Being a startup business is not easy. You’re eating any scraps you can find. You’re crashing on a friend’s couch and you’re spending all your time anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Okay, that might be true for some startups. Not all of startup life is like that. There are plenty of startups out there and they come in all shapes and sizes. The common denominator among most of them, though, is that it’s a struggle to breakthrough to the point where you’re hitting your stride.
It can be hard to fight through the difficult times (big client leaving without warning) to get to the good times (getting a big investment or signing up a few new big clients).
Not every startup succeeds and makes it to a point of having more cash and a little more stability, but some do. And those startup founders that have had success know first-hand what it takes to reach the point of success.
We’ve collected some tips for startups from startup founders. The hope is that this advice can help you with your startup and hopefully it can also provide a little emotional boost if you’re in need of some motivation.
1. Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media
I think people in Silicon Valley don’t realize what a bubble they’re living in. We saw that bubble get pricked in 2001, and it will get pricked again. Here’s what’s good about that: The people who really are doing things they believe in will keep doing them, and the people who are just gold diggers will go away.
Bubbles happen. If you’re in a growing industry and things crash; don’t quit. Keep going. That’s when the real work begins.
Company: O’Reilly Media
2. Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing
The success comes from empathizing with our buyer and how they are influenced during the sales cycle to hire an agency with TopRank’s capabilities. Understanding our customer helps us make decisions about what topics we’ll write about, what conferences and topics we’ll speak on, the interviews we do with journalists and how we behave on the social web.
Listen to your customers and talk about the things they’re struggling with. You can earn their attention and respect this way and it only costs you your time.
Company: TopRank Marketing
3. Dave Morin, Path
We thought we were doing this right.
In the startup world and really in any business you’re always going to be making decisions. Not every decision will be the right one even if you think it is at the time. Be willing to take responsibility and to adapt. If you don’t you’ll likely fail.
4. Nicholas Thompson, The Atavist
Part of what we’re doing now if figuring out who those people will be, who consistently comes up with ideas that work for us, who’s easy to edit—all of those things that go into making an editor-writer relationship work.
Such a big part of being successful is working with the right people. That goes for running an online publication or running a software startup or any kind of business.
Company: The Atavist
5. Steve Case, AOL
Our whole focus was mainstream: How do you get everybody online? At the time, some of the other competitors like CompuServe focused a little bit more on people with some technology skills… Some of the things we did specifically [also made AOL competitive], like adopting a graphical user interface when everybody else was doing text interfaces, and a big focus on community — building the community, kind of getting people interacting with each other.
If you can take something that is useful, but technical and make it easy to use you can really create something big.
6. Joel Spolsky, Fog Creek Software
Like I said, in the early days, we were young and naive and didn’t always know which way the payments were supposed to flow. After that, I decided that when I answered a cold call, I would ask directly, “Are you proposing a relationship in which you write checks to us or one in which we write checks to you? Because, you know, we took home $812 last month, so we won’t be writing any big checks.”
As a startup, it’s easy to spend money you don’t have and shouldn’t be spending. Keep the spending to a minimum.
Source: Setting The Right Priorities
Company: Fog Creek Software
7. Erick Schonfeld, TouchCast
The writing is on the wall. This is going to happen with or without Apple. If Apple doesn’t make it happen soon, a startup will.
Erick was talking about TV, but this is true for any industry. Just because something is normal now doesn’t mean that it is right or that it should be normal. Changes often don’t come from big companies. They come from startups.
8. Craig Middleton, Onix
The moment it all changed for me was literally a moment of clarity where I realised that I had worked in a job I dreaded going into every day for 22 years and I had at least another 26 years left to go. I thought to myself why do I keep moaning about this situation but I never actually try and do anything about it.
This is important even after you start. If you come on hard times in your startup think back to the normal job when you hated it and you’ll find motivation to get back to work on your passion.
Source: The Story Of A Bike Entrepreneur
Company: Nrg4 Distribution
9. Jeremy Dearringer, Digital Relevance
[On using Twitter]
I feel like there’s a sense of obligation to curate that kind of content for people. It also keeps me and the organization top of mind. So even if my audience isn’t reading everything that we’re doing — if I favorite or retweet something or comment on something that they’re doing — it’s a constant reminder that Jeremy and his organization are still very active. Next time they’re in a conversation about Internet marketing, my name or DigitalRelevance are likely to come up.
Using Twitter and social media can be great tools for businesses and startups. You always want to be top of mind when your potential customers are talking about a problem that you can help with.
Company: Digital Relevance
10. Michael Dell, Dell
Figuring out how many partners we need has been a process of trial and error. You learn when you operate on the cutting edge of technology that things don’t always work as planned. The rule we follow is to have as few partners as possible. And they will last as long as they maintain their leadership in technology and quality.
Find partners that have the potential to be long-term partners and you’ll be able to have success from an early point.
11. Seth Kravitz, InsuranceAgents.com
We hired a lot of commission only sales people at first. It allowed us to grow out our sales team without having to pay them, obviously unless they closed. It definitely wasn’t ideal. I would never encourage anyone to build out a commission only sales structure. It’s just, the people that it attracted, they were just, sometimes it was a nightmare. The difference between that versus paying a really awesome professional sales person a salary and all that, you get a completely different level of talent.
Sales is very important, but hire good salespeople if you can.
12. Jay Steinfeld, Blinds.com
I think if you really got to the core of it, it’s about not being satisfied with anything we do. Our number one core value is about improving not just ourselves individually, but improving the customer experience and helping other people within the organization get better. And I think as long as everybody in the company is thinking about ways of improving themselves and improving everybody around them, then naturally the company is going to get better and better. So if a customer comes to us with a problem, we look at it as an opportunity to get better.
Never be satisfied. Keep yourselves in check so you’re always building something great.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful. If they have, please share this article with people you think might enjoy it.