Entrepreneurship: The 7 Essential Mindsets (My Story)

Andrea Anderheggen  

Written by Andrea Anderheggen, read by Samuel Fleming, October 2018

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Today I am going to outline the seven essential mindsets of entrepreneurship.

And I will then illustrate these mindsets by telling you my story.

Before SalesGrowth I have built two tech companies, raised $45m in venture capital and hired more than 450 people.

One company was sold for $150m, and the other one became a worldwide leader in its field.

But those achievements are only the tip of the iceberg.

Success is the result of years of hard work following a specific entrepreneurial mindset.

I hope to inspire you: other entrepreneurs, CEOs and business leaders, by describing how to achieve excellence in what you do.

After all, entrepreneurship becomes even more rewarding or at least less intimidating once you fully embrace its success drivers.

So, let’s get started!

01 – The 7 Mindsets All Entrepreneurs Share

I should first highlight that the mindsets of entrepreneurship are not necessarily related to startup founders only.

The benefits of entrepreneurship can be found in all types of organizations.

In fact, I believe the importance of entrepreneurship has increased significantly in the current, highly disruptive market environment.

Today, all businesses have to re-invent themselves to some degree.

Therefore, business leaders in small up to established, large corporations can or must develop entrepreneurial mindsets from time to time.

So, the following principles may be helpful for all kinds of leaders.

In this article, I will all call them "entrepreneurs" and therefore include many types of entrepreneurship, despite the common notion of entrepreneurship often being reduced to small business entrepreneurship only.

Most entrepreneurs share at least seven mindsets.

Entrepreneur Infographic

Entrepreneurship: The 7 Essential Mindsets

1 Take opportunities for what they are.

Most people perceive opportunities as risks or changes that may force them to leave their comfort zone.

I often noticed that in employee surveys.

Many employees perceive opportunities as a risk because they are afraid of change or losing their jobs.

And even investors, who often see themselves as entrepreneurs, don't like when a CEO comes up with too many ideas.

Who wants change?

But real entrepreneurs think very differently.

They embrace opportunities as what they are:

Opportunities. Period.

And opportunities are everywhere:

Each time you can help many people solving a relevant problem better than anyone else, there's an opportunity.

For entrepreneurs the logic is simple.

If changing is better than staying the same: Change!

We take opportunities for what they are.

2 Entrepreneurs take action!

New business opportunities lead to new ideas.

But all entrepreneurs know that it's about executing an idea and bring it to life.

Finding an idea is only a small part of entrepreneurship.

It's all about doing it.

Entrepreneurs take action!

I always loved this simple phrase from the NIKE marketing. When it comes to business ideas "doing it" is what distinguishes entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs.

A business idea without execution is worthless.

3 Action requires another 1,000 ideas.

Bringing a great business idea to life means executing thousands of other ideas or even pivot the idea you had in the first place.

Whatever opportunity you are following, you will need:

  • hundreds of ideas about the details of your product,
  • thoughts on who to hire,
  • strategies on how to finance and organize your company,
  • hundreds of marketing and sales initiatives,
  • understanding of legal frameworks,
  • dealing with customer requests, etc.

So, yes:

An entrepreneur must have thousands of ideas, not only one.

4 1,000 ideas mean living by trial and error.

If you have thousands of ideas, it's almost certain that many of them are dumb, useless and a complete waste of time.

In other words:

Entrepreneurs make mistakes.

A lot of mistakes. All the time!

Entrepreneurship means living by the principle of Trial and Error.

But living by Trial and Error is not easy:

How many people you know, like to admit mistakes?

Or even worst:

How many people you know, are embracing mistakes to learn and become better?

In my experience, most people consider admitting a mistake to be humiliating.

They either keep silent or blame others for their mistakes.

And that is one of the main reasons why so many people stay how they are, even when a change would make them better.

Pride means stagnation.

5 Errors are learnings. Not Failures.

Entrepreneurs are not afraid of mistakes, because they live by the famous quote from Nelson Mandela:

Entrepreneurs never lose

"I never lose. I either win or learn."

The bottom-line?

Whenever you encounter a successful entrepreneur, success is only the tip of the iceberg.

What's below the tip of the iceberg?

Thousands of mistakes that allow an entrepreneur to learn, improve and eventually become successful.

6 Spread confidence despite the uncertain nature of decisions

Even if you're open to change, you can't just change the basics of your business every day.

Trial and Error is vital, but you need to start somewhere, keep focus and give an idea enough time to be tested.

A good number of assumptions, premises, and experiences will define how to narrow the field for experiments.

And eventually, you must decide on what to prioritize:

1. Big essential decisions from time to time.

2. Smaller, less far-reaching decisions several times a day.

And here's a tricky part of entrepreneurship:

Every decision is ultimately made by intuition and gut feelings.

Sure, you may always analyze markets, customer behaviors, your available resources, your team strengths', etc. – but ultimately there's a fact you can't avoid in life:

Decisions are always uncertain and intuitive.

Because deciding means choosing one of many alternatives.

And:

If a decision has no rational alternatives, it's a conclusion, not a decision.

But conclusions are rare in our complex, action-driven world.

An entrepreneur is someone who embraces opportunities, is action-driven, and improves his intuition in living by trial and error.

But:

When facing employees, customers or investors most entrepreneurs and leaders look like they are 100% convinced about their decisions.

Here is why:

Spreading confidence is an essential quality of strong leadership.

Insecurity is considered a weakness in our society instead of being respected as a sign of intelligence.

Entrepreneurs must behave like doctors.

Entrepreneurs must behave like doctors

Entrepreneurs behave like doctors: They need to decide under uncertain conditions and then spread confidence to make it the right decision.

If you visit a doctor with stomach pain, at first, the doctor has no idea, what the reason for it might be.

After all, stomach pain can have thousands of reasons: Psychosomatic reasons, food poisoning, digestive issues, cancer, etc. –

And most times a doctor diagnoses an illness or an absence of it, it's based on probabilities and intuition rather the certainty.

Still, most doctors try to look firm and reassuring, instead of desperate and clueless, even when they are.

Because looking firm and reassuring is part of the job to heal patients.

And the same applies to entrepreneurs:

Even if they have hundreds of doubts about their decisions, they must look firm and confident when communicating them to employees, investors, customers, and even themselves!

Otherwise, everyone will freak out.

In a nutshell:

Entrepreneurs decide based on what feels right (as they anyway have no other choice), but then make the decision BECOME right by spreading confidence!

7 Fearless Persistence

And here comes the last, probably most important differentiator of entrepreneurs:

Fearless persistence.

Most ideas don't get realized, because people are not thorough enough to make it happen and because they are afraid of failing.

And most startups fail because management is giving up too early.

The truly successful entrepreneurs are those who are fearless and stay persistent through all the odds of trial and error, criticism, lousy intuition, and wrong decisions.

Persistence is a consequence of living by trial and error and of appreciating mistakes as learnings.

And persistence requires a high level of confidence, which eventually will turn mistakes in successes.

Entrepreneurs stay persistence and fearless at the same time.

In slightly less dramatic words:

Entrepreneurs are persistent because they understood that anyway there is not so much to worry about.

I recently saw this brilliant one minute video by Gaur Gopal Das, that somehow reminded me of how I believe most entrepreneurs think:

02 – The Definition of an Entrepreneur and Entrepreneurship

Looking at the essential mindsets outlined before, let's now define "entrepreneur" and "entrepreneurship".

What is an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is someone that is open to opportunities and takes action on them by trying thousands of ideas, learning from his mistakes, spreading confidence despite the uncertain nature of his decisions and shows a fearless persistence towards success.

Let me now tell you my story.

I believe my story is a pretty good example of entrepreneurship, although for most parts of my life I was not aware of the principles as outlined above.

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03 – Studying Philosophy: How I was forced to become an entrepreneur.

I completed my master in Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Zurich in 2003. The master thesis I wrote was about Wittgenstein and his Private Language Argument.

Needless to say:

I didn't get a job.

People are confused about philosophy.

And recruiting departments are made up of people.

Even the more open-minded, top-tier strategy consulting firms looking for broader skills were confused.

After my graduation, I applied for jobs, and many companies invited me for interviews.

Some were impressed with me solving their all too obvious assessment quizzes; because it wasn't hard for me to understand the intentions behind them.

(You know, riddles that want to check your analytical skills like How many tennis balls fit into a bus? How many ties are sold in New York per year? Etc.)

... But I never got hired.

In retrospective, I was lucky.

Philosophy and those failures in finding a job taught me several valuable lessons:

Try to understand things better, by always digging 3-5 levels deeper than others do.

Don't settle on your first impression; ask for the premises, the details and the reasons behind it.

Anyway, since I couldn't find a job, I had to create one.

In other words:

I was forced to become an entrepreneur.

04 – The M&A Consultancy "Firm"

I started my consultancy firm in Merges & Acquisitions after gaining some first insights during my studies while working part-time for M&A boutiques.

Although, the word "firm" may be a little overstated:

The firm was me.

My office was my one bedroom student apartment, a nearby Starbucks and the library next to the university.

Young Entrepreneur

The 25 years old M&A consultant: The (low quality) picture was taken in my student apartment, and I tried to cut out the background somehow...

And it took me a while to get my first real consultancy job.

To be more precise:

It took me four painful months of cold calling with more than 500 "no's." –

(We are talking about early 2003 here, where online-marketing was almost not existing yet.)

But then, suddenly it started to work out pretty well:

A large pharma-wholesaler with lots of post-M&A integration projects all over Europe booked my services.

I directly reported to one of the managing directors of a business unit with 30,000 employees in 8 countries.

By then I was 25 years old.

Here's another lesson learned:

It's not about the thousands of "NO's" you get, but about the one "YES" that changes your life.

And:

The way to earn a "YES" is to expose yourself to hundreds if not thousands of "NOs."

Did you get a "NO" today? –

Well done!

You are one step closer to the incredible "YES" that will change everything!

Can't live with a "NO"? –

Then there's only one chance you'll ever get a "YES":

A miracle.

Believe in miracles, but don't count on them.

05 – How I got into the crazy SOFORT story

At some point, a multinational Venture Capital and Private Equity firm based in the UK approached me.

They asked me to help them assess their deal flow and support them in their due diligence on the most promising investment opportunities.

So I got into reading business plans, checking powerpoint slides, talking to founders and looking into startups and fast-growing companies.

Most ideas were annoying or confusing.

But a handful of companies were well thought out and recommendable for an investment.

Until one day in 2006, I got a horrible business plan from Christoph, a bold German founder, and talented salesman.

The business plan of SOFORT in 2006

When looking for new investment opportunities on behalf of a venture capital firm, I received an entirely unrealistic business plan about for the payment method SOFORT. It was all written in word including a financial plan in word tables... – Thank god I did not get confused and could see what was behind that plan!

It was all written in a shabby word document.

The entirely unrealistic financial plan was done in word tables (not even in excel) and calculated manually!?!

And worst of all:

The idea was nuts!

It sounded more or less like this:

"Sofortüberweisung is a payment method whereby people would enter their online banking credentials on the company's website, so it could instantly trigger a bank transfer and send a payment notification to an online merchant."

Sofort V1.0

The SOFORT payment form in 2006: Would you enter your online banking credentials into this form?

Think about it:

They were asking people for online banking credentials on their unknown, rather ugly website!

It was about asking people for their most sensitive data; without them even knowing or seeing you!

In 2006:

When people were still afraid of using a credit card online.

In Germany:

The most challenging place on the planet when it comes to data privacy rules & regulations.

People would never accept to disclose their financial data on such a website!

And if so, banks and data privacy groups would sue the hell out of you!

What a dumb idea!

So, it was not a big surprise: 99% of the VCs I shared the idea with, draw the same conclusion:

Unfundable!

Luckily I remembered where I came from and did not follow my first, superficial impression.

And certainly, I was not impressed by the VCs feedback. After all, VCs must be professional naysayers to survive.

1. Team: First of all, I saw a small, but skilled team of people combining extraordinary sales skills with deep technical understanding.

They just had no clue about investors and marketing.

But that was not a killer reason against building a big business. It only meant that the team was lacking a co-founder with this skills.

2. Product: Second, I understood that this payment method called Sofortüberweisung (which is German and translates into "Instant Bank Transfer") sounded crazy, but was extremely valuable for online merchants:

Sofort Payment Method in 2007

This is a slide I did in 2007. By my standards of today, it is not only ugly but also overloaded with information. However, it explained pretty well the speed and the cost structure advantages of a direct bank transfer system like SOFORT as compared to the other (and still current) payment methods.

  • No more credit card fees
  • Reach of people without credit cards (that's still 60% of all Germans)
  • No more chargebacks
  • No nasty KYC requirements
  • No more eWallets freezing your money
  • No more junk orders
  • Zero fraud
  • Money paid to your bank account within 1-2 days
  • Instant shipping to your customers
  • And yes: More security due to the 2-steps authorization most online-banking systems are asking for in a bank transfer.

The list of benefits for online-retailers goes on and on.

It became clear to me that SOFORT was a genius, disruptive idea!

So there you go:

I found the three essential ingredients for a successful startup: A great team, a great team, and a great product.

I gave up my well paid M&A consultant job and joined the SOFORT founder's team at a time when we were looking for the first person to use the payment method outside the group of founders...

Lesson learned:

Try to understand what makes the team, an idea or a business amazing, DESPITE their weaknesses. If the strengths look more meaningful than the weaknesses, consider it an opportunity!

06 – Joining the Founders Team of SOFORT

When I joined the Founders Team of SOFORT in late 2006 at the age of 29, I joined a company with:

  • Zero revenues.
  • Zero salaries.
  • Uncertain time horizon until success.
  • Potentially billion dollar corporations as enemies.
  • But overall: a fantastic opportunity.

No, the banks didn't like what we do.

But luckily they completely underestimated our young team of founders and didn't go after us for almost three years!

mahatma-ghandi_first-they-ignore-you

The fight of SOFORT against European banks can be summarized with this famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi.

At first, I did, what I was asked for:

Looking for VC money to scale the business.

I created a real story, put together some pretty slides, adapted the financial plan (yes, this time in excel) and proactively explained why the opportunity was still worth taking risks.

In a nutshell, I made the investment case easier to sell to investors.

Looking back, SOFORT was probably one of the best investment opportunities most investors we met have ever received.

Still, in the first 12 months, all of them declined it when I pitched the company.

After all, most venture capital firms, require you to be successful already before investing.

It's a common mistake by founders to believe that venture capital firms give you money to become successful. You already have to be successful to get venture capital.

I will write about that logic in a later blog post here.

Bottom-line:

It was clear that I had to help with operational tasks in marketing, sales, and business development as well.

And we started to gain crazy traction!

Dozens of merchants signed up each day, and the number of daily transactions exploded!

So, after hearing a "no" by almost all VCs for nearly a year, we finally closed a funding round in early 2008.

A family office looking for long-term commitments and deep enough pockets to finance the company got on board.

07 – The Crazy and Useless Fight Against European Banks

By 2009, after only three years, we almost reached €1bn in annual transaction volume.

So, not surprisingly, by the end of 2009, we were already so significant in the German ePayment market, that the three largest bank groups in Germany started suing us.

Imagine walking into your office to get this:

500 pages written by the most expensive lawyers in the country hired by the three largest bank groups with one clear objective:

Destroy your company!

We took a deep breath and then realized:

The banks were too late.

We were able to fight back.

Even worse for them:

We understood that this legal case would probably help us.

Here is why:

Everyone loves the story of David against Goliath.

The underdog fighting for his right!

And our company was a perfect David to fight against a Goliath, the banks, who by 2009 were starting to get horrible press due to the bailouts and the crisis of 2008/2009.

Plus:

We knew we would win the battle:

After all, Germany is not a communist country, but a free market.

Entrepreneurship sometimes means to fight back

We did fight back and involved the Federal Cartel Office in Germany. Luckily Germany is a free market.

Furthermore, the banks didn't care about security as much as they claimed, looking at how banks work and how they shared information with each other long before we even had our idea.

The truth was:

They didn't want a competitor to their payment methods and wanted to secure their credit card issuer and acquirer fees.

In other words: It was about securing the banks' monopoly in the payment space.

And the legal cases opened up against us, helped us even more:

The adversity turned into an opportunity!

Our team now had one enemy uniting us.

The enemy made us all keep up at night together and fight for our cause.

Getting sued by banks was like a team building event on steroids.

Our passion for our cause was beating all of their overpaid big brand lawyers and sophisticated managers by 10:1.

And secretly we were even grateful to those banks because we've always been afraid of others copying the genius business model behind SOFORT:

The legal case made other investors and potential competitors in the payment space hesitate.

It gave us time to conquer the market without any significant competition besides the more expensive and qualitatively inferior alternative by the banks themselves!

So, here's another lesson learned:

Whenever things all seem to go south, take a deep breath or take a nap or sleep one night. Then get up and fight back!

Time heals everything.

You will be surprised at how many cases you can win by just not giving up!

Furthermore, in many cases, big corporations are not up to the speed and passion of small startups!

Just to repeat this:

The number ONE reason for startup failures is giving up too early.

It's the lack of persistence; as simple as it may sound.

08 – The Path to the $150m Exit

Long story short:

After years of fighting, we couldn't avoid involving the German Federal Cartel Office, slowly winning publicly and making the banks look stupid.

We became the most significant German payment startup with more than $3bn in transaction volume per year.

And by then we also became an attractive target for some of the most significant international payment companies.

In 2013 we then finally sold SOFORT to the Sequoia-backed Klarna Group for roughly $150m.

Happy Exit: Klarna acquires SOFORT for $150m

In retrospective, we were probably too early in selling the company because growth rates kept being amazing at SOFORT and the deal turned out to be highly profitable for Klarna.

From a buyer's point of view, it's probably one of the best M&A deals ever done in the European tech industry.

But hey!

Would you turn down a $150m offer for your first real startup after fighting for years and facing hundreds of other opportunities?

SOFORT was a true pioneer in European Fintech.

If you ever heard about the Payment Service Directive 2 or PSD2 as it's called, that regulates how European banks must share customer information and now allows thousands of FinTech startups building fantastic businesses...

Well:

Without SOFORT and our crazy fight on all levels of politics to open the European banking systems, the PSD2 would probably look very different today.

And today every member of the founder's team of SOFORT is proud and thankful for that experience.

09 – The Rise of Mobile and the Shopgate Opportunity

While building SOFORT something else, very unexpected happened:

On the 7th of January 2007, Steve Jobs made his legendary introduction of the iPhone.

If you've haven't watched it yet, check it out on YouTube:

It's by far the best product introduction I have ever seen!

By mid-2008, Apple then launched the App Store, and in 2009, with the iPhone starting to become mainstream and other mobile phone manufacturers all copying Apple, mobile internet usage began taking off.

One day, on a Sunday in May 2009, I designed a payment form for SOFORT optimized for mobile devices.

I wanted to understand if we could provide a better customer experience for those customers paying through a smartphone.

And by doing this, I realized:

Mobile payment and mobile commerce would finally become a reality after more than fifteen years the industry was talking about it.

The Screenshot leading to the idea for Shopgate

Sometimes business ideas emerge when looking at a screenshot: When experimenting with a mobile version of the SOFORT payment form in 2009, I realized that mobile internet and mobile commerce would become huge. This screenshot on a fancy iPhone 2 is the origin of the idea for Shopgate.

But most merchants were utterly unprepared and had no idea their user traffic would soon shift from desktops to mobile devices.

So, in mid-2009 I tried to convince my Co-Founders at SOFORT to start a project and offer a mobile commerce solution to our merchants.

But we were all extremely busy with the crazy demand for SOFORT and the banks suing us:

There were good reasons I couldn't convince my colleagues investing their time and energy in a new thing.

But I couldn't let it go.

It was so crystal clear to me that mobile apps and mobile commerce would become huge.

So I called Ortwin, our CTO and the inventor of SOFORT, whom I knew was always open to new ideas and a very talented, hands-on product manager and entrepreneur.

I convinced him to start Shopgate as an independent side-business.

He was all in.

10 – Shopgate's Evolution Through Trial and Error

Our first idea sounded appealing, but turned out to be rather stupid:

Create a marketplace similar to the App Store but for physical goods.

A place, where people could buy all sorts of retail products as quickly as buying an app in the app store.

We loved the Apple App Store and wanted to do the same for retail.

Our slogan was: One App. All Shops.

We summarized our vision in a short, self-explaining video:

However, we soon realized that for two founders working in their spare time, it might be tough to compete against Amazon and eBay.

But, here's an advantage of being an entrepreneur:

At any given time there are countless opportunities.

So we soon found a better angle to become a relevant player in mobile commerce:

The merchants we sign-up early on loved our app design and super-fast mobile checkout.

But they didn't like the idea of another marketplace.

So they asked us if we could create mobile apps for their brand only.

The advantages of entrepreneurship are that you are always free to decide what's best for your company.

Therefore, we started white-labeling our marketplace app.

And by early 2011 we pivoted the marketplace-idea and turned Shopgate into the most advanced software-as-a-service platform to create mobile apps with little or no coding skills.

In the same year of 2011 when the SOFORT victory against the banks was already clear to us (but not yet to the banks), I left the company to work for Shopgate as a full-time CEO.

I remember leaving SOFORT the 28th of February 2011 to travel to the CEBIT tradeshow and present Shopgate on a startup pitch event the 1st of March 2011.

Just one day later we received an innovation award and got some excellent exposure among investors.

Entrepreneurship: Day 2 after joining Shopgate

2nd of March 2011 – winning an innovation award for Shopgate at the CEBIT, two days after fully joining the company.

I didn't even go home in between the two jobs.

(Sidenote: That was a huge mistake! Always try to take a rest between two jobs!)

I served Shopgate as a Founder & CEO for almost seven years until the end of 2017 and was able to raise several financing rounds with venture capital and private equity investors.

During my time the company grew from a phone call between two founders to a successful corporation in Europe and the U.S. with almost 200 employees.

In 2014 and 2015 I spent two full years in Silicon Valley to make the first learnings – I should write: the first mistakes – for Shopgate in the U.S. and lay the future foundation of the company in North America.

Here's a 4 minutes pitch I did in Mountain View at the Computer History Museum when Shopgate won an award for being the best European scale-up in Silicon Valley:

The stories and learnings I collected at Shopgate in Europe and even more in the U.S. are so many that I will not even start telling them all today.

My stay in Silicon Valley alone would probably fill a book.

But don't worry:

In this blog and the posts to come, you will find many of those mistakes, experiences, and learnings made.

So keep watching or sign-up for my newsletter!

Anyway, the bottom-line was again:

We picked up an opportunity early on.

We made many mistakes, learned a lot and continuously improved our company in a very dynamic market environment.

Like SOFORT, Shopgate was not an overnight success.

It is the result of years of trial and error and has now become the leading platform for mobile innovation.

It required all the mindsets discussed above:

  • An openness of opportunities,
  • a lot of action,
  • thousands of ideas,
  • thousands of mistakes,
  • thousands of learnings
  • dozens of decisions each day
  • and, boy, a lot of fearless persistence!

I feel honored to have built, led and served such an incredible company!

11 – The Metric That Kept Me Up At Night

In all these years one specific metric kept me up at night:

Sales Growth!

A friend once noted that my mood almost 100% correlates with the monthly sales growth of my company.

And he's right:

I was always obsessed with growing sales.

That's because growing sales opens all doors:

First of all, a fast-growing company is likely to turn into a rock star no matter what.

But the effects of strong sales growth are much more profound and eventually turn the company into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here's what I mean by self-fulfilling prophecy:

If you're able to increase sales consistently at a high rate, you'll have many reasons to celebrate your success with your people frequently.

And then your people will love the company.

Entrepreneurs growing sales have reasons to make parties

A picture from a legendary Shopgate party. Growing sales gives you the best reasons to celebrate. And celebrations will boost your employee's spirit. That, in turn, will then lead to better products, more sales, more customers, investors and eventually a great exit.

If employees love your company, it will result in better products, more sales, better marketing, and better customer success.

And this will help you win even more customers because they feel your success and want to join the rocketship.

And because of that accelerated growth, investors will jump on you and try to get their piece of the cake too.

And eventually, you'll even end up selling your company in a fantastic exit.

I saw the whole chain at SOFORT:

When we became successful, started to deliver record sales every month and made our case against the banks, we were bombarded with investors requests.

Nearly all big names sitting on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park visited us in Munich to explore an investment.

The bottom-line is:

Sales growth is not only a key performance indicator; it helps to push your stakeholders to make the company even more successful.

Once you continuously grow your company at a high rate, that growth starts accelerating itself through the effect it has on employees morale, attraction to customers and the interest of investors.

12 – The downside of sales growth: The conflict with long-term product development

On the other hand, if you don't grow sales fast enough the appreciation and motivation of employees, customers and investors may drop like a stone.

And sometimes entrepreneurs must forgo growing sales on purpose.

But by doing that, entrepreneurs face significant challenges.

I made this experience too:

At Shopgate, I once went through a phase of almost two years in which we declined large paying customers and partner integrations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why?

Because we focused our R&D resources on a new product development, instead of adapting the old one.

For two years we pointed the Shopgate R&D team's energy on developing a revolutionary, new platform.

It's the platform Shopgate is offering today.

We call it Shopgate CONNECT.

Shopgate Logo

Today it is the most advanced, cloud-based platform to develop high-end mobile solutions.

It can serve as a powerful omnichannel-solution to connect brick and mortar stores with the online store through mobile devices.

It helps companies develop mobile apps ten times faster, focus on innovation and compete against the giants of Silicon Valley.

And here's the conflict I faced as a leader:

There are times where entrepreneurs must forgo sales growth opportunities to build an amazing product.

On the one hand developing a new, revolutionary product belongs to the most exciting parts of an entrepreneurs' job.

After all, such a new platform bears countless opportunities and is, therefore, an inspiring source of new ideas!

But the time to develop the Shopgate Connect platform was the most difficult in my entire career.

  • I explained our vision in company keynotes, meetings and 1:1 talks to employees.
  • I made customers aware that we are working on something that may deliver ten times the value we provided before.
  • I presented the breathtaking opportunity in board meetings to investors time and again.

But still:

Turning down sales opportunities naturally led to slower sales growth.

And guess what:

It was more and more difficult to motivate employees, customers, and investors.

Again: Sales growth is the one metric that fuels the excitement of everyone.

Today the new platform is up and running.

Customers love it.

The company has a talented team that works hard for the company's success.

And Shopgate is on a success path again.

13 – A new venture: The Origins of SalesGrowth

At the end of 2017, I decided to step down as CEO of Shopgate.

I replaced myself with one of my colleagues in the leadership team, reduced the operational involvement and became an active board member instead.

After 15 years of 24/7 living by trial and error, I needed a rest, time to reflect and time for my family.

It was a bold decision that did look strange to many people.

I don't want to go into the details of my reasoning here, but when I finally got time to reflect on my journey, a couple of thoughts started to become clear.

Again: I can't name them all.

But one of them was:

Many mistakes I did were rooted in a lack of experience.

Now, that is pretty obvious and simple:

Your mistakes make up your experience. So you have to learn from mistakes first, before gaining the experience.

It's a logical consequence of living by trial and error, as explained above.

Experience and Mistakes

And I noticed that there are not many places where entrepreneurs openly talk about their mistakes, their learnings, and their successes.

Furthermore, I needed years of work for three particular tasks relevant to growth:

  • Investor material,
  • financial plans,
  • and, most of all: prospecting data for sales, marketing, and investor pitches.

Now that may sound like a random list, but these three data types took me years of work.

They often distracted me from recruiting talents, product development, sales, and marketing:

The fun parts of entrepreneurship!

So I found a least two opportunities for problems I can solve for a significant number of other entrepreneurs and business leaders:

1.) A Growth Blog & Podcast: Write and talk about my experience and the experience of other entrepreneurs to help you avoid mistakes, learn from successes and then move faster.

2.) A Growth Store: Provide material, templates, and data that help others grow their business faster.

The vision for SalesGrowth was born:

SalesGrowth offers insights and data to grow your business.

It's like a startup I create for my younger self.

A company owning and offering large amounts of data can evolve into something spectacular.

Let me, therefore, surprise you with all sorts of ideas I'll have on this new part of my journey. 😎

14 – Will this become another big company?

I don't know.

But here's something I learned as well:

It's not about creating big companies in the first place. It's about helping as many people as possible to succeed.

If you're successful in helping many people, your company will automatically become relevant.

Last but not least:

I'd like to thank you for reading my story.

I hope that it helped you gain a better understanding of entrepreneurship.

Please comment below on your experiences with being an entrepreneur.

Take care and enjoy!

Andrea Anderheggen

All the best, Andrea

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Your Comments

What is your experience? What is your definition of an entrepreneur?

Please let me know with your comment below and share this article.

Take care and enjoy!

Andrea Anderheggen

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