Pip Jamieson, a nominee within the Advertising, Marketing & PR category, is one of the UK’s top female entrepreneurs and founder of ‘No Collar’ network The Dots. Coined as the next LinkedIn, Pip started The Dots in 2014 and came up with idea while working at MTV.
The premise was simple, LinkedIn only worked for people that wore suits! Pip, on the other hand was surrounded by an emerging workforce of creators, freelancers and entrepreneurs who were choosing a very different way to work.
We sat down with Pip Jamieson to hear her top ten tips when it comes to starting a business.
1. It’s all or nothing.
You can't really execute a business idea unless you're all in! Thomas Edison was spot on when he said ‘Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’ – at some point it has to stop being a side project. That means taking a leap of faith, giving up your day job and committing yourself fully. The most successful entrepreneurs I know work hard, really hard. Don’t get me wrong, starting a business is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, but I work non-stop.
2. Get product market fit, before investing in marketing.
Many founders make the mistake of investing in marketing and PR too early. First and foremost you need to invest in your product first. Find the way to test it has legs as soon as possible and then obsess about building value for your customers. If you build something that your customers love, it’s easier to scale and the return on marketing spend will be much higher.
3. Cultivate an insatiable appetite to learn.
I’ve worn so many hats starting a business: strategist, negotiator, marketer, product manager, executive, salesperson, finance manager - it’s been a never-ending learning curve. So, early on I got into the habit of devouring roughly a book a week – listening to them on Audible while I walk to work – on subjects I didn’t fully understand.
4. It’s all about the team - hire positive happy people.
It comes to the point in every business where you simply can’t do everything, so I’ve come to realise my most important job as a founder has been to build and retain a world class team. I found that the trick to weathering the hard times has been to hire happy positive people that naturally focus on solutions, not blame. It’s an inherent characteristic that I don’t think you can teach and leads to very productive working environment. Maintaining a culture of positivity also means getting rid of people who aren’t right as quickly as possible, one bad apple really can rot the barrel.
5. Use OKRs, not KPIs.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the mainstay of corporate management but are a complete nightmare for startups. The reason? KPIs are meant to be achievable, but when you’re starting something new you have no idea what’s achievable which means you’ll either set them too low (and never really realise your business full potential) or set them too high, which demoralises the team when they don’t hit them. Try Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) instead, invented by Intel but made famous by Google.
6. Empower everyone to have a good idea.
I’m so blessed to have such a talented team. The only downside is it can be challenging to manage the constant stream of amazing ideas they have for the platform. This is where OKRs come into their own, as it gives everyone across the business the opportunity to pitch ideas on a quarterly basis. Some of the best ideas for the platform have come from these sessions and they keep everyone actively engaged with our future.
7. Choose your investors wisely.
Firstly, don’t raise investment unless you have to, as raising investment is a bit like going into a marriage, without the benefit of make-up sex. If you do need investment – which most tech companies do – choose your investors wisely. A sophisticated investor will be there when you need them and not when you don’t. Never let them interfere operationally - you know your business best. Every startup goes through good and bad times, so it’s important to communicate regularly to shareholders and be honest about things when they go wrong – this builds trust and pays off dividends in the long run.
8. Build a portfolio of mentors, getting male mentors is easier!
I’ve found monthly coffees with a ‘mentor’ is not an effective use of time. So instead, I have a portfolio of mentors who are experts on different topics like raising capital, growth, leadership, product development, design etc. When I have a problem I contact one of these mentors; we might speak multiple times that week – then I leave them in peace, often not bothering them again for months until I have another problem. When I first started I had my heart set on being mentored by leading women in tech like Sherry Coutu & Martha Lane Fox. However, I came to realise there just aren’t enough senior women at the top to help the wave of women coming through. For example, I personally get over 60 emails a day from female founders asking for advice – I can only imagine the volume women like Sherry and Martha get - it’s physically not possible to have coffees with everyone. However, there are an army of amazing men (particularly the ones with daughters) who want to see women rise the ranks. So I’ve managed to punch way above my weight and secure an army of male CEOs, VC. ECDs etc – something that would be harder for my male counterparts to do!
9. You need support at home.
For me, the trick has been to surround myself with cheerleaders and to avoid the drains - people who take out more energy than they put in. Running a business is a constant rollercoaster of highs and lows and I’ve seen so many businesses fail over the years not because they didn’t have a great idea, an amazing team or the funding, but because they didn’t have the right support at home. I’m blessed to have the most incredible husband. He genuinely loves what I do and enjoys nothing more than chatting about my day and helping me talk through problems. But most importantly he’s my emotional rock, through thick and thin. He’s the reason I’m still in business.
10. Trust your gut.
I think trusting your gut is often underestimated, particularly in technology, but we are actually the most sophisticated machines that exist. We take in billions of inputs a day and synthesise it into gut feelings - how incredible is that! I guess this is why Steve Jobs famously said “intuition is more powerful than intellect!”.