself redundant.
Sure hard work is a virtue, but delegation is an invaluable skill! Heck I’ve made my Instagram handle @thelazyceo! I’m sure as hell not lazy, but I’m a big believer in getting more by doing less. It’s all about putting in place good systems and processes.
I’ve got such an amazing team and we all have so much fun at work – it really just feels like school without the assignments and of course we’re all about getting shit done.
But trust me, it was not easy getting to this state, it took 4 years of bad hirings and awkward firings.
2. Don’t get over-excited by $$$
We started very lean and have only ever been cash flow positive with no external funding so this is not an area of my expertise, but I’ve been given the invaluable advice that getting investors is the one irreversible business decision, so be very cautious when taking on investment and only ever take on smart money.
1. Be half-assed
Okay I have to admit, I actually ran out of things to talk about and started reshuffling my other bullet points to squeeze another out, but then a lightbulb moment of clarity hit me; a narcissistic glare at myself in the mirror reminded me to quote myself from my appearance on Sunrise…
Quick background story: I was named one of the “Top 5 Young Entrepreneurs To Watch” by BRW (bucket list check!) and that lead to a spot on the breakfast TV show Sunrise with some fellow Entourage buddies. I was asked beforehand to tell them my “one tip to anyone thinking about starting a business.”
Some context – this was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. When we went on air, I completely FREAKED OUT, I started sweating, and as they interviewed the people before me, I literally felt like I was standing before a firing squad.
The camera, Mel, and Kochie turned to me and here’s my million dollar advice:
“Don’t be half-assed about it (yes I said “ass” on national television before 9am). I’m not here to give you the cliched “give it 110%” spiel, but you should… something something I don’t remember… Failure is a sexy word in the entrepreneurial world (yep I said “sexy” whilst families are eating their cereal), it’s ok to fail, it’s all about what you’ve learnt and how you’re going to do it differently next time.”
(FYI I’m not sure if that’s exactly what I said, I was forced to watch it once and will never do it again – I cringed so much my head nearly exploded).
So there you have it. 10 things that entrepreneurs should stop doing that I’ve learn the hard way – if you’ve done it too then I hope it offers comfort that you’re not alone and if you’re a newbie then hope this saves you some heartaches.
Disclaimer: these ramblings are merely based on my personal experience and my generalisations are consciously skewed to what I know.
You can follow Jane on Instagram @thelazyceo