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3 Startup Lessons Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Learn

Photo: © kantver, YFS Magazine

Consider this scenario …

You’ve got an amazing business idea, and you know it will be a total hit! Now you just need to put it into place and put some cash and time behind it, right?

Not so fast! I want to share my thoughts and personal lessons learned about startup motivation what it really takes to make it through the early startup stage.

For me, it all began with a passion for travel, leading to research, teamwork and a recently launched venture (which led to a lot of lessons along the way).


Chasing Inspiration

I founded Mocinno International, a consultancy within the hospitality industry, in 2006. I started my company with an understanding and depth of experience related to the economic difficulties within the travel industry as a result of terrorism, flawed corporate governance and more.

Hotels were suffering so hotelier’s resulted to filling vacancies by dropping room rates, signing large accounts at low rates and signing up aircrews to cover the basic costs of running hotels. This prompted a clear and radical change in operations; cutting down on staffing costs mainly, and streamlining guest’s offerings.

Fast forward to 2015 and the hotel industry is fighting to hire the skill, knowledge and experience back to adequate levels. Some are succeeding while others focus on shareholder value and financial performance (i.e., EBITDA delivery, which remains a high priority concern). Lessons to be learned, best practices, and all kinds of contingency plans were put into place. A huge learning curve (painful for many, within the industry) followed, but it was certainly useful.

My experiences running Mocinno, and involvement with the recent launch of The Best of Hotels (an online travel magazine) have solidified three essential startup lessons that you, too, may find useful.


1. Know (and relate to) your customer.

Knowing your customer is at the core of every successful venture and directly influences the future value of your company. Data, readily available from the Internet, is a great resource to help you decide whether your product or service has market potential.

A great example of actionable data is competitive. Competitors often (unknowingly) give away valuable data, so sign up for their newsletters and subscribe to their feeds. Learn to look beyond the data for clues.

These clues could lead you to a new way of selling or branding; or even creating an entirely new market. Can that be done still? Absolutely! It happens every day, and a good marketer will know how to address this kind of opportunity. Objectively, why would a customer buy your product or service? What can you learn about consumer behavior (in your industry) on the Internet?

 Start upPhoto: © StockRocket, YFS Magazine

The other part, is creating loyalty. Ensure customers feel comfortable with the way you communicate with them. This can often compel them to make another purchase based on anemotional connection, alone. The good old 4 p’s of marketing (i.e., Price, Product, Promotion and Place) are not enough. It’s time to move forward to content marketing, creating stories and communicating a compelling lifestyle.

As a travel blogger for The Best of Hotels, connecting with cultures, design and people worldwide becomes easier through these new modes of marketing; primarily storytelling. Sharing stories with customers allows them to learn (and consume your products and services) in an engaging way. Travel and product recommendations then become personal, relatable and believable; instead of being selected by a group of office interns with no direct experience in the field.


2. Learn what makes a ‘dream team’.

Leadership expert Robin Sharma has said, “The bigger the dream the more important the team.” This is true.  Startup success is not just up to you. The selection of your “dream team” depends on many factors (e.g., location, availability, skills, experience, etc.) However, not only should you aim to make the best hires, but you should also hire entrepreneurial employees.

A team member with entrepreneurial hunger can make a big difference. They are generally eager to learn and adapt quickly.

Also, don’t hire based on skills alone. You’ll need to build a team where each member has a solid skill set that contributes to the overall vision in shaping your company. Often you’ll see a bunch of friends starting a business together. That could work well, or it can turn very sour. While you may respect someone for social reasons, working with close friends is not alwaysbe the best choice.

Photo: © GaudiLab, YFS Magazine

Photo: © GaudiLab, YFS Magazine

Performance is another important factor when building a startup team. As I mentioned before, only work with people who are driven to perform. There are plenty of skilled people, most of whom prefer a typical employment scenario with steady packages, working hours and a cubicle where they can hang the family photos. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it won’t help you along the roller coaster ride you’ll face as a startup.

Finally, respect and trust your team. This can be accomplished with communication and incentives.

At The Best of Hotels we’ve taken this approach. The team is well-versed in a varied approach to marketing, smart content and delivering online expertise. Coupled with a great sales team, namely worldwide travel bloggers, we’ve developed a team that can accomplish the dream.

3. Motivate and stay in tune with yourself.

While you’re focused on knowing customers and developing a team, perhaps it’s time to take a very close look at yourself.

Don’t be afraid to take a break, not too long though. I have a personal rule to never to skip looking at my goals or making progress on a project for more than two days. This helps me to avoid losing track and disrupting workflow.

I find that self-motivation has become harder than it was, say 10 to 15 years ago. This is often a result of information overload and the current events of society and the world around us. It’s hard to not be constantly reminded of horrendous life events: from wars, to natural events like floods, crashes and so forth.

I limit my news consumption to 3 news channels a day: BBC, Le Monde and NOS News (the Dutch in me, wants to stay connected to Holland, even though I have not resided there for a very long time). They are rather neutral and give me a good overview of what’s going on in the world.

Recently, I decided to turn off smartphone notifiers; there is just too much negativity. When we are on information overload, bombarded by hard news, we forget that there is so much beauty in the world too.

Just before the Summer of 2015, I decided to take an objective look at how I spent my days in order to decide what I could improve on. It was refreshing, as my mental library was pretty full leading to quick email reads, short conversations, and rushed decisions. I seemed perfectly fine, however time was limited and I was pushed.

The reality is this: a startup requires a lot of energy from you. Start with your personal goals. These are probably pretty clear to you. Your mind and behavior are key to daily motivation and gaining the drive you need to reach goals.

When it comes to startup goals, sort and compartmentalize your energy. Not everything can be completed in a very short time. Startups are extremely exciting, so it’s easy to expend all of your energy in the beginning. Hold on to some of that energy, you will need it down the road too.

Three years ago I started rowing. Similarly to embarking on a startup, I was so excited and just wanted to get going. My teacher (probably a retired marine) gave me such a hard time. I soon had blisters on my hands and could not walk for days because of the muscle pain.

Then one day he said, “Pick a boat, and go solo.” I spent two hours trying not to fall into the water. I forgot to focus on technique (the fundamentals I learned early on) and ended up looking like an elephant trying to dance. In contrast, today I am comfortable, focused and I take my time (and yes, I still fall in the water from time to time). But at least I control the boat, and not the other way around.

This article has been written for YFS Magazine and it has been edited and condensed.

Jeroen Gulickx is originally from Holland, where he obtained two business degrees. Later in life he also certified as black belt in Six Sigma.

 He is the Managing Director of Mocinno International, a hospitality consulting company that started in 2006, focused on delivering incremental revenues for hotels, spa’s and hotel suppliers. Jeroen is well travelled and has extensive experience in the luxury travel segment. The main capabilities vary from streamlining cost and operational models, strategy, yielding, business development, and marketing. Connect with @MocinnoIntl on Twitter.

Jeroen Gulickx

The good experience and the good hotel; taking education and guest satisfaction to the next level


Create Beauty and Do Good - The Good Hotel

Working within the luxury hotel segment always gives a certain value and excitement for every project. It makes consulting harder, as much more attention to detail is needed. You need to keep understanding and delivering maximum value for the consumer who is willing to pay that premium. I have traveled the world, and still do the selection of most projects myself that suit the team best. I am fortunate to work within hospitality, working with so many people of so many cultures. Flying to places where I have created friendships, and experience new things every time I visit.

The trips besides great amounts of joy and feelings also mean traveling to countries that are in social or economic difficulties, or worse. They bring emotions of controversy, inequality and certainly opportunity.

This reveals much space for people care, as people need or are looking for education, development, career building, social affairs, or even more basic elements like self esteem, food & drink.

This time my travels took me to Holland, where I was born, where I grew up between many cultures and controversies, that make this one of the countries, that every body must visit. The way it treats the tourist or business traveler is far beyond many expectation. Totally different feeling, architecture, infrastructure, sites and history are reflected into the day-to-day lives of the Dutch and their visitors. I am proud that acceptance of this all is such a great asset of my fellow countrymen.

The Good Hotel Lobby & Lounge

Choosing the place to stay
When I have a choice of hotels, meaning the client does not decide for me, it depends often on the mood I am in, or the reason for the trip. I like the strong service hotel chains, when I need the comfort, the guarantee that everything will be smooth, from check in to check out. More so I now choose more of a local experience, a smaller brand, a brand with a vision that reflects me, not just the reason for the visit. Though I do require certain minimum standards to be able to be comfortable with the stay.

All that Amsterdam
Amsterdam offers a wealth of experiences, most known to many, which have very little to do with business or hotels altogether. The small streets, the canals, the architecture, the numerous activities one can do every day, like a boat tour, the most amazing museum visits, climbing walls, diamond factories, Heineken experience and naturally shops make the city extremely attractive for short as well as long stays. Every time I visit I am amazed with all the new cafes, restaurants and hotels that have popped up since my last visit. The reason for visiting is often to see my family but recently because I opened an office in Holland April 2015, Holland offers an amazing platform for business. The cultures and great variety of nationalities deliver skill, knowledge, and willingness to change, adapt and learn. I can’t explain exactly why, but the freedom that the Dutch have in their approach is what creates the warm hospitality everywhere you go.

Amsterdam Central Station

The Good Hotel
In all the years of consulting within hospitality since 2001, I have been dependent on people, employees and all stakeholders involved in the operation. On the data that they deliver, on their skill and knowledge, within service, technology, design, architecture, legal and the so many other factors that keep a hotel or hospital running. One element that keeps returning is education. With education I mean, everything that needs to be trained, refreshed or developed, as the industry advanced fast, and expectation from guests or patients are becoming higher and more developed, which makes it hard to exceed. Service is something that has changed dramatically, even in the last 10 years. Cost cuts resulted into short work process, fast deliveries, with fewer colleagues, yet keeping standards according to the brand and company vision. In line with that is the low retention in the industry, making it even harder to deliver to the promise that you made or want to make to the guest. Education is key to make sure that everything communicated is understood well, and implemented. That is not an easy task, since not every person receiving that, has the same way or speed of learning.

Chef at The Good Hotel Sleep at The Good Hotel

So I want tell you about my recent experience. I stayed at a hotel in an area that I am not at all familiar with, just a few minutes from the Central Station. When I arrived I realized the hotel has amazing views over the water, in fact it is a floating hotel, around 150 rooms. The rooms are small, are warmly decorated and have all the business or leisure travelers require. They are cute, yet practical. The lobby and public areas are large yet cozy, and communicate your need to be there, work there, eat and drink there and socialize. When I checked in, the staff was pleasant, warm and efficient. I went to my room to quickly freshen up for a meeting in the lounge. Again the service was friendly, helpful and efficient. I experienced this throughout my stay, and was always greeted, smiled at. One thing I noticed most, besides me feeling extremely comfortable, there was a trust and honestly which was incredibly refreshing. The service is real, from the heart. Only the day before I checked out, I read the welcome note from the CEO, and understood the vision of the company supporting education for those who can’t afford it or where it is unavailable in different parts of the world. With the city of Amsterdam they have selected, trained and educated people in need of work from Amsterdam, who are now working at the Good Hotel in Amsterdam. Clearly this explains the warmth, and trust that you now receive as a guest. Knowing that your support to this and many other initiatives from the Good Hospitality Group makes the next hotel booking for your trip just so much easier.

The Good Hotel - a floating boat


Jeroen Gulickx is originally from Holland, where he obtained two business degrees. Later in life he also certified as black belt in Six Sigma.

He is Managing Director of Mocinno International, a hospitality consulting company that started in 2006, focused on delivering incremental revenues for hotels, spa’s and hotel suppliers. Jeroen is well travelled and has extensive experience in the luxury travel segment. The main capabilities vary from streamlining cost and operational models, strategy, yielding, business development, and marketing. Mocinno International works with a network of highly experienced, energetic and yet innovative people, based in key locations.

Jeroen leads Mocinno originated projects and companies within the luxury spa and travel industry

October 09, 2015


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