What does a startup need?
A number of things, but the answers will differ depending on whom you ask. This particular list had me chuckling. It mentions sunny offices and windows that open, “democratically controlled music system,” beer Fridays, and soft lighting among the things a startup needs. Not sure if it’s tongue-in-cheek but going by the comments here, I’m not the only one amused. Or a tad bit annoyed.
Starting up is serious business which requires our focus to be on all the right things. It is, however, easy to get confused between what you want and what your company needs at this early stage, because there’s no end to the conflicting advice out there.
Here’s a simple way of determining what your startup needs as opposed to what you think it needs — get the basics right and let go of about everything else.
If that’s a bit vague for you, let’s look at a few things that your startup absolutely does not need in the initial stages.
What does that even mean?
As someone who wolfs down self-help and management books like Sunday morning breakfast, I have to say paying for expensive consultancy makes very little sense in the beginning.
Having spoken to quite a few of them, I’m sorry to say that I’m almost disappointed to hear their “expert views.” Which were all very basic and came down to common sense more often than not.
I hear this is not a problem confined to management consultancies alone. You approach a professional nutritionist these days and at least in the first few meetings they will tell you the exact same things you have read in diet-related books, blogs, and journals a million times. Where is the new information? The cutting edge research? Revolutionary ideas for startups to take off and make a killing in the very first year?
Every business is unique and so are the circumstances and factors that lead to its success or failure. Not saying that we know better than the experts, but if you are someone who has been following your field of business enthusiastically for many years, read industry blogs and magazines regularly, and have a few successful entrepreneurs in your network, you’ll find you can cut back on having to pay a hefty fee to a professional consultancy in the initial stages.
Mentors are what you should be going after (and with great zeal), not consultants.
Fancy Advertising and PR
Marketing is the lifeblood of any business. You must get out there and spread the word. People must know about the new kids on the block and their great new services. This is quintessential stuff.
And there are many ways to go about it. Word of mouth still happens to be the best, especially for startups. Remember, people know nothing about you right now. You haven’t established your credibility. Fancy advertising and PR won’t help you at this stage. Or let me put it this way, you don’t need either of them when you are just starting out.
It’s better to focus on client acquisition, building reputation among these early clients with a solid job, and asking them for recommendations and good reviews. It will save you money and give you better results.
Getting Ahead of Yourself
Thinking big is good but there’s also something called becoming too big for your own boots.
Launching a business is a heady thing. When your initial experience is good and it looks like you’re in for a successful ride, it gets even headier.
Ideas about launching sister websites and other businesses start coming to us. You realize starting a company is not all that difficult, after all. It’s a bit like thinking about having another baby when your first one hasn’t even started to walk yet. I understand the joy and temptation but your focus should be dealing with your current baby. At least for the next couple of years, if not longer. All those fancy ideas of yours about newer businesses? Jot them down carefully in a journal, revisit them from time to time to see if they still interest you, but don’t act on them unless your first startup is entrenched firmly as a business.
Taking out Big Loans
Who doesn’t like the idea of receiving $100,000 in funding? But here’s the problem with those big dollars and SBA loans; they come with even bigger caveats. And an inability to pay them off on time may well signal the end of your business.
Don’t even go in that direction. Keep your loans small and manageable, no matter how confident you are about your plans and your ability to pull things off. A number of factors lead to the success of a startup, and not all of them are in our control. So don’t make life more difficult for you than it has to be by taking on unnecessary debt.
Mary Prescott is working as a community manager at WorkZone – A web-based project management software company. She is @MaryP_WZ on Twitter. When she’s not working, you’ll find her reading fiction or hiking with her dog.
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