(Guest Post by Graham Moreno)

$6 million dollars, three people, one room.

That was day one at Help.com.

We had closed a large funding round which was great, but there was still a brand and product to create as we sat down in our new office at Capital Factory in Austin.

Our CEO had left his previous job at a company where he’d been the CEO, gotten acquired, and became an SVP at the acquirer.

Our engineer had moved across the country, leaving behind a startup with big banking players involved.

I had walked away from a Fortune 100 company and an enterprise sales job that paid extremely well.

We couldn’t have been happier or felt better about those decisions.

From three people on day one, we’ve grown to ten in just over two months. We have a permanent office that will fit thirty people rather than one room that could fit three and, best of all, we have a developed brand and a clear idea of our go to market date.

Here are ten things we’ve learned so far.

1. Give your brand a social media account.

Give your brand a personality. Post blogs, relevant content, and questions under your brand’s name and begin to develop a reputation for being a thought leader in the space. We’ve done this at Help.com and it’s been great for generating both relationships with great people and leads.

2. Blog.

Our Help.com blog has given us a great opportunity to create our own thought leadership, as well as develop an email list, and interact with our readers. There isn’t a better brand builder as you begin to create quality content, share it on social media, and become known for your leadership in the space.

3. Get involved in the community.

Meetups, events, dinners, whatever your projects community does, do it. You’ll meet a lot of great people, get your name out there, and learn a lot about the space you’re in as it relates to your area.

Help.com has been very active in local tech meetups (primarily for recruiting purposes) and members of our team even started a customer service meetup because we want to create a community of customer service professionals in Austin.

4. Invest in an applicant tracking/managing system.

Hiring at startups can be somewhat disorganized. There are one million things going on all of which demand immediate attention and it’s easy to let that 1:30 pm interview fall off the map by accident.

Enter Lever. We use Lever at Help.com and it has made tracking, communicating with, and organizing our hiring process incredibly simple and pain free. Other solutions include The Resumator, Greenhouse, Jobvite, and plenty of others.

5. Don’t pay for press.

You can create your own press with a good product, good content, and good networking. Organic press is more impressive (people know the difference) but more than that, it’s not an optimal use of money. It takes time and effort, but earning press is better for the business in the long run.

6. Insist on hiring awesome people, no matter how long it takes.

Developers, designers, salespeople, marketers. You probably need them all. Be patient, insist on hiring only people who are perfect for what you want. At Help.com, we’ve received 500+ applications and hired 7 people. We have an awesome team and waiting for the perfect candidate for each decision was one of the best decisions we’ve made.

7. Talk, and more importantly, listen to everyone you meet in your space. They can all teach you something.

Everyone you talk to in the space has a different perspective and different experiences, so be sure to be passionate about your idea and your project and also listen to their experiences so you keep learning and developing every day.

8. Don’t ever buy anything “for the future.”

It can be tempting to buy something awesome because it will be useful in four months. Resist the urge.

At a startup, two weeks isn’t guaranteed, let alone four months. Money is what fuels the business, so don’t ever buy anything before you’re sure you need it that moment.

9. Network

Whether you’re in sales, customer service, marketing, or anything in between, networking can make your job infinitely easier. Get on LinkedIn, get on Twitter, and connect with people in your space who are successful. Retweet them, like their posts, read their content, and develop relationships over time. These people are successful for a reason, absorb as much as you can from them.

10. Even if you have $10 million (or 6), think like you’re broke.

By thinking this way you ensure that you absolutely need everything you’re purchasing. It keeps you from making bad decisions and ensure that you stay lean. Who cares if you can afford a $10,000 software tool, if it’s not going to add $10,000 to your business value don’t do it.

You can also get most business tools for free in some capacity. Take a look and decide whether you actually need to pay for something (Buffer and HootSuite are great examples of this).

Being at a startup from an early stage is one of the most frightening, exhilarating, and intellectually challenging things you can do. What works for one person might not work at all for another, but the beauty of it is that it’s all learning.

If you have a chance to be part of a startup, or the desire to start one, take these tips, do as much research as you possibly can, talk to people who’ve done it, and put everything into it.

There’s no more rewarding experience.

About the author

Graham Moreno works in Business Operations at Help.com, where they are rethinking customer service. He also runs the Help.com blog. You can read more of his work at Blog.Help.com.

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