In this series on Twenty Tips for Startup Success, we’ll be going into greater detail on the following topics:
Solve a real problem and meet real needs with your product
You can have an invention or product that is creative and exciting and imaginative, but the most important measure of success is meeting a real need for the market that you’re trying to serve. The best companies are the ones that meet consumers’ needs and are able to adapt as those needs change.
Leadership is more than vision
Being a leader for your team starts with the idea and direction that is foundational to your business, but success ultimately depends on drive. You set the example for the rest of the company with your attitude, work ethic, and determination.
Put the right team in place
The vision for your ultimate goal may be singularly yours, but you’ll need help to get there. In order to achieve your ultimate goals for your business, you’ll need to surround yourself with people who understand your vision and fit into the culture and mindset of your company.
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Find the mentors you need
As you start to develop your business, you’ll want to have an advisory board in place to help offer advice and guidance to help you navigate the entrepreneurial labyrinth. Don’t be afraid to ask people to mentor you; often they are glad to be asked and eager to help guide others as they were once guided by their own mentors.
Establish your culture as the foundation
In the absence of direct guidance, it is the cultural ethos of a company that wins out in informing the decisions and work of those at your company. Your company culture should say not only who you are but who you aim to be.
Protect yourself with a business entity
Paperwork might not seem important during the early days of your startup, but operating a business without a business entity in place can put your personal assets at risk. Unless you’re willing to risk everything you have to make your business succeed, talk to a professional and set up a business entity to protect you and your family from potential ruin.
Have signed contracts
Once again, paperwork might seem boring and unnecessary when you’re working out of your garage, but they can make or break your business. Every agreement you have should be formalized with a signed contract to protect both parties from future legal fights, which are costly in terms of both time and money.
Treat your ideas carefully
It’s a good habit to have to keep your ideas as close to the vest as possible and not to tell them to everyone who’ll listen, but ultimately you’ll have to talk about them if you hope to fundraise and grow your business. When talking about your ideas in public, it’s smart to have everyone sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to protect your sensitive information.
Protect your intellectual property
From the outset of your business, your intellectual property (IP) is the most valuable asset you have. Identifying and protecting all the IP you create is crucial to the long term success and viability of your venture.
Plan for success and work towards that end
Whatever your ultimate goal is for your business, have that in mind from the start and work towards that end. Things change and shift as time goes on and the unexpected arises, but having that goal in mind will help you plan and make decisions towards achieving it.
Don’t be afraid of competition
Being the only company is a particular market can be daunting, especially as you try to generate attention for the problem you’re looking to solve. But don’t let competition entering the space put you off; competition is proof that you’re onto something, and can force you to focus and improve.
Develop a roadmap
Laying out the critical path for your business can help you to go beyond a plan into goals you can act on, and will help avoid any unnecessary diversions and distractions. It may be hard work, but isn’t the success of your business worth it?
Establish your expertise
Part of the success of your business depends upon your reputation as an expert in the space that you’re working; after all, no one wants to buy something from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Writing and speaking about your particular area of expertise is a great way to get your name out there and establish your bona fides.
Content is king in this age of the internet, and you want to get in on that with blogs, videos, podcasts, and any other content that allows you to get your name and ideas in front of potential customers. Clicks, views and engagement are the currency of the realm, and the surest way to establish yourself as thought leaders on a subject.
Success is predicated on who you know as much as what you do. But the key to good relationships is not making them one-sided; give as much as you get with helping others where you can, and you’ll develop a strong network of people you can rely on.
Rejecting the status quo or conventional wisdom may seem scary, but it might also be necessary to get where you want to go with your business. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain, and to say no when necessary.
Early enthusiasm about your new business is great, but it is best tempered with some caution and prudence. It’s better to take a cautious approach to getting things right before rolling them out than to have your first impression to the world be one with a buggy website or a product that isn’t quite ready for market.
Be patient when fundraising
However you choose to raise money for your business, know that it can be a long and challenging process. It can be tempting to take the first offer that comes your way, but be sure that the offer is the right one, and that the money comes with the right connections that can help to further your business.
All of the work you put into your business is ultimately pointless if you’re miserable every day on the job. Moreover, it makes for a difficult sales pitch to potential employees if the workplace environment is best described as “Dickensian.” It’s alright to have fun on the job so long as the work is getting done; it’s certainly preferable to the notion of toiling away in a windowless room. #onwards