For a couple of days in August I was privileged enough to spend a couple of days working from Sweet Tooth. It was a fantastic opportunity to swap tips and reflect on how to run a business.
First, a bit of back story. Sweet Tooth develops eCommerce customer loyalty software. It's available for free for Magento (the most popular ecommerce platform), and it'll soon be available for Prestashop. They are revolutionising the ecommerce loyalty market and people are noticing. Earlier in the year they announced $2.25M in seed-funding, they're definitely one to keep an eye on.
4 Obvious Things It's Too Easy To Forget
It's all too easy to drift from our ideals of how to run a business. None of these points are revolutionary, but I have found it useful to re-visit them.
1. We all make mistakes
Talking with the team at Sweet Tooth, it's comforting to realise that I'm not the only one that makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It's how you deal with them and respond. Mistakes don't mean failure, failure is being so stubborn that you can't admit it to yourself when you've made them.
I'll go first and admit to you that I have been spending too much time being blinded by client projects and not enough putting plans for the business into action. Your turn.
2. Your team is your success
Clichèd point two is how important it is to build the right team. Each member of the team at Sweet Tooth is an expert in what they do. I got a real sense of the professional respect that they have for each other. Not only that, but they're all passionate about what they're building. It's easy to start with a team that's passionate, but to build a team around themselves that retains that buzz for the company is difficult.
Breaking bread with your team is important, it's one of the few times you can step away from the business and actually get to know people better. I first heard this from Jason Calacanis at the Power of 1 conference. It struck me as such an easy and important thing to do.
Keeping your team energised is hard. The atmosphere in the Sweet Tooth office is incredibly positive, something that obviously comes from the team that they've built. One thing that they've introduced recently is the concept of demo days. As the development team grows it can be difficult for people to track the progress of other members of the group. On demo day, you give them the opportunity to show off their work to the group. I can see this being great for confidence, morale and job satisfaction.
3. And even then it doesn't come for free
This is a shock to no-one. The team at Sweet Tooth have done their fair sure of around the clock hours with little immediate gain. I'm familiar with having to work all hours in order to get where I am. I think I've done pretty well to be where I am only a year out of University, but I have aspirations for much more. I don't expect that to come without a lot of time and effort.
This isn't the first escapade for the team behind Sweet Tooth either, as WDCA they released other Magento extensions such as Better Store Search. We shouldn't expect to become famously rich and successful on our first attempt.
4. Business grows, teams change, companies evolve
You can do pretty well with running a company by doing the first and a bit of the second. You'll find the most successful companies do all three.
Sweet Tooth, the product, has grown fantastically over the last two years. Firstly, congratulations to them! Over that time, their team has grown from 5 to over 30. However, they started out as a custom Magento development company and at a point in their history had to make the decision to move from a service based company to a product-based startup. Few people that sell their time manage to convert their business to product. It is a direction I wish to go in and I admire the Sweet Tooth management team for making the jump.
It's no secret that I'm 23 and running my first business. I would like to profess to being a mature, intelligent individual but I am by no means an expert and have a awful lot to learn. A friend reminded me that if I hadn't started a company, I wouldn't be a director. I have gifted myself this position; I have chosen to learn the hard (read, most exciting) way.
Thanks to the Sweet Tooth team for having me, it was nothing short of inspirational. Every single one of you is welcome at Meanbee.