Startup Diaries: You Can't Do It Alone

Kristel Kuit, founder of personal assistant services company Headroom Assistance, talks to The NextWomen about the importance of finding the right people to be in one's start-up life, and shares her top tips for success in entrepreneurship.

Running a start-up is tough, YOU have to make it work, nobody else is going to do it for you. My co-workers and I go through weekly roller coaster rides of ups and downs and the weird thing is that the downs tend to stick longer than the ups.

We have a famous female media mogul in the Netherlands, Linda de Mol, who once said during an interview that when she succeeded in something she has “a great 15 fifteen minutes – does a little dance privately in the bathroom and then it’s back to business”. While the negative outcomes tend to stick for much longer. I also notice this myself and that’s why I made two conscious decisions;

  1. Celebrate every milestone you (and your team) achieve. We tend to celebrate with high-fives and Prosecco ;)
  2. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your company.

Kelly Cutrone says in her book ‘When you have to cry go outside’, create a tribal council: a group of wise elders to advise you on everything from money, spirituality or any hard decision you have to make. Surround yourself with people who motivate you, not who de-motivate you. It is hard enough already to run a start-up, let alone with people who de-motivate you.

So I kept this in mind when forming my tribal council. I actively used my network, talked with all the people who I respect and trust and enjoyed open en truthful conversations about my concerns and possible solutions.

By talking to as many people as possible I found the right investors, customers, employees, advisors and my business partner.

From a business perspective I consider our stakeholders as part of the tribal council of Headroom. You can’t create a growing business alone and you need your stakeholders, and you should treat them as your biggest asset. Try to turn them into your biggest fans. This includes your customers, shareholders, employees, partners and even your competitors.

These are the people who help you grow your business. Recently, I reached out to one of our indirect competitors in the US to see if she also encounters the same problems as I do and how she solved them. In the end we have the same goal; making it as easy as possible for Entrepreneurs to have their own Assistant to help them focus on what they need to do to grow their business.

This is another one of the reasons why I started Headroom Assistance.

Entrepreneurs can’t do it alone.

When you start a business or run a growing company as a business executive, a thousand things come your way and you can’t do them all yourself. This is where you need help and you need help from somebody who understands what you are doing, who you are and how you work.

You need an Assistant for this. In the Netherlands we are discovering that it is typically “un-Dutch” to have an Assistant. Generally, Dutch entrepreneurs believe they have to do everything themselves, they are supposed to be busy and rushed and think it comes off pretentious to have a personal assistant. I’m really curious how this is in other countries, and I would love to hear from readers how they think about having an Assistant.

To wrap things up, I know that I would not be with Headroom where I am now without the right people in my life. Actively involve them with your concerns, celebrations, and outcomes. The more they are involved, the more they want to help you.

So let’s celebrate our loved ones and tell them how grateful we are for them to be in our (start-up)life!

Tips

1. Use your network actively. Find the people you trust, buy them a cup of coffee and talk about your concerns and needs.

2. If you want, find the best partner out there to help you run the business.

3. Listen to the people who you respect and can add value for you, forget the rest.

Kristel got her idea for Headroom Assistance in 2011, while living in San Francisco, but founded the company in Amsterdam, the Netherlands the next year. Headroom stands for Assistance from a Distance and little by little tries to convince European entrepreneurs to “Focus on what they do best, we take care of the rest”. While in the U.S. it is seen as fairly common to make use of a Virtual Assistant, it is seen as an unnecessary luxury to Dutch entrepreneurs. 

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