Jan 4, 2022
5 mins read

10 CEO tips on how to build a great product

Quick summary

Are you tired of reading about cash flow and taxes? Done with your end of year accounting? Take a moment to relax, and read a quick summary of an interview I did with The Recursive in December 2021, including some valuable tips for software entrepreneurs.

The Recursive is an excellent media source for entrepreneurs and funders in Europe's South East region. In October 2021, they launched a podcast featuring one-hour interviews with many of the leading innovation actors in the region. In December, I spoke with Irina at The Recursive, after the recent successful Series B at Payhawk to explain how we got to where we are now. I shared my own story too, including my start at Telerik and how I've successfully launched a growing company while raising a family.

I also shared the following top ten tips for budding entrepreneurs.

Before you start your own business

1. Look for a flat organization

If you don't know where to start your own job search before launching a company, look for an organization with a 'flat structure'. That way, you'll learn from your peers and the management team at a faster pace than in a very hierarchical company. Try to find a company where you believe in the product and have a good feeling about the business.

The other advantage of working in a flat structure is that you'll get exposed to different problems/teams/products instead of working in an unconnected silo. A flat structure can also accommodate growth across different levels much more quickly than a very structured organization.

2. Work for a market leader

If you know the market where you want to build your product, look for the market leader and find a job there. You'll be working shoulder to shoulder with the best talent.

The exposure to highly skilled people will challenge you, but you'll also find like-minded people to be part of your future team once you begin your entrepreneurial adventure.

3. Learn from failures

It's ok to have failures and make mistakes with products, strategies, executions, etc., providing you learn from them. These mistakes can make you stronger and more ready to explore and learn.

Making mistakes is part of a good learning experience and can help make you more comfortable with a test and learn style strategy before starting your own business.

4. Read about the Lean Startup

A good company structure will feature experimentation, customer feedback, and iterative design. This kind of structure will help you recover from failures more quickly than any traditional product development technique.

I suggest reading publications on this by Steve Blank and Eric Ries.

CFO guide: How to demonstrate robust cash flow control

When you think you’re ready to build your start-up

5. Be a firm believer in the problem you’re solving

You must strive to understand your customer's pain points: Have a clear hypothesis and validate it. If you don't see the excitement about the problem you're trying to solve during conversations with your potential market, then you're not solving the right problems.

The passion for helping your audience get better will motivate you to create a good product. It's about finding an opportunity in the spark in your audiences' eyes.

6. Find a co-founder who challenges you

Try to find a co-founder who can ask the right questions when discussing ideas. They should be open-minded and not stubborn and share the same passion for the problem you're both solving. Your co-founder should also bring another set of skills to the table.

There's no point working in an echo chamber.

7. Build a stellar team: engineer, product manager (PM), and a UX specialist

This trio reflects how we operate at Payhawk. Developers can do interactions very fast and analyze what works. PMs can translate what the market wants quickly. And the UX expert can bring the user to the forefront.

Rapid experimentation is essential for building products. This triangle allows you to iterate and move fast. In my opinion, these three elements are the atoms needed to create a product.

8. Start your company even if you're facing personal challenges

There's no such thing as a good time to start your own business. If you're comfortable with your job and personal life, it's hard to move away from it to embark on a new adventure.

Evaluate your life, talk to your partner, look to your bank account and make the move.

9. Focus on investors who believe in you and your product

When you start looking for funding, be picky. Yep, it can sound counter-intuitive, but you have to choose your investors wisely, especially at the beginning. Investors should believe in you and your company no matter how much money there already is in that specific market, nor how much competition there is.

Also, choose those investors who've done their homework to research the market and analyze problems and future insights. So, you can bring that knowledge back to your team and optimize your product. Also, bear in mind that there is also a lot of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out); they can be much more worried about the companies they haven't been able to invest in.

10. Try to build an environment where other entrepreneurs can succeed and thrive

If you want to have an impact, build an environment that can allow people like you to thrive. This environment should be flat, with a highly talented team equipped with resources and feedback mechanisms.

Read more from the interview here, and best of luck with starting your own business if that’s what 2022 holds for you. If you’re not starting your own business, but you are looking to join our stellar team, please check out our careers page for all of the latest Payhawk opportunities.

Hristo Borisov - Chief Executive Officer at Payhawk corporate spend management solution.
Hristo Borisov
Chief Executive Officer

Hristo is the compass guiding Payhawk's journey. With a rich background in engineering аnd product management he is a stalwart advocate for our products and customers, bringing a mix of innovation and user-centricity to everything we do. Outside the office, you'll catch him enjoying camper and sailing trips, shredding slopes on his snowboard, or simply soaking up precious moments with his family.

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