5 Things Startup Businesses Often Overlook
Being a startup entrepreneur can be kind of strange. There are times when things get really busy and crazy. You feel overwhelmed and you’re not sure how you’re going to get everything done. Then there are times when you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs and wondering where your next paycheck is going to come from.
I don’t know why it’s like that, but it does seem to go in cycles. Here in Wisconsin we have four seasons. They all change just about right on schedule each year although winter seems to last longer and longer the older I get. But business is a lot like those seasons. The good and the bad always seem to come in cycles.
And that leads us into one of the things I feel some startups overlook as they move through the early stages of business.
1. Things Change: Guaranteed
Every October in Wisconsin the leaves start to change. The mornings get a little colder and a little colder. The days get shorter and shorter and without even thinking about it you start preparing for winter. You start preparing because you’ve been doing it your entire life.
Business is different. If you’re a first-time entrepreneur you haven’t experienced change your entire life. So you have to force yourself to prepare for when times get good and when times get bad.
If things are going pretty good right now like if you just got a new client or 100 new subscribers…that’s great! But there are times when that growth will slow or even come to a complete stop.
When times are good, prepare for slowdown. Make sure you have cash from the good times to make it through the down times.
On the flip side, don’t let the down times get you too down. Keep focusing on the most important things each day that will get you more clients. Eventually things will change back around.
2. Find An Actual Need
It’s easy to come up with idea, but it’s hard to come up with ideas that fill actual needs in the marketplace. Actually, it seems that some of the best ideas are kind of stumbled upon by accident.
Remember the movie The Social Network about Facebook? There is a scene where a kid comes up to Mark Zuckerberg and asks if he knows the social status of a classmate. The light bulb goes off for Zuck and he runs off to make the status functionality for Facebook.
Even for GBW it was like that. I started blogging as a hobby, as a way to learn something new. Eventually, someone asked if I would be interested in blogging for their company blog. I had never thought about that. Four years later it’s turned into a business.
Now, in my life I’ve had a lot of ideas and many weren’t actually things that people wanted. The trick is finding a need. Sometimes people don’t even realize they have a need. Steve Jobs famously said that focus groups don’t work because people don’t know what they want.
However, you can kind of dip your toe into some things to see what people need. You can listen to what they say, how they say things and what they do. Look for those little indicators. They often come when people say, “If only…” or “I wish…”. Or maybe they just give a big sigh after trying to do something.
Those are the moments when you know you really have something.
3. Then Get Clients Before Investing Big Bucks
The need is the biggie in the equation. But after that comes the biggest fight for your life in the startup and business world. Yes, you need a good product or service. It has to be unique. But you need clients. You could have the best thingamajig in the world, but unless someone gives you cold hard cash then you have nothing.
Even when I was starting multiple businesses in the past (that failed) I would focus on making the product better. I had no customers. I figured they would come if I tweaked something.
Go out and find customers. Do that before spending too much money. Or find someone with experience in your industry and partner with them to help with the costs. Use their experience to help you get customers.
This one might be kind of surprising, but it’s overlooked. Every business needs profit at some point. I don’t know how long you can go on without it. Even investors will want to see some hope for profit at some point. You can use their cash for a while, but eventually they’re going to want some profit.
From the beginning, start thinking about how you’re going to make profit. The profit model may change in the future, but start putting some thought into it from the beginning. If you’re not making profit you’re just having fun either with investors’ money or with you’re own.
5. The Vision
It’s also easy to have your initial vision for your company and then get so busy that you lose sight of things. It’s real easy for this to happen in fact. As the owner of a startup you’re busy doing all kinds of things including the items mentioned above in this post.
But you have to see the value in taking some time to think about the future of the business. You have to think about what the business should become and how you will take it there. Think about your happiness and what you want to be doing with the business. It’s not all about money. It could be that you’re doing 50 tasks now, but you really want to focus on two tasks in the future. From there, your real high level task is figuring out how to get your business to that point.
The vision is also good for the people you work with and for your clients. They want to know where this thing is going and it’s your job to provide them with that vision for the future.
I love the startup world. There are so many great ideas out there and amazing people working on really life-changing products and services. I hpe they all could survive, but I know that isn’t the case. It’s just the way things work out. Hopefully the items above can help you if you’re in the startup world. It’s easy to get caught up in things, but taking time to think about these common oversights could help to put your business on the right side of the win-loss column.