Startup Founders Need to Refresh Their Skills Regularly

When ICurrentEventBlog started Listenwise 4 years ago, I was working alone. In entrepreneurship parlance it’s called a solo founder.

It meant that I did every job. I worked with teachers to build lesson plans, I made the first sales, I selected all the public radio stories, I wrote the current events and loaded them on the website.

As the company grew, so did my team. And I moved away from many of the daily tasks that I did in those early days.

Recently, as we were launching our new listening quiz, we all needed to step up and do more. To help our director of curriculum fully focus on managing the quiz process, I came back into the daily tasks of writing current events.

Getting Back to Public Radio Roots

For two decades, I worked as a reporter for public radio. My entire focus was on research and writing. Every day I wrote a story. I am comfortable writing.

But it had been a while since I had written content for Listenwise.

Every day we feature a new story from the news and we write teaching resources related to the story for easy use in the classroom. We strive to choose stories that are relevant to the classroom, either because they have a connection to the curriculum or are interesting to students.

I liked falling back on my writing muscle. It felt good. But I needed the guidance of our director of curriculum to make it classroom ready.

I also had to learn a new process for loading the audio into a third party tool that aligns the transcripts for our audio stories. It’s a multi-step process that if you miss one of them, the whole process fails. If you don’t do it weekly, as I didn’t, it was hard to follow.

Lean Startup Model Means Getting Creative

I also had to source the photos for the stories. We are a lean startup so we don’t have a budget for photos, which means we have to find photography with the appropriate Creative Commons license.

This was far more difficult and time consuming than I remember. First of all, it’s hard to find a photo to represent a story about leaks from the government, for example. What image represents that? A leaky faucet? Someone whispering into someone else’s ear?

Time and again when I found a good photo, I was thwarted because it didn’t have the Creative Commons license that we could use.

Once the content was written and edited, the transcript prepared, and a photo found, it was time to load it onto the back end of Listenwise. The last time I added content to the website was before we introduced our new web platform, so this was a completely new experience for me.

I had to re-learn how to put content onto my own website. It was humbling.

I’d built this company around a website, but I was having to re-learning how to actually work the website and write the content that supports it. It made me appreciate all the work my staff does to make Listenwise fresh and relevant for teachers everyday.

I would recommend all founders revisit tasks their staff does on a daily basis. It can show you how much progress the company has made and help you understand the challenges they face.

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