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First-year as an entrepreneur - Here are my top 10 successes.

First-year as an entrepreneur - Here are my top 10 successes.

I am leaving for the summer holidays tomorrow. 1 month of full relaxation and no work.

We officially launched TalentBee on the 5th of August in 2022 so I wanted to take a bit of time to reflect on what went well in the first year.

If you didn't already check my article about 10 fuck ups from last week I recommend reading that before this.

1: Building a founding team that supports each other skillsets & Personalities

The team is the most important part of succeeding. Before we launched TalentBee we used to work on the idea together with Saara, who also happens to be my girlfriend.

From the beginning, we realized that we needed one more founder to support & balance our skillsets.

I think our combination, with me, Saara & Siiri is great.

From a skillset point of view:

-Saara brings expertise on the recruitment side of things

-Siiri brings expertise on employer branding side of things

-I bring expertise in sales, marketing & scaling a business in a profitable way

From another perspective:

-Saara is super empathic and people first person

-I'm the numbers & process guy

-Siiri is something between us

2: Building a brand

Our Go-to-market strategy has been marketing-led and focused on building the TalentBee brand.

I think most people working in the recruitment/talent acquisition industry in Finland have heard of TalentBee already.

The main content pieces for us have been:

-Our content to LinkedIn, both from personal & company channels

-#TalentBuzz podcast which I recorded a bit more than 40 episodes during the first year

-Our Instagram & TikTok

-Participating in events, webinars, etc.

Especially I think this is a suggest because of two reasons:

  1. We get feedback about our brand on a weekly basis from people we don't know, saying how inspirational it is to follow our journey and way of doing things
  2. We get new customers from there. Most of our customers come through inbound.

3: Keeping customers happy

During the first year, we have had a chance to support 17 companies around their talent acquisition.

There are few things that tell me that customers are happy:

  1. They let us do reference stories
  2. They refer us to other customers
  3. They want to buy more from us

I think there is one main reason for this: Our great team.

I have actually made their job a bit harder by giving big promises to customers - It's always about founding a balance there how to share that you are good, but not oversell.

4: Founding MRR business model

Before launching TalentBee, I chatted with a lot of recruitment agency founders.

They said that everyone is trying to get to the MRR model, but no one succeeds in this.

There were a lot of companies that had, e.g., 6 months or 9 months deals, but not really ongoing business models in the MRR way.

Most said it's impossible.

I'm happy to share that it's not. We have succeeded in this and currently around 50% of revenue comes from Monthly-recurring-revenue - And it's really MRR - not any 6-month contracts etc. I, of course, don't have enough data on what the average lengths of the customers will be in the MRR model. What I can say is that the churn is 0% so far = all the ongoing customers we have got this past year are still ongoing customers.

5: Building a cashflow positive business with money in the bank

We launched TalentBee without any bigger investments. I put 15 000€ of my own money mainly for buying laptops, phones, a website & some software licenses.

Our advisor Niilo has been reminding me of one thing almost every time we talk: "Make sure your monthly expenses are never bigger than your MRR" --> With this you make sure that you are always profitable.

We have tried to keep that each month - there have been a few months when we weren't quite there (months when we have hired employees).

But I'm happy to say that we are already a profitable business with positive cash flow and we have collected more than 100 000€ to our bank account.

6: Our positioning & winning sales cases against competitors

The recruitment industry is very saturated. The key to succeeding is to have precise positioning & value proposition for customers.

We had identified a few main competitors in Finland before launching TalentBee.

Two main ones are Finders, Seekers & Talented - These came from customer research when we asked who others are working with or who they would consider as a partner if they would use an agency (we did this research in the spring of 2022).

I'm always super happy when we win sales cases, but I'm even happier when we win cases against these two because in my mind they are great at what they do. And the fact that customers choose us, the small & new TalentBee, over bigger & more established companies is always a message for me that we are doing something right.

7: Finding a work-life balance as an entrepreneur

It's currently Saturday 1st of July, at 11:58 when I'm writing this sentence. Is it work-life balance to work on Saturday?

For me, it is. Let me explain. Normally I don't work from Friday to Sunday, but now I'm sitting on the train for 6 hours --> I instead use this time for writing so I can relax more when I get to my destination in Oulu.

For me work-life balance means the following things:

  1. I can choose where & when I work
  2. I don't need to overwork
  3. I can have holidays when I want

During the first year, I haven't worked +40 in one week. It's been typically 25 to 35 hours, the average being around 30 hours.

You might have heard of the stories that you need to work long days to succeed. I don't want to build my own business if it would mean overworking. I want to play Padel, Disc golf, and enjoy time with friends & family.

Yes, we might have a bit more revenue or more customers if we had put in more hours, but I'm happy this way.

As I shared at the beginning of this article, I'm about to start one full month's holiday where I will be completely offline for 1 month - I trust that TalentBee will be up & running without me as well. It's a good test as well.

8: Building a great working place & a company where people want to join

Our main goal is to build the best workplace for talent acquisition professionals. If we succeed in this, we are also able to serve the customers in the best possible ways.

We are on the track of building a good workplace for TA people.

I think we are already a great workplace. People learn people enjoy, people are free to choose their working place & time, people are given responsibility.

But we are not an easy place. We are demanding our people. Our customers are appealing to them. You get to areas where you are not ready to go. You need to solve problems you haven't solved before.

It's important to understand that a great workplace doesn't mean that work is easy.

To be honest, I believe we are not the best workplace for most people - If you want to make easy money and stay in your comfort zone at work, you shouldn't join a start-up 😆

During the year, we have been able to hire awesome talents, and we get a lot of traction from great TA professionals interested in joining us someday.

9: #TalentBuzz podcast

I know I mentioned this shortly in building our brand part, but this is a big personal success for me. I have recorded 44 episodes of #TalentBuzz, and I've spent hundreds of hours on that - getting guests to join, preparing for the episodes & promoting the attacks.

There is 3 reasons why I've been doing this:

  1. For my knowledge of talent acquisition - I become a way better CEO & salesperson for TalentBee when I'm an expert in talent acquisition. One of the best ways to do that is to talk with many smart people about different topics in talent acquisition.
  2. It's building our brand - Many people have listened to the episodes, and we have already got some nice cases to our sales pipeline from here.
  3. I'm inviting people & companies as guests who we want to work with someday - I think it's one of the best ways to start a sales process.

10: Becoming a better people leader

I would rate myself around 5 / 10 now. But at the beginning of the TalentBee journey, I would give myself 2 / 10.

I have always been great around processes & leading things, numbers, etc. People leadership is something very new for me.

What can you expect from people? How to give feedback to people? How to listen to their feelings & emotions without providing solutions? And a lot more.

This has been a learning journey, and I'm proud of the trip so far.

Ps. We are hosting TalentBee's 1-year birthday party in Helsinki after the summer, and you are warmly welcome! Send me a message if you want to hear more 🙌