This year, we had the opportunity to sit down with the Co-Founder/CEO of WearYouWant.com (WYW), Martin Toft Sorensen, and listen to his intriguing story about entering the e-commerce market in Bangkok. He was very down-to-earth, and after talking with him we could tell that the entrepreneurial spirit runs deeply through his veins. His story shows how entering a relatively open market can present many advantages. Martin left us with a few gems that everybody with a new startup can learn from. These are 6 tips that can, and should be implemented to help grow your startup today.
1. Build the right team
Aside from capital, this is arguably one of the most important resources for a new startup. You will hear this over, and over again in the business world. Famous author Jim Collins states in his world renowned book Good to Great, that first you get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, and then you figure out which direction your bus needs to go in. Not the other way around. When we asked Martin what advice he had for entrepreneurs who have not yet gone through a seed round, his response was to have the right team in place.
“The most important thing early on is to make sure that you have the right members on your team. Team is one of the most important things in order for you to grow the business and to secure funding…Team should always be one of the major focuses for a CEO… Get the team right from the beginning and you’ll be ahead of your competitors.”
The goal is to have an experienced executive team. Employees who have worked in other (successful) startups and can show they have a positive track record, will assure you, as a CEO, that your employees are reliable, and used to a startup atmosphere/working culture. Also, as Martin mentioned, investors will look to see if you have the right team; which can help you secure funding.
2. You Don’t Have to Know Everything, In Fact, Sometimes it can be Beneficial
This one may sound a little bit strange to some; as an entrepreneur, shouldn’t you know everything that you possibly can to better run your company? Well, in Martin’s case, not knowing everything about the market dynamics actually worked out to the benefit of WYW.
When we asked Martin if there was anything he wish he had known when first growing his startup, he mentioned he would have liked to have known more about the technicalities associated with raising funds and the state of the ecommerce market. However, after thinking about this question further, he quickly changed his mind.
“…if I knew everything back then, I probably would have been so scared that I wouldn’t have founded the company. So no, probably not actually, knowing too much will not always be to your advantage as you may end up concluding that it’s an impossible mission.”
As a CEO and entrepreneur, you should not be wasting too much time and energy worrying about all the small details initially. It’s about fast execution and implementation and then you correct the small mistakes afterwards. Launch your product and get moving, it will never be perfect at first, and you end up losing valuable time if you wait.
3. Leverage your Network
If you have been in business for any length of time, then you probably know how to network. You should also know how important it is to continue building up your network. Your network can consist of all types of people from different careers. However, your main goal should be to expand it with other businesses or startups, entrepreneurs, investors, potential employees or, in Martin’s case, local celebrities.
“…we had some fairly lucrative partnerships with local celebrities from day one. One of my old Thai friends went to college with a Thai celebrity and we ended up working with her to gain trust and brand awareness in the market. Something that proved to be very valuable both on the B2B side and also in terms of PR”
These are two excellent examples of how properly leveraging your network can have a positive impact for your startup, like it did for WearYouWant. Aside from his Thai celebrity connections, Martin also built important relationships with other businesses to help expand his company. Perhaps you don’t have anyone in your network who is necessarily friends with a celebrity or a decision-maker, but maybe you know someone who is friends with another useful connection. The main takeaway here is that you should build your network and, in some cases, use creativity to leverage your connections to your advantage.
4. Competition isn’t Always a Bad Thing
In business, the word competition is often thrown around with words such as risk or threat. If you are a SME or new startup, then it’s understandable to think of competition in a negative context. In business school, we were taught that, as a CEO, you should always be aware of your competition but you should not let it affect how you run your company. You may have heard this more and more as you have progressed through your career. A lot of big market players simply implement differentiation strategies to separate themselves from their competition. But what do you do if you’re a brand new startup and can’t afford the resources to implement such strategies? Martin shared with us his unique story of how big competitors in the Thai market actually benefited their startup.
“…Already a few months after launching WearYouWant, large ecommerce players with strong financial backup entered the market. Competition became fierce immediately, I think we had three or four months “alone”. Initially we were obviously not very happy about their presence, but ended up being surprised on the impact it had on the B2B side. Basically the market was too immature when we entered, so their presence helped grow the whole ecosystem, something that smaller players also benefited from.”
In this case, the competition had a very interesting outcome for WearYouWant. Because of their international presence and global market size, you would think that companies like Zalora and Lazada would crush the smaller players in Thailand. Instead, it made businesses like WearYouWant more credible to the local merchants in Bangkok and it boosted ecommerce penetration.
5. It’s Always About Selling
If you are conducting a sales call, you are obviously selling in that situation. However, you are also selling when you are networking, talking to investors, or giving a presentation. In this case, you are not necessarily selling a product or service. Instead, you are selling yourself, or an idea, to other people. Martin dived further into this topic during our interview.
“Don’t forget that you’re always selling as a Founder or CEO. You’re selling yourself first of all – before anyone can trust your product, they have to trust in YOU! This goes for recruiting the right team, finding investors, adding business partnerships or anything else basically. This is a skill that anyone who wants to build a strong business has to consistently try to become better at. This is your most valuable skill and should never be underestimated.”
Martin and the team believed in themselves and didn’t take no for an answer in a market that was very new to ecommerce. A strong belief in the strategy and the opportunities in front of then combined with hard work strong support from their investors proved to be the recipe for WearYouWant.
6. Don’t Take No for an Answer
“…you should not underestimate the persuasive power that a person can have over another …You must believe in yourself 100% and when you think you’re almost crossing the line in a sales situation, keep in mind, that you can always add another 10% before people start kicking you out of the store ;)…”
It was an absolute pleasure talking with Martin and hearing about the successful story of WearYouWant. All of the steps mentioned above are not only practical, but critical for any new startup or an existing one. Every CEO out there can start implementing these tips today to help their company grow.
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