By Ambareen Musa / Entrepreneur ME
Most startups struggle to survive in their initial few years with the majority failing within the first five years. In fact, statistics show that five out of ten businesses don’t make it past the five-year mark. Since starting Souqalmal.com from the ground up in 2012, and then growing it to become the UAE’s biggest personal finance and insurance aggregator, my entrepreneurial journey has seen its fair share of ups and downs.
With a successful foray into the UAE insurance market, expansion of services to Saudi Arabia, and recently raising US$10 million in our second round of funding, all signs do point towards a promising future for Souqalmal.com.
And now, as we enter our sixth year, I can look back at the challenges in the rearview mirror, and talk about six key lessons I learnt over the course of running my business.
YEAR 1: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE
Launching a business all by myself, without a mentor or co-founder was quite a challenge. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey if you decide to go it alone. In hindsight, I feel it would have been a lot easier to have someone to split the workload with but more importantly to discuss business strategy and where we want to bring the business.
A co-founder can be a great help and an invaluable resource in more ways than one– taking things off your plate, offering a new perspective to deal with problems, bringing twice the skills and networking capabilities, and providing emotional support in tough times.
A mentor too, can offer guidance, support and encouragement, especially when everything about starting and running a business is new to you.
YEAR 2: WEARING TOO MANY HATS CAN BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
Most startup entrepreneurs often take on too many roles all at once– financial, legal, sales, marketing, HR and so on. You constantly obsess over every little detail, and have to see everything through from strategy to execution. This might seem necessary, but keep doing this for too long, and you’ll end up spreading yourself too thin.
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegating some of your responsibilities can allow you to focus on what you need to take your business to the next level. Focus on finding the right people, and building a great team around you. Hire people who understand your vision, and are passionate about growing the business.