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5 Tips for Startups

On the road to a startup

If you’ve got a startup or you’re starting up a startup, you’ve already got a great product worth selling. You are probably working hard to promote it too. The basic to-do list is in the bag, but there are a lot of details that only experience and the wisdom of others can teach you. Here are some things I’ve learned from our CEO and other business owners about the challenges of running a small business.

1. Prepare a Great Elevator Pitch

You’d think that since it’s your startup you should be able to talk about it eloquently and endlessly. Maybe you can, but can you sum it up in a sentence or two that makes you look like a superstar and your product or service irresistible? The chances are slim. Without some concerted preparation, your idea may sound anything from fantastical to boring to unintelligible when described on the spot. So get ready in advance to impress anyone that asks what you do for a living, even if you only have as much time as it takes to ride the elevator.

2. Don’t Dwell on Mistakes

The aftermath of big mistakes is usually no fun but without them you wouldn’t be where you are right now. Mistakes happen and sometimes it makes you feel like you’ve failed but as long as you take ownership, you will come out stronger and smarter on the other side. When you admit to your mistakes, and learn from them, you can honestly critique yourself and grow. However, if you blame others, berate yourself, or minimize it, you loose the chance to gain from the event.

Viewing mistakes as an opportunity to grow is a powerful tool that all successful people use. For inspiration, check out this article on Forbes which offers the advice of 10 CEOs about using mistakes as growth opportunities.

3. Be Patient

The old adage that it takes 15 years to become an overnight success is still true in most cases. Don’t fret about spending the first 14 years doing the hard work to get positioned for success. Be patient with yourself, your resources, and the changing market conditions.

“After being in business almost 15 years I was shocked to learn how many start-ups actually follow our path, self-funding instead of using investors while taking years to develop and grow. That’s the majority, and it’s nice to know we’re not alone.” – Joel Slatis, CEO Timesheets.com

While you’re working on growing your company, be cognizant of how your company’s size affects your business decisions. You might want to start by targeting a smaller niche, charging a lower price than your largest competitors, and developing products and features for a smaller market. All of these things will grow as your company grows. The giants have lots of money, employees, and resources. It takes time to get there so hunker down, do the work, and be patient until you do.

4. Keep an Open Mind

Having a business plan is an important part of starting a business but having too many expectations can be a hindrance too. The unexpected happens all the time in business and you need to be ready to roll with it. Challenging your own assumptions and considering some avenues you might not initially agree with can help you keep an open mind and prepare for the unexpected.

“Sometimes just thinking something is true obscures your judgement. Make sure you listen to the environment, be accepting but cautious, and be ready for the unexpected. Running a business is full of challenges you’ve never even considered might exist.” – Joel Slatis, CEO Timesheets.com

Nothing can surpass getting your hands dirty but reading and talking with others is the runner up. Keeping your mind as active as your schedule will help you be more flexible and prepared.

5. Use the Right Software Service at the Right Time

Every business has unique needs and, these days, there is a software service to meet basically any of them. You don’t want to go broke paying monthly fees for every software under the sun, though, so you must pick and choose carefully. Research the ROI as it pertains to your business and get advice from friends about the services they use and have used.

Be aware that your need for certain services may grow as your business grows.

If you sell a very specialized product, for example, and only have a few customers and only a few contacts, you may not need customer relationship management software right when you start up, but eventually you will. Likewise, if you start out with just one employee, you may not feel the need for time tracking software like Timesheets.com until you’ve hired employee number two (unless employee number one was a remote employee). On the other hand, some services are useful right away. QuickBook’s software, for example, allows you to easily oversee your invoices and can make your company look more professional while helping you get paid faster. This is really important in the early stages of your business.

Be sure to consider not only a service’s usefulness to your business but also the stage at which you should introduce it.

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