One of the toughest parts of being a startup is getting started.
Well, let me say that a different way. It’s not that startup founders aren’t doing anything when they’re starting out.
It’s more like the founders are focusing on the wrong things when it comes to their new business.
I’ve done it myself. That’s why I look back now and shake my head. I wish I would have gotten started off a little better, but I guess that’s how life can work.
Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.
The reason startup founders seem to spend money on the wrong things or focus their time on the wrong things is that they’ve never been in business before. And they’re also scared about actually going out and getting a client.
How I Met Your Mother just went off the air. There is an episode where Ted starts his own architecture firm. He goes days with doing busy work until Robin finally gives him a wakeup call and says, “TED! You need to stop doing these things and find a damn client.”
That’s paraphrasing, but you get the point.
Here are some things that don’t need your focus. Stop doing these and focus on getting a few customers.
I had a handful of clients at GBW before the website launched. And the first site was a basic template. I had to make sure that GBW was even a business with actual clients before investing time and money into a website.
I had launched sites in the past that failed. That was fine for a learning experience, but I lost a lot of time and a lot of money investing in websites.
You’d be amazed at the number of businesses, especially services businesses, that don’t need a website right away.
2. Business Cards And Stationary
I think I’ve printed at least 2,000 business cards over the years and I’ve probably handed out 5-10. That’s a lot of wasted card stock. Part of it is that I’m bad at handing out the cards and I’ve probably left some business on the table, but GBW has grown without handing out business cards.
When you’re starting out you probably don’t need them. You can make sales without them and the information on the card will probably change in the near future anyway.
It’s so easy to work from home or even from the coffee shop these days. You don’t need to rent a space and you don’t even need a huge space in your home to make a business work.
This can be one of the big expenses that you can avoid. And it can give you a heads up on the competition. While they spend thousands a month on an office and all that goes with it you can work from home with your remote team.
4. Business Management Software
You probably don’t need accounting software when you have less than five clients. You can get by with Excel and basic spreadsheets.
I love software and use a few things, but early on you don’t really need any of it. Software can get expensive especially if you’re spending $20-50/month per software.
5. Social Media Accounts
They don’t cost much, but they can cost you time.
You could spend time on Twitter looking for clients. I did that early on with GBW, but I didn’t have a Facebook page or other accounts at the time and I used Twitter mostly for research to find potential clients. I was on the hunt and that’s all social media was for.
6. Legal Counsel
Legal counsel can be expensive.
Yes, you’ll need a good lawyer on your team as you grow especially if you have a partner, but go and start working and determine if you even have a business before paying them by the hour to draft up official papers.
Your first few clients only care about the work you provide. As you get bigger, the legal stuff will become more important, but it’s a big expense that you can probably avoid early on.
7. A Perfect Product Or Service
This is a big one.
I’ve seen people spends months and even years trying to perfect their product and service.
There is no perfect in business especially for a startup. Go with what you have. Find someone that will pay you for it even if it’s just a little bit. Use them to get some experience.
Your product will always be improving. You can have a vision for it and you can work toward that vision, but the only way you’ll get there is if you actually launch it and get some customers.
Before you message me on Twitter or submit a contact form in anger, let me explain something.
Yes, I realized there are exceptions here. You might be starting a business that needs a website to sell a product. You might need official stationary for your legal firm.
Those are the exceptions. The general idea is that the best thing to focus on with a new business is your customer. Get your first customer. Get your first five customers.
You might be surprised that you don’t need anything to make that happen. You can use the stuff above for growth once you’re off the ground.