If you are just beginning your journey into the world of business, you face more competition than startups in previous generations. However, you also have more opportunity.
Here are 10 ways to get your startup moving.
1. Get very comfortable making decisions without all the information at your fingertips
If you’re launching a startup, you are likely moving into territory that has not been completely cleared away just yet—there are a lot of unknowns. All the information you need to make a 100 percent guaranteed successful decision is simply not available. In fact, the work you’re doing right now may actually be a core contributor to creating the metrics that future generations will use to measure their decisions.
When your business is brand new, you won’t have any historical performance data to leverage. However, this data can come from other sources. Try doing market research online or ordering reports on the market. Don’t hesitate to ask for opinions. This can be done in person with your team, or even through an online survey targeting your ideal customer base.
2. Submit yourself to the greater cause
If you are starting a business for the money, then your company will likely be in the 90 percent of startups that fold within the first five years. To attract that initial customer base that loves your product or service and is willing to act as your unofficial PR team (or give you the capital to expand), you need to showcase a passion for something that is larger than yourself. Your drive to provide the best solution for your target market’s problem should lead your effort.
Most importantly, your audience must see that you are completely dedicated to that cause. John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile U.S., is a perfect example of passion creating success. He’s known for being an outspoken brand ambassador who is willing to call “bull***t” on competitors. It’s his approach to (ideally) create shock, and then connect with people on a personal level by calling out the industry he’s heavily involved in. His Slow Cooker Sunday cooking program also showcases his humorous side and serves as great indirect marketing for the company.
Legere is a piece of work, but it is impossible to ignore the way that he fully dedicates his entire life and personality to the cause of T-Mobile.
3. Show, rather than tell
As a startup, you have no leverage to make statements about your product or your competition without proof to back them up. You may be the most reputable person in your social circle. But, no one else knows that—it’s your job to prove your integrity.
Would you walk into a bank seeking a loan with a bunch of promises, or would you take the time to put together a solid business plan to prove your financial case? Show the same respect to your future customers that you’d show to a bank vice president: dress appropriately, speak knowledgeably, use proper hygiene, accept constructive criticism, and show up prepared.
4. Take the emotion out of your process, but keep the passion
This tip may seem counterintuitive in the face of tip number two—submit yourself to the greater cause. That tip was all about passion, which many startup founders confuse with emotion. What’s the difference? Passion is all about effort. Emotion is all about reaction. When you are creating your widget, you should put every bit of effort into the process—this is your passion at play.
However, if you pitch your widget to buyers and they don’t see potential, you cannot be afraid to make changes or ask them for more feedback. Take people’s advice with a grain of salt, but don’t be held back by fear of what they might say. This is emotion, and it has very little place in business. Consultants get paid the big bucks to offer a disinterested opinion. If you don’t have the budget to hire a good one at $150/hr, then you can’t afford emotion.
5. Realize that becoming a founder does not make you a master of business
You put together the money and had the passion to start a business. That’s great, but this is step one. It is not a guarantee of success in itself. You are still a rookie, and there is nothing wrong with seeking out mentorship. It is best to find a trusted elder who is not in your industry—your peers may steal your ideas (whether consciously or subconsciously). You must also be completely unafraid of asking stupid questions. And yes, some of your questions will be stupid.
That’s O.K.—remember that you are a rookie. It’s much better to ask stupid questions than to make stupid mistakes and waste money, time, and resources.
6. Understand how to create balance
The business community that you are now a part of requires that you pay your dues. Before you will be able to justify any quality mentorship, you have to show value. After all, why should everyone give you their time and advice when you have not proven your worth to the wider community? Use your expertise in place of money. What services can you provide to a business community that others would be grateful for?
Consider this your first round of R&D as well—if your products and services are not useful enough to attract mentors and associates, they may require a bit of tweaking before you spend money on marketing them to the public.
7. Get ready to wear multiple hats
You may have had a professional specialty in your days as an employee. The first day as a founder of your own business is the last day that you can specialize.
For instance, if you start a motel with a background in hospitality, you may do very well with the interior design related responsibilities of your startup. However, you will not stay in business long unless you learn how to use an accounts receivable program and how to follow up on merchant accounts.
8. Ignore the noise
Once you decide to start a business, you will become much more sensitive to other startups. It’s the same phenomenon that occurs after you have bought a certain brand of car—you start to see that car everywhere. Other startups may blow up around you and get all of the blog attention. You will see their founders proudly displayed in two-page features in business magazines.
Pay attention to a degree (notice what other startups are doing right and wrong so you can learn from them), but don’t lose sight of your own mission. Remember: You have something no one else can bring to the table. You have to be all in.
9. Remember that you are the decision maker
You can get all of the advice that you want and need. Some of it will be great, and some will be bad. But don’t gamble with your startup.
For instance: A millionaire with a great reputation tells you to invest in a certain supplier, and you do, but it turns out that the supplier has a not-so-great reputation. Now you’re losing money and looking for someone to blame.
That person, unfortunately, is yourself—because you failed to do your research. At the startup stage, small mistakes can have lasting effects. Take responsibility for your decisions and make sure you’ve done due diligence.
10. Risk is to be mitigated, not sought out
You took a big risk by starting a business. The rest of your decision making should be about mitigating risk. Remember the educated guesses that I mentioned earlier? They should become your best friend. Launch a series of MVPs (minimum viable products) so you can see if your idea has market potential before you invest thousands of dollars and hours into the full-featured product. It’s one of the best ways to mitigate risk.
It doesn’t take much to get your startup moving properly. What these ten pieces of advice boil down to is this: You have to pay attention. If you’re not paying close enough attention and you find that you’re often going into risky situations blind, small mistakes that a seasoned company can brush off might destroy your progress.
Remember that small issues can quickly turn into much bigger ones. But clear communication and commitment to the details will give you the best possible chance at success.