We’ve based this article on startup success on the experience of our co-founders, and the many startups we’ve talked to along the way. They are numbered 1 to 7 but they’re not in any order – we think they could all be equally important!
Optimism! You’re not going to get through without it; it’s the stuff that entrepreneurs need to be made of. We have a Ramona Nicholas-inspired vision board on our office wall, and it really is a good idea to have a clear picture of where you want to be in 1/3/5 years time, and to stay focused on it. I may or may not get the office with the glass wall and panoramic view on our vision board, but looking at it definitely inspires me to greater things!
Celebrate! When you have a success – a new customer, funding and new online sales platform – whatever it is, take time to celebrate it. You need those high points to get you through the inevitable lows of the startup journey.
Does Anyone Actually Want To Pay For What You’re Selling? We’re being quite blunt about this one. There are a lot of good ideas out there but you need to be able to show that people are actually willing to pay for what you are selling. There are different ways to achieve this, from clicks on a wireframe website to actually landing customers.
Test Your Sales Channels! Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares wrote an excellent book called “Traction – How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Growth”. Get it, read it, and follow the instructions.
WATCH THE FIGURES
Cash is King! Somebody once sang “Money talks, dirty cash I want you, dirty cash I need you, oh” and we couldn’t agree more. If the cash runs out, your company will be no more, so do your 12 month cash flow regularly and put strategies in place to build sales and get a funding plan rolled out. Remember that funding can be a long road, so begin the journey many months before you need the cash injection.
Not The Accountancy Stuff! Yes, the accountancy stuff; money is the language of business and you need to know your numbers. What’s your gross profit percentage? If you have identified a niche that is excited about what you are bringing to the table, this should be high. Find out what a healthy percentage is for your industry. It should play an important part in how you price your product. There are other important “key performance indicators” but if you focus on this one first, it’s a good start.
Network, but not too much! Yes, of course, it’s important to network. And yes, you can learn to network, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Practice will take away that awkward feeling. Our only warning is to be selective; if you find your friends saying, “Sure, he/she’d go to the opening of an envelope” then you might be overdoing it.
Strategize! Okay, we’re going to admit that this point is probably something we’ve heard more than actually practiced. But apparently you’re supposed to know who will be at an event in advance, you select 3 to 4 people that you make a point of speaking to, and only relax once you’ve achieved conversations with your targets. Our strategy has relied more on the goodwill of the Universe to place key people next to us in the queue for the coffee, but this is not 100% foolproof so we don’t recommend taking a leaf out of our book on this one!
BUILD A SCALABLE SYSTEM
Document It! Every key process needs to be reviewed and refined, and then documented. Everybody should be able to figure out how to follow the system easily. If the only person who knows how your sales system works is Frank, who’s been with the company for 6 months and rarely comes up for air because he’s so busy, and who has set up a complex system in Excel using macros and several worksheets to be filled in, the bad news is you could have trouble growing that model!
Do It Manually First! Work your system out manually first; do it using Excel or paper forms, or whatever works for you, but do not seek to automate that which you haven’t already tested over and over again manually. Like ourselves (unfortunately), we know you will try to do this at some stage, and so like any good know-it-all, we’d like you to remember when it doesn’t work out that we told you so!
Your Time is a Precious Resource! Stephen R. Covey said “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” We say have a to-do list and prioritize it. Make all activities that contribute towards growing the business and putting money in the bank account at the top of the list.
The Arguments! You will fall out with your co-founders, it’s a given. The question is, how do you handle it? You need to be able to deal with conflict in a healthy way, and accept that people have bad days. We say, don’t get involved in blaming and criticizing because you will have lots of scope as making mistakes is inevitable in a startup. The question is, do you learn together and move on as a stronger team?
So there are our nuggets startup success wisdom! Do you agree / disagree? Do you have a story you’d like to share? Reach out and let us know !