What would you ask if you were in the room with a growth business founder? Someone that is honest, a little crazy and who readily admits that he has gotten things wrong before? We had this in mind when we had the chance to hear from Justin Dry, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Australian startup Vinomofo. The gregarious, wine-loving co-founder headed up our inaugural Founders Central event; Founder Night. The event brought together the Wellington founder community to catch-up, connect and learn from both Justin, and the documentary he was part of - The New Hustle.
Looking through the eyes of a scale-up business we have pulled together 5 things founders of scaling businesses can learn from Justin Dry and the Vinomofo story.
1 : You can admit that it isn’t working
Not every choice that Justin and his Co-founder have made along the Vinomofo journey has been the right one. Not every day has been bright, and the money was definitely not flowing from day dot. Through all of this, Justin and Andre were able to continue in part because of the support they had around them - even then Justin said if he were to do it again he would be more open about the challenges they faced early on. In conversation with BizDojo Co-founder Nick Shewring, the duo talked extensively about how openness and honesty will help build a stronger startup ecosystem for everyone.
This feeds into a bigger thing that Justin spoke about - getting honest, speaking at length about the power of ‘cutting the bullsh*t’ - to enable free and frank conversations in your business to move things forward.
2: People matter
When asked about the one piece of advice that they wished they had received early on, Justin talked extensively about the power of hiring the right people for your team. Rattling through options that other companies tend to use, Justin said that when it comes to him making a decision it often comes down to gut. “Do i get the right feeling from you?”.
This could just have been a conversation simply about hiring, but it touched on a larger theme that Justin touched on in a blog post about his visit to New Zealand. Justin, and Vinomofo are passionate about wine and their product yes. But they also care deeply about the users of that product, their teams, the folks in their startup ecosystem because, they see people as core to what they do. Creating avenues to form authentic, meaningful relationships with those people. No users. Not clients - people. A good reminder to anyone helming a business to not simply get lost in the numbers of it all.
3: As your business changes, your team needs to as well
Those people who muck in and help you grow your business when it is in startup mode might not be the ones to carry through to the scale-up phase or beyond. It is the kind of statement that seems simple on paper, but Justin talked openly about the tension that this creates between doing the right thing for the next stage of your business, while having to say goodbye to the tight-knit group of people that often feel more like family than employees.
Justin, however, was quick to remind people that it is hard, but this is a business and to get to the next stage you might have to have those hard conversations. He was also quick to remind people that it isn't about casting former employees aside, “many of those people that were with us in the early days have invested in what we do”.
4: The right team thing also applies to your board too
When one of the audience members quizzed Justin about putting together a board, Justin was quick to respond “you have to think strategically”. Echoing things that other Collider speakers have mentioned in the past, Justin spoke about the opportunity that putting together a board can bring to your business. Those board appointments need to add to what is happening in the business right now, or allow you to take that next step. Are you looking to expand into new markets? Look for a board member who has experience in the same category as you do, thus, allowing them to use networks, share knowledge and really help drive that next step.
5: When stuff goes wrong, do not let it swallow you up
As Rick Baker says in The New Hustle, “When you start a business, the highest probability is that you will fail. Most people fail”. He goes on to say that it really is the learning opportunities that come with trying things that do not succeed, that leads them on to that next success. The reality of that can be brutal, however, and it can be hard to keep your head above water to keep swimming. So, we asked Justin how he does it? Justin told the room to remember that their business is a business. It is not you - try and keep perspective to allow you to move through dark times in your business whilst minimising as much as you can the impact this has on your core beliefs of who you are as a person.
The Collider Founders Central cohort will provide support, community and connection to Wellington’s founders of growth and scale-up businesses. Sound like you? Hit the button below to find out more.