Leaders Perception Magazine is currently running an interview series called – What Are The Top 5 Mistakes People Make When Starting A New Business?
Today, we had the opportunity to interview Alex Klein who is a Boss at Ubindi.
Interviewee Name: Alex Klein
Alex Klein’s favourite quote: “This too shall pass” – originally found in the Bible and one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite saying. This saying is important for me not just in business, but in life. It helps me keep perspective, not only when there are problems (where it keeps me calm), but also when times are great or some new amazing thing is happening… because everything is temporary.
In a world where technology is rapidly transforming the way we work, Alex Klein has made it his mission to empower individuals to turn their hobbies and passions into profitable teaching businesses. As the co-founder of Ubindi, a lightweight and intuitive platform designed for independent teachers and instructors, Klein is dedicated to providing the little guys with the tools and support they need to succeed. With a background in plasma physics and experience starting multiple businesses, Klein brings a unique perspective to the world of entrepreneurship. In this interview, he shares his journey and the inspiration behind Ubindi.
Thank you so much for joining us today! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your backstory?
Alex Klein : My backstory is a bit complicated… a long time ago I was a plasma physicist. In that world, I found myself mostly in academia and/or government positions. Then somehow I ended up raising $4 million to co-found a nuclear fusion-based alternative energy startup. That didn’t work out but it firmly put me on the entrepreneurial path, never to be employed again. Since then, I’ve started several businesses, ranging from simple freelancing to founding venture-backed startups and raising $ millions in funding from accelerators, VCs, and angel investors around the world (Silicon Valley, India, Singapore, Germany, Chile). Currently, I’m co-founder at Ubindi (https://ubindi.com), which empowers people to earn money by teaching their hobby, talent, or passion.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out? Any examples?
Alex Klein : We are exclusively focused on the “little guy”, i.e. independent teachers & instructors who run micro-businesses. They are largely neglected by the other software providers who build their product for schools, gyms, or institutions. Our secret sauce is that Ubindi is extremely lightweight and intuitive. Although it handles everything a teacher needs to manage their teaching business, it’s still very easy for teachers to use. Our users are generally not tech-savvy.
Secondly, we also stand out for our willingness to bend over backwards with support, answering questions not only about the product but also coaching people to be more successful as teachers. We actually see that as part of our overall mission (to help teachers to succeed). Some examples: we’ve created a business course for teachers (https://www.udemy.com/course/business-basics-for-teachers/), and manage the blog “Teacherpreneur” (https://www.ubindi.com/blog).
What are the TOP 5 mistakes people make when starting a new business? Please share advice/examples for all of them.
Alex Klein : 1) The first (very common) mistake is thinking this will be easy. That you’ll be working less than at a regular job, and that the money will just pour in while you sit back and enjoy. The people who start a business are generally optimists, which is awesome — but optimists tend to underestimate difficulties and challenges. Things are always 10 times harder than we imagine, even after collecting a lot of experience. Starting (and then running) a business requires a big commitment over a sustained period of time.
Of course, there still needs to be a work-life balance, entrepreneurs must have ways to take care of themselves so that the venture is sustainable. But one should understand that entrepreneurship is often very stressful and exhausting. It’s because of the responsibility that’s involved: as business owner, you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens. Others can just go home and “deal with it tomorrow”… but when the website is down or the building is flooded, or the parts you need have been delayed… whatever the problem is, it’s on you to solve it or the business might go under. In addition, you’re often responsible for other peoples lives, too (for example, employees with families to support).
2) The second big mistake is to put a lot of time and money into something where you have no idea about it’s chances of success. Failing to research and validate the market in some way. Before going “all in” and devoting significant resources on a business, the entrepreneur should do all he or she can to learn if their product or service is something people will actually pay for, how much they will pay, and how many potential customers are out there that you can reach. This can be done in various ways, whether it’s for a business that is brick & mortar or completely online, and it’s a “must do” before spending too much time & money building a product or offering.
3) Once the decision is there to start the business, a big mistake is not focusing on the important things — getting distracted by “shiny objects” and neglecting the KPIs (key performance indicators). There are many things to pay attention to in any business. But asides from the crucial bottom-line items like revenue & profit, many of these things will be “vanity metrics”. For example, how many “likes” your Facebook posts are getting, or how much traffic your website is getting, or what news articles have been published about your business… if they don’t contribute to your bottom line in some measurable way, they don’t matter. A common mistake is to not evaluate things objectively in terms of “bottom line” effects on the business.
This mistake isn’t a one time pitfall to avoid, it is something to watch out for on a continuous basis.
4) Another business killer is getting involved with the wrong people. This could involve important people partners or co-founders, but also employees, or even mere contractors or outside agencies. Partnering with someone in a business really is like getting married, and actually more like getting married and having a baby at the same time.
One needs to be careful and take the time to establish mutual trust. After you quit your day job and invest all your efforts into a business, you don’t want to be faced with a situation where your partner has very different ideas from yours, or gives up after six months and walks away — while still owning half of the company! You need to make sure that personalities are a good fit, that “the baby” will have dedicated and caring parents.
But employees too can be detrimental to the business if they aren’t a good fit for the venture and its culture. In the worst cases, they can poison the overall atmosphere, they can make it unpleasant to show up for work for you or other people in the company. Or they might even steal customers or data, or really break something, give your business a bad reputation, etc. While not as serious as partnering with the wrong person, for employees the rule should be to hire slow and fire fast. Firing someone can be difficult, emotionally and otherwise.
5) On the flipside, NOT getting involved with other people is another huge mistake as the business gets off the ground. Many first-time business owners feel like they have to do everything or it won’t be done properly. But we all have our weaknesses, and we only have 16 hours in the day to do what we do… this means it’s very important to rely on others to do things in the business. To outsource tasks and to trust the people handling these tasks, not to micro-manage everyone.
Especially as the business grows… it can quickly become unmanageable for one person. The entrepreneur has to learn to “let go” and let others take care of things. To accept (and even embrace) that there are people out there who are better than you are when it comes to certain skills or areas of expertise. Holding on to all responsibilities in the company is a sure way to burn out and be unhappy, and it inevitably will mean that the business cannot grow and is limited in terms of its impact and scale.
Leaders Perception magaizne would like to thank Alex Klein for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!
Subscribe to our newsletter to get a notification as soon as we launch new interview series.