Starting a business is hard. No one will ever dispute that and if they do, stay far away from them. When starting a business, any founder needs to learn how to manage and endure so many things, and it is very easy to lose track of what is going on and what needs to be prioritized.
I have started my share of companies in my career or been part of the process when others where in the lead. Now, looking back at the different situations that either worked out or didn’t, it seems very obvious what some of the success factors were beyond the quality of the product.
Here are a few less-obvious ones that are not as prominently featured.
Honor and Embrace the Process
It sounds like such a Germanic thing to start with, but it is as true as it ever was. What does it mean, though? There are proven steps to starting your company that anyone with experience will emphasize when giving you tips for your start-up. Go ahead and take the steps as they will help you, your team, and your company to mature along the way.
Have a Plan for Your Successful Start-up
Creating a business or marketing plan is something I have come to appreciate when either starting my own business or consulting for start-ups. Creating a plan for what you want to do with your business is important not only because you need to show it as soon as you have to look for money (and you most likely will have to), but it is also an invaluable lesson for you to sort your thoughts and think it through. What are you doing, for whom, why, and what makes you / your product or service better than the competition? Thinking this through and going through the process of writing it down for a third party to understand will provide you and your team with the focus you need to stay or gain control of the very early start-up phase.
Fail (Fast), Learn, and Do It Again (quickly)
There is no such thing as being perfect. There are many cases of not being too late, however. A case I have personally (as a customer) seen unfold is the Lily drone project. When I saw their initial promotions about what their drone would be capable of and the simplicity of it, I signed up right away. I just loved the product so much. There must have been several thousand other geeks like me that did the same. $500 seemed to be a fair price. However, they never made it. It took them many, many months longer than promised to get the product ready and just when it looked like they could make it, the market leaders caught up to their ideas and released products of their own that “stole” some of Lily’s key features. In the end, people asked for their money back. So did I, when another delivery date was pushed, which made for an 18 month wait time in my case.
Moral of the story: If you wait until your product is perfect, the market will overtake you and occupy the market segment you thought you could own.
Be faster than the competition and have a plan for how you will quickly and continuously improve your first releases. In Lily’s case, I would have been ok with a not fully perfect product, if they would have improved quickly enough after the initial release. Anything would’ve been better than not releasing at all.
Self-Management: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
Starting a business is tough. If you are not physically equipped to withstand the stress of running a start-up, it will be hard for you to not be overwhelmed with all the tasks that have to be fulfilled, and deadlines that have to be kept.
Managing your own energy and making sure that you have a somewhat healthy work-life balance will decide whether you will be successful or not. Remember that there are many factors that determine if you will be at your best or not.
- Healthy life-style: Eat healthy and create breaks during which you take care of your body and mind. Cardio workouts help you keep your body ready to withstand the stress experienced during the daily start-up life. Mental breaks keep your mind fresh and open for new thoughts that will eventually determine the make or break of your company
- Family life: If you have a family, a spouse, and / or kids, it is important to include them in your plan and get their buy-in before you start anything. If you think starting your business is tough, try doing it with a daily fight at home if your husband / wife are not supporting your efforts.
- Habits: Creating clear habits and daily routines helps you to get used to your new start-up life and will create a rhythm that will further reduce your mental stress.
Set Goals and Analyze How Much Effort Will Be Needed to Achieve Them
This is easier than it sounds. If your goals are of a financial nature, you can quickly reverse-engineer how much effort will be necessary to achieve them. When it is to make a nice little extra pocket money, you can easily calculate how much revenue it takes to make it. If, however, you want to look at a six-digit or more revenue per month, it clearly takes a different effort to get there.
I have a client I consulted with, who wanted to support his core business with supplemental income from alternative revenue sources. Before we started, we determined how much additional income he was thinking of. Once it was clear that he was looking at an average of $5,000, we could see how many trainings he needed to give (2 at $500 each), framed pictures he needed to sell (4, averaging $750 profit each), or extra photo-shoots he needed to book (very variable; at least 2 at $500 profit each). The mix of revenue streams and having a good idea of how much revenue it took to achieve the profit numbers he needed made it easier to determine an action and milestone plan. Breaking it down into digestible bits made it look achievable.
Change Your Plan
Plans change. Today, we are living at a time where change is the only constant. The idea that a status quo will be held for more than a few minutes is an illusion. Being ready for change and monitoring what is going on in your segment, your market, and in your company will provide you with the agility to change quickly and respond proactively. At the end of the day, you can’t afford not to adapt to the changing conditions around you.
Here is a fitting quote:
‘80% of failing companies do so because management did not take action and correct course. ROI = Risk Of Inaction.’ (Jonathan McDonald,@jmacdonald)
If you have more questions, feel free to reach out.