Working from home

It has been about 10 days since I stopped working, and I am sad to say the honey moon period is over. The first couple of days were spent reading e-mails, responding to comments left on the blog, (thanks again to everyone who left one, or shared the post) and leisurely going over the site. A lie-in, and a lazy afternoon were a welcome change from waking up at 6:30 am, and sleepwalking my way through an hour-long commute. Needless to say the last couple of days were a good chance to recharge the batteries, and focus on the challenges ahead.

Now that I have become accustomed to it, I’ve come to a conclusion; working from home is not as easy, or as glamorous as its made out to be, and not everyone is built for it. Don’t get me wrong, I think anyone can do it, however some people are better suited to it than others. Working from home for a prolonged period of time requires concentration, dedication and large amount of self-discipline. When I had a job, I had a routine, if I broke the routine there where immediate consequences, it was simple. The transition between this, and my current modus operandi has been slighty uncomfortable, but very interesting.

I’ve always lived in a constant state of organised chaos; routine, unless mandatory is something I’ve always shied away from. The freedom to choose, when, or decide how, is something that has always appealed to me, and it’s definitely a driving force behind me deciding to start-up. For someone with the attention span of a three-year old, a disdain for structure, and an uncanny knack of putting anything off, having too much time on my hands seems like a recipe for disaster. When I had a 9 to 5, I valued my time outside of work far greater than I do now, if I was working then I was working, there were no distractions, no time-outs and definitely no twenty-minute tea breaks. I still spend most of the day working on the site, however now I notice I’m doing a bit too much ‘research’, and the Facebook tab never seems to be closed.

Whoever said that working from home consisted of 11 am starts, a builders breakfast and huge dose of Jeremy Kyle is a liar.

Amara

The end of the beginning

I have officially reached the end of the beginning

By the ‘end of the begining’,  I am referring to the early stages of starting a business. I have completed the ‘planning’ and ‘research’ , I’ve settled on a design for the site, and now I am preparing myself mentally for the hard slog that is, running a business. The blinkers are on. I’ve completed all the nitty-gritty things which need to be done before you can label your thoughts an idea, or even begin thinking you have the makings of a business. A majority of these things have little bearing on whether or not the idea will be successful, however on looking back they have taken a disproportionate amount of time, so I am glad they’re out of the way. For example, due to the incompetence of a high street bank which shall remain nameless, it took three weeks, four meetings, two replacement cheque books and an unhealthy amount of time on hold, before I finally managed to open a business account. These things always seem to take up the most time and energy, and when you are trying to startup, time and energy are in short supply.

I am unaware of a checklist, or specific set of requirements, which need to be completed before one can safely say they have reached this point, I am assuming every situation is different, and each individuals circumstances unique. However I know that I have reached this stage, as my candle now only burns from one end.

In a previous post I wrote about the difficulties of working a day job and trying to build a website. It was more a complaint than an observation, and I likened it to burning a candle at both ends. From today onwards, or to be precise from yesterday, I can no longer make that complaint as I am officially unemployed. I always knew that I was going to leave my job, that was a certainty, the only thing I was unsure of was when. I was eager to seek advice on the topic of quitting your job, I even planned to write a post on it, however It seems the gods have no time for indecision because I was pushed before I could jump. I always assumed I would leave on my terms, or at least try and  elongate my stay if I felt I was being forced out, but during the meeting I didn’t put up a fight. Deep down I knew that the time had come,  and ‘reflecting’ on it, I am glad its over and done with. I don’t have any regrets about working, nor do I harbour any animosity towards the CEO, in fact I think I respect him even more for getting the deed done. While working there, I learnt a considerable amount about business and more importantly myself, and at times, I actually enjoyed going into work. One of the unofficial strap lines of the company was Work hard, Play hard, and I hope it’s something I’ll be able to replicate in my company when I get the chance to.

Now that I am no longer working my only focus from this point forward is the website, I no longer have any of the safety nets I have grown so dependent on over the last few years. I’ve graduated from University, I no longer have a 9 to 5, and I am too old to play professional football. As a result this has to be a success, I literally don’t have a choice. In the early 1500’s an explorer from Cuba, called Hernan Cortez, set sail for Mexico with 600 men. On their arrival he ordered them to burn their boats. His reasoning was that with no means of going back, they were forced to go forward.

I think I just burnt my boat.

Amara

The art of decision making

‘Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder’

I didn’t want to start this entry with a cliché, however, it’s the best way to describe how I felt during my brief hiatus from blogging. It has only been five days since my last post but for some reason it seems much longer. They say when your blog is young you should try and post a new entry every other day, I think that’s the level of output I will try and aspire to from now on.

During this period I discovered something new about myself, I realised that I’m suffering from an acute case of Foot in Mouth disease. I’m not referring to the strain which resulted in the slaughter of over 200,000 animals in 2007, but the variation of the disease which causes humans to say stupid things at inappropriate times. During a staff meeting on Friday I made a gaffe of epic proportions, I said something so stupid George Bush would have been jealous, needless to say it wasn’t my finest hour. I won’t go on to repeat it as I’m sure some of my colleagues read this blog, and the less said about it the better. On my way home that evening I then confirmed this diagnosis. I made the classic error of offering my seat on the tube to a lady I presumed to be pregnant, I then proceeded to make it worse by making a  ‘joke’ about how she needed the seat more than I did, as it looked like she was about to give birth on the northern line. They say timing is everything in comedy, and now I understand why. I made the comment when we were halfway between stops, so I had to endure about a minute of the most awkward silence ever, as soon as the doors opened I got off, I didn’t care about the fact that it wasn’t my stop. Great start to my weekend.

Apart from confirming what I already knew about my ability to do stand up, I also realised something else during this short break. I’ve realised that starting and running a business, will require me to make complex decisions very quickly. The previous topic I wrote about (design versus functionality) galvanised me to change the entire layout of the site, and literally 48 hours later, I had to make a decision about a developer who offered to come on board in exchange for some equity in the company. Ideally I would have liked to have to spent at least three or four days deliberating over each situation, however I am slowly realising that time is a luxury when you’re starting up. As I write, I am mentally conditioning myself to make these hard decisions very quickly, relying on logic and not emotion and I am taking solace in the fact that everything gets easier with practice.

Hopefully I should add a couple of posts by the end of week, and lets hope the first week in March doesn’t end the same way as the last week in February.

Amara

Re-inventing the wheel

I’m working nights again as usual, but tonight’s sessions has been somewhat relaxed. I’ve spent most of the evening reading blogs and catching up on the day’s news, and in-between that,  flicking over to the football. Earlier on today, I noticed something interesting in the new updates that were made to the site. While going through the changes, I realised that the site was functioning well, however aesthetically its suffering. I think subconsciously, I have been trading design against functionality. Thinking about it now this is not unusual.  For any startup that’s being bootstrapped, I’m assuming  the focus is generally on producing a working prototype or beta version, and then building on that. However I am wondering whether startups are missing a trick by neglecting the design of the site, and whether having a unique design and look is enough to attract users to a new a website.

As a startup entering a growing, but a relatively mature market, is it enough to just having a working prototype? I understand the need for it to have a unique value proposition, as well as an exceptionally good marketing plan, but what I would like to know is, how important is the design of the site during these early stages? Am I being naive by paying more attention to the functionality of the site, over its design or is this standard protocol among all bootstrapped startups? I have always been of the opinion that look and design of a site can be overhauled if needed, and it would be best to focus on how it will actually work and attract users. Over the years I have seen several ‘startups’ undergo a makeover of sorts, but as I am not re-inventing the wheel, and I do not have huge amounts of capital behind, would it be wiser to focus on its design as a method of attracting users, instead of simply focusing on its USPs. I would be very interested in finding out peoples thoughts on the topic, and I think it is definitely something that needs a lot more thought. If I could, I would definitely pay an agency to re-design the front end of the website, but at this moment in time, I don’t think it’s feasible.

The developer building the site is very good, however front end design isn’t his speciality. Combine this with the fact, that there isn’t much money, I think I have no choice but to continue sacrificing design for functionality, at least for the time being.

Amara

The journey begins

If you’ve stumbled across this blog, welcome, if you’ve been forced to read it, don’t worry it will all make sense. My name is Amara and I think I am going through a quarter life crisis.

The Who. I’m 24, I live in London, I graduated from Kingston University, I ran a business for 9 months (which failed) and now I am working in sales. The Why. I’ve got the sudden urge to talk to anyone who will listen, that is it. Besides my family and close friends the only other things I deeply care about are running businesses, tech and Arsenal.

I co-founded the first business with my brother and cousin, and we had the idea that we would record the entire process. We planned to record all the meetings, conferences and events we attended in the lead up to launching the website. Once we had all the footage we planned to create a short documentary about it and use it as PR for the site. Good idea but it was flawed as we couldn’t afford a camera crew to follow us around. I still think the principle behind the idea is a good one and I hope to try it again but this time with a twist.

I am starting another startup soon, but on this occasion I have no business partners, mentors or associates, I am literally going it alone. This is the real reason behind the blog. I hope to use this blog to document the entire process, but this time it wont be used for PR. On this occasion I hope to use the wisdom of the crowd, to steer me in the right direction during the perpetual turbulence that is starting a business. I wont post all the tiny decisions and situations that I encounter like what font should I write all company letters in, or what title I should put on my business card etc Instead I will reserve my posts for the significant decisions I have to make, and the situations I truly find difficult. Truth be told, apart from nine months of blood, sweat and tears, I don’t have much experience of running a business so I am going to need a lot of help.

It’s late, I’ve got work in the morning, but hopefully this will be fun.

Amara