Hi, my name is Pim. I’ve been lucky enough to have started a successful gaming company at 14, grateful to have failed at way more things, honored to have collaborated with several NGOs to build some really cool software, and I’m very glad that I was able to share my experiences with other people by mentoring and guest speaking at multiple tech and business events.
I’ve had amazing mentors in my life, and even more not-so-amazing things. I’ve learned so much from everything I’ve been through, and I feel very inspired to share some of that with you today. I’m a programmer at heart, and throughout the years I picked up on quite some business and management skills. I still have way more to learn than to talk about, but I want to share a couple of things with you, so let’s go!
Lesson 1: Surround yourself with the right people
For the first couple of years of my career I really was not picky about who I surrounded myself with. I was quite naive and trusted what people told me without really giving things a second thought. Don’t get me wrong, building a network is extremely important, but what’s even more important is who you choose to be in your network.
Some people are going to take advantage of you, some people will try to lock you in certain contracts for periods of time, some people will sell you the wrong product. I guess it’s part of life, but in the end you are the one who says what goes and what doesn’t. Lay down your line, and surround yourself with the people that carry your best interest at heart. These people truly exist in every area of business. You just have to find the right people.
This sometimes means getting extremely personal with people if they do, but it also means trusting them and giving them a reason to trust you. Relationships built on trust are the ones that will last extremely long, and you will reap the benefits from getting to know these amazing people in the long term.
Unfortunately it also means that sometimes you need to make the choice to not work with people. This can be extremely hard, but it is your responsibility to your team, your customers, and your shareholders to put your A-team in the game. If you choose to put the wrong player in the game, it affects your entire company in the long run.
Lesson 2: Learn to delegate work
Yeah, it’s Saturday 4 AM, you’re working (Or at least I was). At 15 years old I was micro-managing literally every department of my company. We had some people here and there but I thought that nobody did it the way I wanted to do it. I thought.. I have failed so many times and I saw the effects it had on my business, I can’t let somebody else do the same thing because it will be bad for my business! One day I had an incredibly smart mentor (who I am forever grateful for) tell me that I needed to learn how to delegate work, because I could run my company so much better. It hit home, but I didn’t know how?! How could somebody who didn’t build this company run this department just as well as I thought I did it?
The first step I had to take is realizing that I was wrong, realizing that if I put the right people at the right place, I could focus on other things. It’s hard giving your baby to somebody else you know, it’s incredibly hard. But even with your very own child, there are reasons we have professionals in every area (teachers, doctors, everybody else I’ve missed..), and that professional is probably not you. You are the director of the company, you are responsible for what matters down the line: your customers, numbers, your people, and dignity.
These people will fail, but in the end they will flourish. They will lift the weight off your shoulders that you have felt for so long, allowing you to flourish in other areas where you couldn’t before. It might take time to find that one person that you think fits, but it will be worth it in the end. Actually, you will probably end up learning even more from them than you’ve taught them. On top of that, you now have time for other things. I guess that’s a win win.
Lesson 3: Dare to do things different
Don’t get too caught up in doing exactly what people advise or tell you to do. Do what you think is right, but take everything you’ve heard about the subject in very strong consideration. You might end up running into things that you can then share with other people, or maybe even things you can turn into your own or somebody else’s next big thing.
You are one of the very few people if not the only one who knows your business best. Don’t feel afraid to innovate, try new things, or make drastic changes. As long as you do them right, consider your customers when doing it, and involve the right minds on your ideas to get enough critique before you get started.
Lesson 4: Get your facts straight with data
I’m obsessed with looking at data about customers. Now this doesn’t mean I am obsessed about looking at their personal details, but it does mean that I’m obsessed with seeing how our customers interact with our products. It’s easy to think that you get everything right about your business, but once you start recording some data about your customers’ behavior you will probably see that you’re wrong in a lot of areas. A couple of things I find extremely interesting are:
1. Which payment methods do our users use, what % of payments fail, and why
2. Live revenues
3. Do people reach the goals we want them to reach when interacting with our products? (For example, do they sign up if they hit our landing page, do they make friends in the game)
4. Expenses (Money might leave your business way quicker than you initially think)
5. Where do our users come from?
After you get your facts straight, you can make data-driven decisions. It doesn’t only sound pretty impressive, you’ll actually see the results of better decisions down the line.
There are lots of other factors which will obviously affect whether your company succeeds or not, some of them you unfortunately can’t even control or get advice on, but I hope I contributed my 2 cents to helping you achieve your dreams. You can do it!
If you are interested in hearing more from me, feel free to connect or follow me. My twitter is @PimDeWitte.
Have a wonderful day and keep on innovating!