Katherine Hague is the Co-Founder and CEO of ShopLocket, the fastest way to take payment information and charge later.
Ultimately the best thing I’ve done is to trust the people around me. A lot of leaders feel like they need to do everything themselves because that way they know it’ll get done and it’ll get done right. This isn’t a scalable solution. Ultimately, you’re going to need other people to help you out because there’s just so much to do. I’ve tried to surround myself with people that I know will do amazing work and that way we can get so much more accomplished and I can really focus on doing things that matter and have a huge impact.
Recently we’ve found a target market that our product is a great fit for — crowdfunding alumni — and we’ve really gone after that market. It’s not a huge shift for us because it’s in the ecommerce market, but it’s a group of people that we’re having a lot of success with and who are having a lot of success using us. For a startup, you really need to find a vertical and really focus on serving that market to get your initial traction.
Recently we’ve launched a series of interviews with hardware entrepreneurs called Blueprint. We realized that there were tons of resources and interviews in the software industry for bringing a product to market, but not much for hardware. Hardware founders were very much relying on their offline networks and connections to learn how to get their products to market. We’ve tried to bring that knowledge online. We now release an interview every week and it’s a great resource for our sellers and for the ecosystem in general.
I think one of the best thing you can do is to make an amazing culture, and that starts by hiring the right people. If you’ve got a great culture, that naturally attracts talent. When we look to hire someone, we ask ourselves one question, “Would you sit next to this person on an airplane?” There are a lot of smart people, but if you wouldn’t sit next to them on an airplane, how are you going to work with them all the time?
A tool that we’ve been using and love is iDoneThis. It’s just a simple thing where everyone can put in the tasks that everyone got accomplished each day. It’s not really about accountability, but it allows everyone to get a pulse for what’s going on at the company and people also take pride in what they do because everyone sees it.
I think no matter what your business is, it all comes down to just reaching out to a lot of people. At the start, you need to do things that don’t necessarily scale, like reaching out to people individually in a really personalized way to get them using your product. That was what it was like for us, then as we grew we found ways to scale that process.
You really need to take a step back and realize how valuable your time is and then start making decisions based on that. When you realize that you can’t be wasting time — because there are so many thing to do and you need to maximize your efficiency — it makes you think about delegating things differently. I am often the first person to start doing a new process, marketing initiative, or sales technique. But as soon as I can find a way to document that process and let someone else take it and run with it, I try to do that. Scaling yourself is something that a lot of people, myself included, don’t think about at the beginning but it’s critically important.
Virtual assistants are absolutely amazing. You can use a service like Odesk to do a lot of manual tasks that you just flat out don’t have time for. A lot of people think virtual assistants will do things like book flights for you, but you can get them to do things like scrape the web for customers or bloggers or just general lists. KISSMetrics uses virtual assistants to do a lot of the research for blog posts and then puts all the content together.
We once ran a fairly expensive blogger campaign that ultimately lead to a ton of signups, but not high quality ones. It’s not incredibly embarrassing, because you need to try different tactics, but ultimately we spent money, got really excited when we saw tons of signs up and felt amazing, then essentially every person turned out to not be high quality users. It definitely was a waste of time and money — or at least it would have been if we didn’t learn a lot from the experience.