Every time I see friends or family members, they ask, “How’s the business going?”
And every time, I struggle to answer.
It was easy to talk about work when I was a reporter. After all, I could simply describe the stories I was covering—like the future of a nuclear power plant, or a trend of drug overdoses.
However, as the founder of Listenwise, my ed-tech startup, there are so many facets to my role it’s hard to give a short, comprehensible answer to this question. Do I talk about X project? Y goal? Z problem?
And as someone who always wants to do more, better, and faster, there are 10 other things that you could be doing to make the business go better.
And honestly, I’m not sure what people want to know when they ask how’s it going.
There are so many ways to define success for a startup. We’ve reached the three-and-a-half year mark—definitely a huge accomplishment. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 40 percent of startups make it to this point.
Our team is now seven people strong. That makes me proud, especially since I remember when it was only me and an intern sharing a tiny workspace. However, compared to Edmodo’s 100-plus workforce, we’re tiny.
Having investor funding is another metric of success. Yet if you look at Class Dojo, an ed-tech startup that raised $8.5 million in their Series A round, we’re minor players.
Many things are going right. We have a growing and passionate user base of teachers and students. We’re constantly adding new lessons, and we’ve secured an amazing partnership with NPR and are working with Pearson. Our team is talented and extremely committed. Our investors are incredibly supportive and involved. But summarizing all of those details in a short, snappy answer is pretty tough to do. And sometimes, when I’ve been working on mundane-but-necessary tasks, answering “How’s it going?” would bore my audience to tears. There’s a lot of boring paperwork to fill out when you’re running your own business.
Many people aren’t familiar with the inner workings of a young company—I know I wasn’t, before I founded Listenwise—and they might not be interested in hearing a full, in-depth explanation.
So, what do I say when I’m asked how the business is going? I tell the truth—well, a version of it. I smile and say, “It’s going great. I’m learning something new every day. What’s new in your world?”