From a couple of people in the corner of a WeWork, to over 60 in our own carefully designed office space, from paper invitations to framed wall art, Papier has come a long way in the last 5 years. That's meant a steep learning curve for founder and CEO Taymoor Atighetchi. As we celebrate half a decade in business, Taymoor tells us the top 5 things he’s learned about running a startup.
Taymoor drawn by Luke Edward Hall
Surround yourself with good people
One of the things any founder has to learn (often the hard way) is that they're only good at some things and not everything. I've learnt to surround myself with people that are better than me and from whom I can learn. They need to be people that bring energy and optimism every day. Building a business from the ground up has its fair share of challenges and setbacks, you need people who can jump back up when knocked down and inspire you to do the same.
Look after yourself
It's true, setting up your business takes over your world. I imagine it's like getting married, having kids and starting a new job all at once. You invest every ounce of physical, mental and emotional strength into it. It's easy to forget yourself in the process. I learnt the importance of respecting your mind and body in order to meet the challenges of building a business. That means eating well, sleeping well and keeping fit. Oh, and also switching off (which I'm still working on...)
Be quick to learn, pivot and adapt
Not everything will go as planned. As someone who loves a plan (and has my holiday mapped out in a spreadsheet) this was a difficult realisation. However, I learnt that the speed with which you react, pivot and adapt to changes is your greatest strength as a founder of a new business and what will allow you to beat your competition. Test and learn, try new things, experiment, don't be afraid to fail and try your best to enjoy and embrace uncertainty!
Don't underestimate the value of focus
It's easy to be distracted and as an optimist, it's easy to never say no. With success can also come overconfidence and untempered ambition. I learnt the importance of maintaining focus and that doing fewer things well often results in bigger, better outcomes. Prioritisation can be difficult when there are so many new, exciting opportunities appear. But you can't make everything a priority (as your teams will tell you!). It's your job as a founder to say no and keep the business focused on the mission ahead.
Invest time in helping others
When I was starting out I sent a lot of cold emails asking people who had successfully built businesses for help and advice. Only a few people responded to me and gave up their time. To this day, I remember each of those conversations vividly and many of them helped shape the journey I'm on today. It taught me a key lesson – it doesn't matter how busy you are, you should always find time to help others. To give advice to the young, ambitious naïve you from 5 years ago who is thinking about leaving their job and taking the plunge into becoming an entrepreneur. They'll thank you later!