Anyone who’s started a business will tell you that they’ve learned a lot in the process, sometimes living through situations they would prefer to have avoided, but always gaining invaluable skills and knowledge in the process! Here at BaseKit we’re no different – to round up our 10th anniversary celebration, CEO and co-founder Simon Best has given a run-down of the top 10 lessons he’s learned in the past decade:
#1 Building a business is a long, tiring journey
Building a business is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. Much like having a new baby (I feel confident making this comparison, as I’ve done it twice in the past decade!), there will be lots of sleepless nights in the first year or so, but once you get into a routine it gets easier. Reaching early milestones like our first customer took blood, sweat and tears, but the feeling of achievement made it worth it every time, and still does.
#2 Work-life balance is important
The harsh reality of startup life is that it can be very hard to achieve a work-life balance in the early days. For us, there was a lot of racing the clock, from a Christmas Eve product release to one of the founders getting locked in the office in the early hours after working until 2am. Although there was definitely an element of excitement to all this, I’m very glad these days are behind us now!
#3 Focus on the customer
Our customers’ success is our success. This isn’t without its challenges, however – our B2B model means that we need to meet the (sometimes differing) needs of both partners and end customers, which can be a balancing act. Over time, we’ve refined our processes to meet these needs, and we’re still making changes to our teams – including a brand new Customer Success team – to ensure that this focus is at the forefront of everything we do. We have grown from a software provider into a service provider, and we want our partners to get the best out of our products.
#4 Mistakes happen
We’re the first to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we still believe that it’s always worth trying things, learning from them, and moving forward. As is often the case, many of these things only earnt the title of ‘mistakes’ with the benefit of hindsight.
#5 Good PR can be hard
Back in the early days of BaseKit, we found ourselves in the Wall Street Journal, which was very exciting. We knew they were interested in the fact that we were (at that time) based in Wales, but thought this would just get a passing mention. We gave the interview and waited eagerly to see the result, and to see which image they’d used – a photo of the founders? A screenshot of the product? The logo? Not quite – they used a (very lovely) picture of some sheep in the snow-covered Welsh mountains. Nonetheless, we were still very happy to be featured, even if the choice of image was slightly woolier than we imagined!
#6 Embrace travel
This is something I learned very early on, which is just as well, as BaseKit has now been trips to the US, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Poland and Finland, to name just a few. If we hadn’t been open to travelling, we would never have had some of the opportunities we’ve had, or met so many amazing people along the way.
#7 A product can always be made simpler
This is especially important when it comes to the small business market – most small business owners are not designers, and our product needs to reflect this. Early versions of our product were packed full of controls that allowed users to change every single part of their site, from the shadows to the individual colours; we’ve since learned that our customers value simplicity and speed, and our product has changed to suit them.
#8 Don’t hit the big red button (and don’t have two buttons that look the same)
In our early days, I got a late night phone call from one of my co-founders. Thinking someone was locked in the office again (see #2), I answered, to be told that instead of hitting the red button that we used to reinstall a blank database as a quick refresh, he had accidentally hit the red button that decimated our live database, and our replication database was merrily following along. If nothing else, this was a good way of testing (and subsequently improving) our disaster recovery procedure, and of making sure that we differentiate between buttons!
#9 Enjoy the ride
We all work hard, and occasionally we’ve had to go above and beyond (see Christmas Eve launch in #3!), but we also want to make sure people enjoy coming to work. It’s important to enjoy time together as a team, whether it’s on our summer day out, at the Christmas party, or during our monthly Happy Hour. On real and figurative rides, there are always going to be times when we want to scream, but enjoying it is one of the most important things.
#10 An amazing team is what makes a business
Great people make a business great. We make sure we always hire people who don’t just have fantastic skills, but also a positive attitude and a healthy amount of drive and passion. It’s so important to foster understanding and communication between teams, and we’re constantly re-evaluating this and looking for ways to improve, through the adoption of methods like OKRs. We try to make sure we show appreciation for our team on a regular basis, as we could never have done it without them!
The whole of the past decade has been a huge learning curve, and one I plan to continue on – it’s so important to be able to recognise your mistakes and find ways to make things better. Here’s to another decade of learning, growing and becoming the best we can be!