You all know about my experience with Immotionar startup. This full body virtual reality venture was formed by 3 partners: me, Gianni and Beps Engineering. Beps is an IoT company that hosted and gave support to this fantastic adventure, that unfortunately ended badly.
After some months from this failure, now we are all separated. Gianni four months ago became the employee of a very important digital media company. After some months of further collaboration, I went away from Beps offices, too and since last Friday I have a new office dedicated to my new adventure with my collaborators.
I’ve spent 3 years in Beps’s offices: I entered there as a techie and came out as an entrepreneur (or a wanna-preneur, depending on how much you esteem me :D). Beps’s CEO Beppe Platania has been the first entrepreneur I’ve had the pleasure collaborating with and learning from. He taught me a lot of things directly or indirectly by living inside his company. Today I want to tell you some lessons that I learned while being there that you have to take in mind if you wanna be an entrepreneur.
1. Create a good company culture
This is what I really loved about working with Beps. The company has a nice mentality targeted towards employee’s wellness. Each employee is not in competition with other ones but WORKS WITH the other ones. If someone is in trouble, all the others try to help him/her. When Gianni and me went to showcase Immotionar at WTT, all the people of the company came to offer their support at our booth or at least came visiting us. They had no advantage in doing that, they just did that to be supportive. And this happened for each problem I had. Being inside such a supportive environment made me became supportive as well: when someone had problems with C++, for instance, I tried to help him, even if it was absolutely not my duty.
Then I have also to praise other values, as:
- Inclusion (seeing a female programmer inside such a little IT company is pretty rare)
- Flexibility (employees have very flexible working hours)
- Support of employee’s passions (Immotionar has born to support the dream of Gianni to experiment with new technologies)
The nice thing is that every person that enters this company absorbs its values and become a helpful worker as well. There are various benefits of having such a good culture. The most important ones are:
- Employees are happy with working there and this makes them work better;
- Since everyone helps the other, no one feels alone and so the team is more united and everyone feels as being part of a “big family”. This makes the company more strong when it has to pass through difficult moments;
- Given the two above points, employees are sad of leaving the company, because they don’t know if they’ll find such a nice environment outside. This helps in retention of talents.
There’s a lot of talking about toxic company cultures in the Valley during this period. What we have to create as entrepreneurs is instead this kind of culture, where every employee feels as he/she’s part of a united team and is happy of attending the workplace. This is the best lesson that I took while working there and in fact, I’m trying to create such a positive culture in my new adventure.
2. Do the work at your best
Beps is an excellence in some branches of IoT, especially the ones regarding low-level software, like drivers or customized Windows builds for embedded devices. What Beppe wants is not delivering a product that is good enough for the customer, but one that is completely well made.
Gianni has been my deskmate for years and working with him I learned how things are to be done in the right way. Products have to be made at the best quality possible, of course depending also on how much the customer is paying.
This has two obvious advantages:
- The reputation of the company rises and everyone will tell the others that you are a company that customers can trust. A high reputation is fundamental for retaining and gaining clients;
- The source code of software becomes maintainable. If you write the project to be good-enough, most probably your source code will be a mess. This means that if the customer asks for a modification or an improvement of the current project, you will spend 3x the time to implement it, with lots of headaches. If the project has been written in a perfect manner, you can easily modify it or spot errors.
Don’t try to be a perfectionist, because this can kill your business (trust me, perfection is a terrible goal). But try to do a great job. You must demonstrate in each work that you are truly an excellence, that you’re the best, that you deserve trust. That’s why if you need some projects regarding IoT, I’d advise you to contact Beps Engineering.
3. There will be compromises and hard choices
Some people love to say that they have never made compromises in their own life. I think that in business this is just impossible. Sometimes you have to work with someone you don’t like because it offers you a good project. Sometimes you have to earn less money than you deserve on a certain project just because you’re in trouble and need money for your company. There are lots of moments in which you have to make compromises if you want your business to survive. What is important is not violating your company values: if someone offers you to do something illegal, refuse it, even if you need money.
What types of compromises to make is up to you. Like all other decisions about entrepreneurship. Somewhere I read that being an entrepreneur is sad because you feel alone and I think that it is true. When there is some decision to make, you as an entrepreneur are the one that has to do that. And that decision may take the company to fail or to become in trouble. And if things go bad, you’re the person to blame in employee’s mind. You have the responsibility of all your big family and you have to feed them each month. You have to make hard decisions and you’re alone in that. It’s one of the most stressful things about entrepreneurship.
4. Networking is important
With Beps, I’ve been to lots of events. Most of them lead to absolutely nothing: no working opportunities, no money, nothing. So, why is it important going there? Mostly because you have to meet the greatest number of people possible. The more you meet, the higher the chances to meet someone that now or in the future can become your customer or partner. This means an enormous waste of time, just to have a little back. But this is necessary and you should do that because gaining that “little” each year takes you in having a decent network of people you work with and that asks you for a project after some time.
So, be patient and go to most event possible and shake all hands you can.
5. Be enthusiast and passionate
Even in bad moments of the company, I continued seeing Beppe being enthusiast about the evolution of technology and continuing managing the various tech communities he’s into, attending or organizing events. I saw him thinking about innovative projects he could do.
Passion is what has to drive an entrepreneur… not money or success. It is what makes him/her strong during harsh times.
Surely these are not some super-secret lessons: seems more common sense wisdom. But you have no idea on how many companies I know where people are not happy with working in and how many others I know that just want to deliver a decent work just to get money. Knowing what to do may be easy, but applying it is very very hard. The first 2 lessons are the most important ones and living inside that healthy place has made me acquire a healthy entrepreneurial mindset and I have to thanks really a lot Beps Engineering, its CEO Beppe Platania and all its employees for this. I really wanted to write this post to thank them because they deserve all the best possible.
It has been hard to say goodbye, but I had to. Of course, we are still in contact and we plan to collaborate on future projects.
Now I’m in a new coworking… and you know what? Here there is the same climate where people want to help each other. We’re currently in a cultural association called Lombroso 16 and we had here a very warm welcome… so, maybe I’ll continue the tradition of working inside happy places. Hope this will go on for many years…