3 NYE resolutions I made as a startup founder that didn’t work out (the way I expected)

3 minutes read

December always invites reflection about the year that is wrapping up. Since growing a startup makes you feel like you’re moving in hyperdrive, I’m amazed when I think back to what I wanted to do back in January with the company.

It’s funny – did we end up getting to where we wanted to? Yes, almost to the dollar, revenue-wise.  Did it look anything like we expected? Not at all. We got to where we are from a very different route. When we cofounders sat down to make a business plan for this year, that plan contained assumptions that were fairly wrong compared to what we know now.

To illustrate – here’s three NYE resolutions I made as a startup founder at the beginning of 2018 that didn’t turn out anything like I planned.


1. Grow our tech team

This is a tricky one. In December, our technology/platform team is seven strong, up from four in January. What’s unexpected is that no one from our core tech team from the beginning of 2018 is still with us. We’ve had 100% turnover of our development team. Some have left for larger companies, some were interns that finished up their time with us, some we exited on good terms.

The plan was to have a great team, and I think that we do – it just wasn’t smooth and incremental. It’s been rebuilt from the ground up.  And I would say it’s stronger than ever now – I just wasn’t expecting it like this.

We’ve also brought in two senior guys, who are just in a different league to our initial team members. I’ve learned that having talented developers isn’t the whole game. Having some great product managers, designers and veterans with the skills to manage a team goes a long way in keeping the dev team focused, engaged, and supported, so that they have everything they need to get their best work done.

To me it really shows just how strong the tech scene in Singapore is right now. Tech talent is scarce and everyone is scrambling to hire devs. This means that resources are in demand, which can sometimes lead to friction, big egos and expectations, and occasionally complacency.


2. Get 100 clients via our marketplace of accountants

When we began in 2017, our core offering was online company secretary services and disrupting the conservative paper-based industry. But we quickly found that once people had incorporated, they were also on the hunt for an accountant.

We didn’t have the capacity in-house and wanted to focus on doing one thing really, really well – and so our solution in 2018 was to build a marketplace of accountants that we could connect them to, and take a margin off the services rendered. We thought, let’s get a range of different accountants – from startups through to ex-Top 4 CPAs, something to match every type of business.

Did we get to 100 accounting clients? Yes – but we completely ditched the marketplace model along the way.

We had the demand, but in the end we realised that although we were passing the work onto the accountants, we were still accountable for the quality since it was sold under Sleek, and because of that accountability, we were still very much involved… way more than we should have been given the margin we were making.

Since the accounting offering was Sleek branded, we knew we needed to deliver on our brand promise of quality; and the price, commitment, and level of engagement that we had made us think, ‘this is not going to scale’.

So we took a different route and took it all back in-house. Now we can control the quality of our output. And since then it’s been crazy – we have a team of eight, 100 clients in less than five months, and thanks to the great work of Mary, our Head of Accounting & Tax Practice, and her team, we have been consistently delivering great work, with great commitment. There’s a great synergy between the corp sec team and the accounting team, and the result has been great customer service to our clients.


3. Daily 1-on-1s with my employees

When I became CEO I instituted daily 1-on-1s with a different staff of the company every day. I’d first heard about it on a podcast, and I thought it would be a good way to spend more time with my staff. I wanted to prioritise getting feedback from the team, since they’re the people on the front lines, growing the company.

So I thought ok, let’s do it. At the same time every day, I’d be catching up with someone – taking a meeting room, or have coffee in the sofa area, not with any precise agenda, just catching up and hearing what they had been working on and what was on their plate.

But I noticed after about two months – that was about two cycles through everyone in our company – that my time was getting too fragmented, and I felt like it was harder getting into the ‘flow state’.  Yes I was getting more feedback, but it also made my agenda feel hectic. Overall I thought, “I’m not doing better as a CEO because of this”. I knew I needed to retune things.

I dropped the one-on-ones. Instead I’ve moved to weekly Friday lunches with small huddles of 4-5 people from across the organisation. I’ve made it clear to the team that they always have my time, if they need it. If there’s a topic, put a time in my calendar, but if there’s no topic – skip it and let’s save it for lunch.

I still get ideas and feedback from the ground – and I’ve noticed that there’s also the benefit that colleagues have the opportunity to catch up with people they mightn’t necessarily get to talk to every day, so there’s a lot of cross-company team building. People don’t know as much about each other as I expected, we need to do more to encourage the team to talk to each other especially in a place like Sleek with massive diversity of jobs, nationalities and cultures – I’ve found that when they know each other, they like each other, and work together more.

In terms of feedback I feel like we’ve gone from nothing (no structured feedback) to something that didn’t really work well, to something that I feel works. It’s progress.


Conclusions

The road to success is non-linear, but I’m proud of where we are now. Do I have resolutions for 2019? Definitely… but that’s a topic for another blog post 😉

Julien Labruyere is the CEO and cofounder of Sleek.

Other articles that might interest you

Related content

Get in touch.

Start your Sleek journey today

Ready to grow your business to the next level?
Let us help take the load off your shoulders so you can continue doing what you love.

50GB data with unlimited talktime for only S$18/month and additional add-ons!

Circles.Life is a telco provider in Singapore that provides no-contract mobile plans. Their end-to-end integrated service allows customers to manage and design a plan that best fits their needs.

Enjoy the following offers:

  • 50GB data with unlimited talktime (SIM-only) for S$18/month

Once you are a Sleek client, you can access this offer.

Get access to investors, corporates and business advisors

TiE Singapore is a vibrant eco-system of Asian entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and industry professionals – TiE has 61 worldwide chapters, 10,000 Startups, 80,000 Attendees and 15,000 members.

Benefits:

  • Exclusive access to an ecosystem of advisors, mentors, investors, corporate heads via discounted programs
  • Expand your reach beyond Singapore by attending all local and global events
  • A chance to showcase and pitch your ideas to industry leaders and investors
  • Network and build connections to engage with business experts, thought leaders and fellow entrepreneurs

Form your US company with Stripe Atlas

Stripe Atlas is a safe and easy-to-use platform for forming a US entity by removing obstacles that are typically associated with starting a company such as – legal paperwork, bank lines, obscure fees and regulatory barriers.

Enjoy the following benefits:

  • Get a discount from SGD $200 onwards on an Atlas incorporation
  • Use their services from anywhere in the world
  • An opportunity to connect with other founders and learn from experts

Enjoy up to SGD $1,425 off on eBay store and promotion fees that are incurred in the first quarter of your operation

eBay is a world-leading online marketplace that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales.

Sleek clients can benefit from a special promotion when they:

  • Sign up as new sellers on eBay
  • Offer a minimum of 100 SKUs in their online store

You will be eligible for:

  • 100% reimbursement of the store and promoted listing fees for up to 3 months, capped at SGD $1,425, subject to promotion T&Cs

How do you qualify?

  • Leave your contact details in eBay’s New Seller Form
  • eBay’s New Seller Account Management team will review your application and reach out to guide you on the account setup
  • Once approved you will receive a promotional email from your Account Manager

Enjoy your stay with Hmlet by getting corporate rates

Hmlet provides a custom designed, fully furnished, affordable and hassle-free coliving housing solution, perfect for entrepreneurs arriving in Singapore.

Enjoy the following benefits:

Get 10% when you stay with Hmlet in Singapore
Perfect opportunity to expand your network with Hmlet’s diverse community
Enjoy dedicated assistance from Hmlet Community Managers
Flexible month-to-month membership plans

*For new members only

Promotion is valid for any length of stay up to one year.

Contact Joanna at +65 8462 6446 to get the discount.

Gain instant access to the top coworking spaces around Singapore with FlySpaces Passport


FlySpaces provides short-term flexible workspace solutions, fully-furnished and fully-serviced, for entrepreneurs, SME’s, and corporates setting up their businesses in Southeast Asia.

Enjoy the following benefits:

  • 1 month free trial of Passport Starter package and 25% off the first month of any Passport package
  • Flexible packages that scale with your business
  • Dedicated assistance from a FlySpaces Space Expert

*For new members only 

Get 3 months free trial

Metigy is the world’s leading Digital Marketing Decision Support technology made for SME Marketers. Metigy’s AI platform helps SME’s achieve 2x-3x improvement quarter on quarter.

  • AI-powered real-time insights and recommendations platform
  • Set objectives and follow Metigy’s content recommendations
  • Planning calendar, content library and social analytics
  • Prioritised to-do list and approval workflows

Once you are a Sleek client, you can access this offer.

Join Hubspot for Startups and get up to 90% off your Hubspot subscription in your first year

We’re excited to partner with HubSpot for Startups to offer their program designed specifically to help startups grow and scale better, and faster – at a startup-friendly cost! Read on to learn more about the program.

What is the HubSpot for Startups program?

  • Education resources and tailored training
  • Professional software, startup pricing
  • Integrated platform for startups

Who is eligible?

Any startup that is a current customer of Sleek and meets certain funding criteria is eligible for this exclusive program! See below for more details:

  • A startup with under $2 million in funding: ou are eligible for up to 90% off HubSpot software in your first year, 50% off in your second, and 25% off ongoing.
  • A startup who has raised over $2 million in named funding up to and including Series A: You are eligible for up to 50% off in your first year, and 25% off ongoing.

*The HSFS startup-friendly pricing is only applicable to net-new HubSpot Hubs or upgrades of existing Starter subscriptions to Basic, Professional, or Enterprise products; customers may not apply the startup program pricing to existing Basic, Professional, or Enterprise Hubs.

Once you are a Sleek client, you can access this offer.

Get 10% discount on Google Workspace licenses

Google Workspace offers custom email for your domain, online storage, shared calendars and a range of collaboration tools to increase the productivity of your team.

  • Gmail for business
  • Gsheets, Gdocs, Gslides and Google Meet
  • High security and online file storage

A 10% discount is provided for all new domains and transfers.

Once you are a Sleek client, you can access this offer.

Get US$5,000 in AWS Promotional Credits

*Only available for technology startups

Amazon Web Services provides startups with low-cost, easy-to-use infrastructure needed to scale and grow any size business.

You will be eligible for:

  • US$5,000 in AWS Promotional Credits valid for 2 years
  • 1 year of AWS Business Support (up to US$1,500)
  • Opportunities to qualify for additional credits 
 
Note: Companies may not be eligible for AWS Activate Credits if they previously received a similar or greater amount of credit. Companies may be eligible to be “topped up” to a higher credit amount if they previously received a lower credit.  For more information, please review the AWS Activate Terms & Conditions.
 
Once you are a Sleek client, you can access this offer.

Manage your company spending with a 3-month free trial

Spenmo is a B2B spend-management platform with physical and virtual card offerings. We aim to digitise expense processes and help companies eliminate fraud and overspending.

Enjoy the following benefits:

  • Free physical and virtual cards for up to 15 employees and 2% unlimited cashback for the first 6 months
  • $100K worth of free local and international invoice payments
  • Free cash reimbursement software

Once you are a Sleek client, you can access this offer.

Get S$10,000 in processing volume credit

Stripe is the best software platform for running an internet business. Stripe provides the technical, fraud prevention, and banking infrastructure required to operate online payment systems.

  • Fast, reliable and secure
  • Faster eligibility period for custom processing rates
  • Priority betas and special event access

Once you are a Sleek client, you can access this offer.

Free multi-currency account for businesses and online sellers

WorldFirst is an innovative global payment platform, helping businesses move money around the world faster, easier, safer and cheaper. 

Sleek clients can enjoy the following:

  • Open up to 10 international currency accounts for free: SGD, USD, GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, NZD, JPY, HKD & CNH
  • Receive, hold and make payments in international currencies
  • Open your account for free with no monthly account fees and no annual transfer limits
  • Access great exchange rates
  • Manage your global finances all on one platform
  • Instant FX transactions between currency accounts

Do note that WorldFirst only works with online sellers.

Open a Singapore dollar business account from anywhere.

Wise is a global technology company that’s building the best way to move money around the world. Whether you’re sending money to another country, spending money abroad, or making and receiving international business payments, Wise is on a mission to make your life easier and save you money.

Enjoy the following benefits:

  • Enjoy S$2,600 fee-free transaction
  • Get bank details in 6 currencies: SGD, GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, NZD
  • Sleek customers get access to the Wise Platinum debit Mastercard
  • Get support from our global team in Singapore, Europe, and the US