Lessons of a serial entrepreneur

It's important to have clear goals.

Being a "serial" of anything doesn’t sound like a label you’d want to have.

By Fred Schebesta

Being a "serial" of anything doesn’t sound like a label you’d want to have.

For serial entrepreneurs, though, it symbolises the almost sadomasochistic determination to keep getting back up and pushing forward with a vision no matter what the obstacles.

While anyone starting a company has the odds significantly stacked against them, building several successful companies from scratch has taught me innumerable lessons about business. With each new endeavour there have been lessons I wanted, and some which smacked me in the face out of the blue.

Being an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster ride jutting from success to failure (hopefully more of the former than the latter) so above all what I’ve found is persistence matters more than anything.
You need to stay focused on your business and you need to recognise it for what it is.

Here is some unsolicited advice that I wish someone had told me when I got started.

Be specific with people’s roles

If there is one thing I wish I realised sooner, it’s the importance of being clear with what people do within the company. There should be an understanding of what people are responsible for day-to-day. I realised my shortfalls when I got a whole bunch of people doing random things and guessing their roles.

Don’t underestimate the importance of staff

The importance of waiting to hire the right staff for the right roles was drilled into me when I left my first business behind. By optimising the systems you have in place you can wait to find the right person to have in your team. It shouldn’t be about if you can afford to wait to hire someone, but rather, can you afford to hire the wrong person?

Have clearly set goals

While this is going to be a goal for the entire company, it’s important that you’re the one to set it. Write down the current goal that you're working towards in your business. Break that goal down into divisible components and assign them to people, or break it down for yourself. This is your responsibility as the business owner, and it’s something that can make or break your business.

Share the company goals

Sharing the company strategy with your employees is something that I’ve continued to this day. It not only makes everyone aware of where you want the company to be heading, but it reinforces that they are part of something big. Organise regular company-wide meetings and get your entire team involved.

Develop your marketing strategy

Moving from business idea to business idea gave me a heightened awareness of our marketing strategy. If you want to start a business the first thing you should ask yourself is how you’re going to market it. What marketing channels can you use the most effectively? What will you do if your marketing strategy doesn’t work? Marketing is one of the most important things you can do – and at my current business it is one of our most well-resourced functions.

We tested different marketing tactics in small-scale tests to see if they worked. We started with one, search engine marketing, and then became the market leader in that channel. By starting out with what we did best, we were then free to add other channels like public relations, email marketing, display advertising, radio and television later on.

Hold on to the good and let go of the bad

When you move into a new venture, keep doing the strategies that work and tailor them to your new business. Look at your business, look at what it is and decide where it needs to be. Then focus on the parts of your business that make a difference – hire the right people, work out the right structure, market your product and prioritise ruthlessly.

While some of these lessons were hard, I would never go back and do things differently as, while clichéd, it is true that you learn the most from failure. Some businesses will go bust, and some entrepreneurs will fail. I’m not without my own failures, but I see mistakes as learning opportunities. If you look at every experience, negative or positive, as a learning experience, you’ll always be closer to reaching your goals.

Fred Schebesta is one of the founders of finder.com.au, one of Australia's biggest comparison websites.