As I was contemplating embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, my parents, both entrepreneurs, shared a few pearls of wisdom:
If you don’t have the staying power for 1000 days, don’t bother quitting your current position.
The importance of the 1000 days wasn’t evident pre-venture, but post-venture it became evident quickly and helped me turn early setbacks into learning lessons.
When you start, each decision seems the most important thing at the time. But as Howard Marks discusses in his book The Most Important Thing, there’s never just one thing. It’s usually many important things at each stage of creation, some chronicled here: Naming the Firm | The Making of DiligenceVault | Growing an A Team | Embracing Innovation.
A significant milestone is arriving at a viable product that meets an existing need, is refined and distilled, but at the same time reimagines and transforms the end-to-end experience for the target market. This initial step is so very important that there is plenty of literature from successful entrepreneurs, VCs and innovation experts, including The Lean Startup. But once you have the product ready to ship, how do you overcome the challenges of selling new technology?
Validation and partnerships are key to the successful execution of any new idea or product. Rather than chasing investments, you should invest time strategically with the right partners. This process helps you think about what you know, in a new way.
Educate your community about who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. Clarity of vision and intent was an absolute must as we worked on developing a new market. For DiligenceVault, understanding and articulating why our industry needed to be natural in a digital world was key.
The Rise of Integrated InvestTech – Why innovation in integrated thinking is an absolute must
The Common App for Funds – Why mutualized platform is required for solving the problem that we are solving.
Learn to walk away: It’s been written in numerous articles and case studies, but doing this is the HARDEST of all things to learn! When clients are not ready to work with you, however hard it seems, walk away. Free up your team’s bandwidth to work with clients who want to innovate jointly with you. And hope that this only happens once or twice in your 1000-day sprints! Equally important is to move mountains when you find the right client partnership.
Responsiveness to clients: As a team, we work on improving all aspects of client experience, from onboarding to client support. While surprising to our users, and apparently sometimes even unnerving to them, I personally enjoy spending time responding to client requests when I am able. This is so rare that two of our clients were actually concerned our business was going under since we always respond quickly and kindly to all of their requests! We were able to achieve this by investing in technology for internal operations – build visible alerts in issues discovery and automation for implementation. You call it creepy, we call it client service
Laser focus on the product: We are mission-driven with a strong belief that we are changing the world of investing. In creating a digital future for the industry, we enhance productivity for the next generation of investors and asset managers. The technology we provide to asset managers, investment offices, and investment consultants enables the social impact of better fiduciary outcomes for millions of retirement beneficiaries, college students, and insurance policyholders. Along the exciting journey of extending the product and deepening client relations, I have sometimes taken a detour and lost product focus. But I have been fortunate to have a counterbalance in the team that pulls me back to continue to focus. It is must to have a team with diverse opinions and decision speeds to strengthen your ability to focus. And when needed, a fabulous network to tap and ask for help.
There are no shortcuts to long-term success, and it really takes a village to deliver on the focus.
As a Moroccan thanked me after a recent trip from Zurich to Casablanca, I give thanks to the first cohort of users across investors and managers, diligence and data modules, the firms who helped us give maturity to manager functionality, and the firms who have invested time in building new products with us. You believed in the product that you saw and the team behind it that engaged with you. Equally important are the investors in the first 1000 days. You were bold in your intentions, and together we own our bright future. You will forever have our gratitude!
It’s been more than 1000 days into our journey as I pen this, but it was important to recognize the milestone. Had we not been ready to focus for the long run, we would have taken shortcuts, sold out to the first bid, or given up before hitting the milestones. Now that the foundation has been laid, we look forward to the next 1000 days journey together with you! 😊