Fireside Chat with Mona Bijoor, Founder of JOOR and Author of Startups and Downs: The Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs
Blog, NewsBy Tribeca Venture Partners
Our Head of Marketing, Rocky Lachman, recently interviewed Mona Bijoor, Founder of JOOR and Partner at Kings Circle Capital, to discuss her new book Startups and Downs: The Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs. This was a special fireside chat for female founders to join Tribeca Venture Partners and XRC Labs to discuss Entrepreneurship and Resilience. The conversation highlighted how Mona disrupted the retail industry, raised capital, and the ups/downs that every entrepreneur will face when building a startup. Here are some key takeaways from Rocky’s conversation with Mona.
Tell us about the title of the book, Startups and Downs: The Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs and why you decided to write the book now?
I’ve spent the past couple of years advising hundreds of first-time founders, and my conversations with them were the inspiration for this book. I came to realize that there is a set of issues that all business owners face at one time or another. But these common challenges—pitching investors, losing key employees, dealing with the competition—aren’t something people automatically know how to deal with from the get-go.
In this book, I share what I think all business owners (big, small, start-up, or established) need to know about overcoming the challenges every entrepreneur experiences during his or her journey.
In Chapter 1, Mindset of an Entrepreneur, you share the 7 tenets of resilient entrepreneurs. Three principles that spoke to me were “Everything is possible”, “Failure is not an option” and “You must trust the process”. I’d love for you to share more about these principles and what you heard in your interviews with entrepreneurs.
Everything is Possible. This is the kid-like belief that the sky’s the limit. There is no past experience or humiliating failure that stops successful entrepreneurs from believing that anything is possible. Unfulfilled dreams or constantly being told “no” does not hold them back. Expectations aren’t lowered because of their past failures or mistakes. Many of us get caught up in “How can I do it? I don’t have money, time, or resources,” and that thinking stops us from trying. But successful entrepreneurs set their intention and start taking action. Their momentum ultimately leads them to success and realizing their vision.
Failure is not an option. This credo is a trickier one because failure happens to many successful entrepreneurs. It’s just the way these founders view failure that differs from those who give up. Successful entrepreneurs view failure as simply an outcome they don’t want to see more of. Success is viewed as an outcome they do want and a signal that they should do more of whatever got them there. It’s black or white—and non-emotional. If these entrepreneurs don’t like the outcome, then it’s simply viewed as a trigger to change the tactic and create, hopefully, a positive result. This philosophy is summarized well in Henry Ford’s quote: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
You must trust the process. People have a timeline of success in their heads. They form this timeline early in life, and when things don’t go according to that timeline, disappointment happens. “I will be married by twenty-five,” “I will make my first million at thirty,” “I will sell my company at thirty-five,” and on and on. We are caught up in a world of instant gratification. Nothing comes fast enough—not our Uber, not our dinner, not our paycheck. Trusting the process, for these entrepreneurs, means waking up every day and taking massive action without a set timeline in mind because they believe that a lot of small wins translate into big successes—and big success doesn’t come in an instant.
Chapter 4 was one of my favorite chapters in this book: Have a go-to-market strategy or go home. “Having a solid grasp on the fundamental difference between basic tactics and a real marketing strategy is imperative for any entrepreneur. ”…“A strategy is a one-to two-year plan for how a business will get closer to its vision, win against competitors, and get closer to achieving its ten-year vision.” If Facebook ads, Instagram stories, and influencer marketing are tactics, then how do you create an effective go-to-market strategy?
Once you have your vision and strategies in place, then you can design your tactics (known as your go-to-market strategy). The tactics should be considered flexible. That’s why businesses that don’t measure anything rarely succeed. If key performance indicators are in place, then your metrics will tell you whether your tactics are getting you closer to achieving your strategic objectives.
Most entrepreneurs I meet, have five to ten generic tactics that they are pursuing. Most of the tactics are stale or aren’t really working. Creativity really comes when you push yourself to come up with as many tactics as you can—to go beyond what is comfortable when brainstorming. The Pareto Principle truly applies to this exercise: 20 percent of the tactics listed will allow you to achieve at least 80 percent of your strategic goal.
In Losing Key Team Members and Building Team Resilience you focus on building the right team, which is critical for success. You touch on the inevitable turnover of team members and how to leverage those moments to shake things up or accelerate change. “Surviving the ups and downs of scaling a business means leaving any fear-based mindset behind and getting excited about a future filled with new opportunities.” How do you build the right team for success, and how do you manage the personal and professional impact of turnover at a startup?
First, remind your team of the impact their work has on your customers. Case studies showing your company’s impact are often seen in sales decks, but are rarely discussed and celebrated as a team. Bring in your clients for a panel discussion, share client satisfaction emails, and conduct a quarterly satisfaction survey to remind people their work matters and is making a meaningful impact.
Second, create strong support structures within your team and across departments. Hire a Head of Talent who can serve as a sounding board. Provide ways in which team members can give encouraging feedback, and discuss employee departures. Encouragement goes a long way. Valuing change and professional and personal growth goes even further.
Third, encourage your team to recharge their bodies and spirits. Leaders should set examples by working out daily, meditating, or pursuing interesting hobbies. Consider bringing in mindfulness coaches to train teams on letting go of past hang-ups or future mistakes. It’s typically not stress that causes people to give up on their goals; it’s the incessant reflection on the past that causes them to throw in the towel. Training the mind to stop the useless chatter allows an individual to move forward.
Fourth, provide your team with mentors. Mentors don’t need to always come from within your organization. Connecting key leaders with mentors from your personal network can be valuable. Role models can also be found in books and articles. Highlight stories and share them throughout the organization.
Finally, provide latitude. A person’s resilience is strengthened when she feels in control of her own destiny. Teams that make autonomous decisions and reflect on their wins and misses get stronger on their own.
Let’s talk about competition. Can’t sleep at night? Maybe it’s the competition? (maybe) When you launched your business in 2010, you were the first-mover in the fashion industry and the only brand to offer software to brands and retailers that allowed them to buy and sell online. After one year, you had competition and the competition entered the market quickly and went after your customers aggressively. How did you manage your mindset toward the competition as you scaled JOOR?
I spent my mindshare building a competitive “moat” around our business, focusing on the seven to ten things that would be difficult for competitors to replicate—or that it would take several years to copy. In the extreme form, these things could be patents or trademarks that a business carries, but typically your moat should consist of a blend of product, service, and reputation offerings that make up your company’s secret sauce. Spend time ensuring that your competitive advantage is difficult to replicate rather than worrying about the competition.
I’m a believer in routines and visualization, which is a practice that you rely on as an entrepreneur. “Visualization has been a powerful tool for me over the years. I do it with the goal of rewiring my brain to optimize it for success even in the face of severe constraints. ” Explain the practice of visualization and how entrepreneurs can leverage this as part of their leadership toolkit.
Visualization is very powerful. When undertaking a project, the first thing I do is visualize every step in the work plan. I work through everyone’s role on the project and each of their tasks from start to finish. Then, I visualize all teams working together in tandem on the project execution. Next, I visualize our clients’ interactions with our final work product. I work through three or four scenarios (sometimes more), and try to uncover as many potential roadblocks as I can. Then I visualize the whole process again and again until, in my mind, the project runs without a hitch. I keep visualizing the successful process, and it usually manifests closely to the process I had rehearsed.
Was there anything you’d like to touch on that we haven’t covered? Words to live by…
Many first time founders feel they can use their wits, will power and work ethic to overcome any challenge they face. That may be true, but there are entrepreneurs out there who have experienced the same things that you are experiencing. Creating a solid support system around you will not only provide comfort but the much-needed advice to get you past your obstacles faster than if you were to tackle them alone.
Thank you to our partners: XRC Labs, Samsung NEXT and Fenwick & West