There is absolutely no doubt, it’s extremely difficult to start a successful business of any kind. It requires a lot of hard work, fortitude, and an incredible amount of persistence in spite of all the challenges that you will face along the way.
The unfortunate reality is that 9 out of 10 start-ups will fail in the first couple of years. The reason for these failures can vary, however, the top reason for startup failure is typically due to the lack of market need.
In other words, you can build an amazing product, however, there are never going to be enough paying users to make the numbers stack up. Therefore, It’s vitally important that you are trying to solve a real problem that impacts many people and those same people are willing to pay for your solution.
Fortunately, there have been many people who have successfully (and unsuccessfully) walked this path – giving us the opportunity to learn from their experiences. Let’s jump in and have a look at some strategies to survive your first start-up journey.
The customer needs to be front and center when your designing, iterating, and building your product(s). After all, you need them to be happy and actually want to pay for your product/service.
A great way to test the market demand for a new idea is actually before you even start building it. Nowadays, it’s really easy to make a landing page with a call to action (for example, buy now/subscribe button) & drive some unbias traffic to the site using an advertising campaign.
Using some analytics tools you can measure the amount of interest in your product/service. For example, If a user signs up/tries to purchase something then you can assume that they have some level of interest in your offering.
Now, of course, we don’t actually have a product yet, so don’t charge the customer. Just give them a friendly message to say that you’re still in beta and offer them a great discount when you actually launch! Remember, these early leads will kick start your business once you actually launch.
It’s also really important to keep your customers happy at all times. Listen to them and promptly fix the issues that come up. There is a lot to be said for protecting your business reputation. Help your early customers love the product/service and help them recommend it to their friends/family.
Getting Stuff Done
So, you have this idea and some (hopefully many) users have started signed up. That’s a great start! Now It’s time to carry that momentum forward and build/make the product. Often, this is much easier said than done.
One of the main challenges is staying focused and accountable when you are starting your own business, especially if you’re a solo founder. It’s important to find the tools and techniques that work best for you.
The first step is to set some clear and achievable goals. You can do this using a tool like Trello to help you track your most important tasks. With a tool like this, you essentially create tasks, prioritize them, and start working on them one by one.
Remember to create tasks that are measurable, for example, ‘Call 5 potential customers and pitch your idea’ (which is much easier to achieve than the generic version of ‘Pitch your idea to some potential customers’).
Next comes the hard part, how do you stay motivated and avoid procrastination. Everyone has different ways of working and different avenues of motivation. Here are a few common ideas that you can try:
1. Give yourself a reward when you finish your tasks. For example, you can watch an episode of your favorite TV show once you finish your daily tasks. Just make sure the rewards aren’t going to be a distraction to the next tasks on your list.
2. Set a penalty if you don’t finish your tasks (this is called Loss Aversion). For example, if you don’t complete your tasks you have to donate $25 to a politician you hate. Remember, if you fail one week – reset and try again.
3. Find an Accountability Partner and work with them to achieve your goals. They are essentially a buddy who checks in with you once a week and helps you stay accountable to your tasks. You can also use an Accountability Partner in conjunction with Loss Aversion/Rewards.
A fantastic way to stay on track is to have mentors who have already done what it is your trying to do. They can help guide you through the journey and give you some important tips along the way.
Finding a Mentor isn’t easy. It requires a lot of work and persistence. The key is to remember that it’s a 2-way relationship and that both parties should benefit from the experience.
A mentor who has been through the same journey just 1-2 years ago can provide some very relevant and timely advice. Whereas a mentor who is 20+ years ahead of that journey can provide much more foresight and even help you to look further ahead.
There is no reason why you can’t have more than one Mentor, just make sure that you are still spending most of your time working towards achieving your goals (rather than talking about them).
One of the other main reasons why start-ups fail is due to poor management of finances. It’s common for founders not to understand their financial position and the amount of money they are burning each week/month/quarter.
It’s very uncommon for start-ups to be profitable from day one. Therefore all startups need to optimize their expense management processes. This can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of accounting packages to track the incurred expenses and a diary to keep track of upcoming costs that need to be budgeted for.
The most critical part of expense management is to spend within your means. If your burn rate exceeds the amount of cash you have – your start-up will fail because you don’t have the funds to continue. Always spend within your means and try to have the maximum possible impact from each dollar spent.