How I Succeeded: Lumen's Charly Lester

How I Succeeded is a regular series on Lifehacker where we ask business leaders for the secrets and tactics behind their success. Today: Charly Lester, Lumen.

Current gig: Co-Founder and CMO of Lumen, the dating app exclusively for over 50s

Current Location: London, UK

Current mobile device: iPhone X

Current computer: MacBook Pro

One word that best describes how you work: Multi-tasker

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?

Slack, Trello, Whatsapp, Later, Strava and Audible.

What social network do you find the most useful?

I’m finding Instagram increasingly useful, although not for Lumen; most over 50s predominantly use Facebook.

What were the most important lessons you learned while growing your business?

  1. Failure is personal. No one else knows you or your business the way you do, so others around you may not even realise when something something goes wrong. A failure only becomes a failure when you decide to treat it that way.
  2. You can't do everything yourself, even if you are a one-person company. Work out what you aren’t as skilled at or what you don’t enjoy, and outsource those tasks to someone else. As your business grows, learn to delegate tasks. Even though it can be hard to trust someone to do a job to the same standard you would, if you recruit the right team, you should be able to hand over the reigns and trust the tasks will be done to the same quality. Delegating tasks you might not be as good at can save you time in the long run because, after all, saving time can be just as valuable as saving money.
  3. Relationships are key. Always trying to use contractors who I know and trust means I know they will deliver to the standard I need. I use the same team as I used for projects for my first business for most of our Lumen creatives because I trust them and know they will deliver high quality results every time. I have also always done a lot of my own PR through relationships I build over time. So much so that the same journalist announced the launch of every one of my three businesses over six years!

What has been the most surprising part of your business journey?

Working in dating was certainly a surprise! I was originally working in banking and wrote a Facebook status which suggested spending the final three months of my twenties going on 30 blind dates. To my surprise, the blog went viral, and was picked up by The Guardian. I went on to become the Dating Editor of The Guardian, followed by global Head of Dating at Time Out. The idea for my first company came as a result of queries to my blog - industry awards for the online dating industry. This then led to me launching Lumen, the first dating app exclusively designed for over 50s.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Time management and work-life balance. No matter what I’m doing and how busy work is, I always make time for exercise and a social life in my week. I think that's really important, I know if I go a few days without chatting to friends or family, or without doing some form of exercise, I don't do my best work. I also find I’m quite good at managing my time on tasks, and getting it done. Working for yourself isn't a typical 9-5 job. You work constantly throughout the week, so it's important to balance that with time for yourself.

What's your sleep routine like?

I'm such a night-owl, which means I don't sleep anywhere near enough during the week. I then have to catch up with a proper lie-in at least one day on the weekend. I do a lot of exercise, so I usually have a lie-in on a Saturday, and will then be up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to run a marathon or do a triathlon.

What advice would you offer to other businesses on how to succeed?

Take everything one step at a time. While you do need to be aware of the bigger picture, if you think too big all the time, it can just get too daunting. I like to look one pace ahead of me, which means whenever I have a problem, I break it down into workable steps before anything else. It worked when I ran Marathon des Sables (6 marathons in 6 days across the Sahara) so why shouldn't it work in business too? Oh and drop the ego! Don’t become an entrepreneur just to say you’re an entrepreneur. Surround yourself with other people that are so brilliant that your answer isn't always the best, and know when to recognise that. That's how you succeed and grow!


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