How To Survive A Startup
For a certain breed of individual, there’s always been something quite alluring about the thought of being stranded on a desert island. The idea of being totally responsible for every choice we make and the part each tiny decision plays towards our ultimate success or failure is for some, the perfect challenge.
We are of course talking about ambitious entrepreneurs. The modern day Robinson Crusoe’s where the equivalent of surviving on coconuts and growing a big beard is the thrill, excitement and freedom found from launching a startup. It’s not always easy, it certainly has its fair share of challenges to overcome, but it’s a test of ingenuity and survival that’s comparable to sense of satisfaction we can all find from sleeping under a palm frond and trying to stab a fish with a stick.
Considering most startups already sport an eclectic assortment of tremendous beards, we thought we’d share with you a mini survival guide that will help you and your businesses thrive, even under the most testing of circumstances.
Do nothing – think
One of the first lessons in any survival course is to sit down, take stock of your current situation and prioritise what needs to be done. The sheer scale of the situation can often send people into a panic, blindly stumbling from one task to the next wasting valuable energy and time. Both of which are always in short supply during the early days of a startup.
If you experience a busy period, crisis or you’re simply in the very early stages – sit down, reflect, prioritise what needs to be done and how you can achieve this is the most efficient and effective way possible. Planning is everything.
Build a shelter
There are likely to be a few storms along the way and sheltering your business from potential competitors will protect two of your most valuable assets, your intellectual property and trademark.
Four years ago Turner Barr created a website called “Around the world in 80 jobs” where he intended to fund his escapades to some of the more remote regions of the planet through his blog. He gained some serious traction where his initial idea and success made his dream become a reality. That was until someone stole his idea, the name and ruined years of hard work.
No matter how big or small you are, it’s always important to consider protecting your IP and trademark that will provide a secure shelter for the future of your business.
Energy & food
The human body can approximately survive for 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. After which everything goes a bit wrong. What keeps a business going – the energy and food of a startup – are sales.
Without a steady stream of revenue, clients and sales any startup will struggle to survive. If you’re not sure where your next sale is coming from, it may be worthwhile to take the time and put together a comprehensive sales strategy that can really pay dividends in the long run.
While there are a number of posts and useful resources that will go into more depth about how to effectively grow your sales, one area that’s commonly overlooked is the ability to listen. Being effective in sales isn’t about shouting from the rooftops and telling everyone how wonderful your product is, often people don’t really care. What they care about is their business.
By listening to your customers you can find out what really motivates them, what challenges they face and what they’re hoping to achieve. THEN, you can tell them how your particular product of service can help them achieve this. Match the benefits of your product with customer needs.
No man/woman is an island
Everyone needs help. Even when entrepreneurs claim that they “did it all themselves”, the reality is that they’ve often had help along the way. Whether this takes the form of staff, mentors, advisors or fellow entrepreneurs, it’s important to have someone as a sounding board that can give you a new perspective or to make sure you don’t do anything stupid.
Many of the hunter-gatherer tribes that still exist on some south pacific islands today are able to build thriving communities because they rely on each other, each member having a unique and individual skill. No one can be an expert in all areas, so identify the people, either internally or externally, who have the necessary skills for a particular task and rely on their expertise to help make your business stronger.
It’s also important to have support from friends and family. Running a startup can often be a lonely experience and it’s understandable that you may want to completely immerse yourself in making it a success; but don’t forget your loved ones. Even if they don’t directly contribute to your business, then can give you a mental boost and the encouragement to keep going when things get tough. Even Tom Hanks had Wilson the Volleyball!
Get a system
Congratulations, you’ve managed to survive the tough part. You’re up and running and have proved that your business can work. The next challenge is to repeat this initial success so you can grow. With expansion comes the problem of scalability and how to repeat the process over and over again.
Without robust systems in place that can be replicated from branch to branch or from country to country, the process of scalability can be a nightmare. Find out what works, why it worked and what systems are required to repeat the process.
Leaving the island
When people are rescued from an island, most of the time it’s because they’ve made the necessary preparations. A signal flare, a raft, or whatever device your own ingenuity can muster, leaving requires foreword planning.
There are a number of options from acquisitions, creating a lifestyle company, IPO’s and selling to a friendly buyer. If your ultimate aim is to sell up, speak to investors and research why they’re attracted to certain types of business. How can you demonstrate that the business will continue to grow and you haven’t reached your full potential?
Exit strategies are extremely important for investors. Having a minority share in a healthy, growing company, without any prospect of an exit is a terrible scenario for them. If they put money in and get nothing back, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll find your business an attractive consideration.
Having a clear idea of how you want to leave (if indeed you do) will save you a lot of work and potential disappointment in the long run.
There will undoubtedly be tough times when surviving a startup, but the rewards can be life changing. By remembering the big picture and taking each challenge as it comes, you never know, you may find yourself on a desert island but instead of running around waving an SOS flag, you’ll be lounging on a beach celebrating your success with a champagne cocktail.
This post was written by company formation agent Euro Start Entreprises. Helping businesses and entrepreneurs open and expand their operations throughout the UK, Europe, US and the Emirates. Follow us on Twitter.
Image Source: “Sos Morse Code Sign For Seeking Rescue Or Help” by ArtJSan, FreeDigitalPhotos.net