How to Get Past the “Start” of Your Startup
Congrats, you’ve started a business! We can call you a startup now. That was it. You’ve developed a sweet product, gotten some funding, and things are looking pretty good. That was the tough part, right? Most startups are guilty of thinking like this once their business is off the ground: “Alright, we did it. We’re here.” Though the thought is nice, the reality is a bit harsher.
The statistics on startup failure are staggering. Taking a look into how and why so many new businesses fail offers a good deal of insight on marking a path toward success. Some of the reasons are so obvious it’s painful to realize, but others sneak along quietly. Failure assassins are waiting in the shadows.
Throughout this article, we’re going to look at some glaring and some subtle issues that plague new businesses. As your business is getting off the ground, remember the words a great young philosopher named Calvin once said to his stuffed tiger:
“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine, and valleys of frustration and failure.”
We’re going to help keep your business walking tall through all the summits, stretches, and valleys.
Why Startups Fail
We can begin by saying the reasons startups fail are called legion. For they are many. They usually boil down to planning and communication issues, but manifest themselves in ways that often warrant a second look into your own business. We’re going to do our best to avoid business buzzwords, so let’s check this plainly-put list of the biggest new-business bludgers:
Not making something people need (or want):
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? A lot of startups are groups of people who passionately build something great, but the market doesn’t need it. At the end of the day, you’re running a business. If you have a cool product, that’s great. If no one needs it, they will not buy it. Investors included. It’s the number one killer of startups. The idea isn’t to build a product only to have to search for its purpose afterward. It’s to look at consumer needs, trends, etc. and build toward that. It sounds like it stifles creativity, but it’s paramount to launching a viable product.
Making something and not marketing it:
It doesn’t matter how awesome your product or business is if you can’t direct your audience to you. Another no-brainer, right? Even though your product draws people, users, sales, etc. there always comes the top of the parabola. Without reaching out to customers, your business model depends wholly on the draw of the product, which is always limited. Targeted marketing strategies, along with an awesome product, take that it and put it in front of the faces of your desired audience. And what will that drive? Sales.
Okay, one buzzword–scalability:
Lack of scalability is what keeps little startups small. The term itself, as applied to business, refers to a company’s ability to continue performing efficiently as it grows exponentially larger. Most young startups begin successfully, but when demand increases, they find they’re meeting that demand with declining efficiency. Because they had a plan for serving X users, but never planned for X times 500,000 users. Having a control structure in place to ease growing pains and plan for them is the foundation (and definition) of being scalable. Otherwise, your business becomes stagnant.
These are the big kahunas. The list is massive and you surely don’t want us to wax Homeric with an epic about the thousands of ways to fail. Your business is here and it needed to hear the tough stuff first. Let’s look into some solutions to drive you toward that elusive success.
Starting Up Successfully
Now that you’ve seen how easy failing is, step into the light. It’s going to be okay! It’s certainly not easy, but there are tons of tools out there to help you. Even in those three big kahunas of failure listed above, they inherently have valuable advice: make something people want and need, draw your audience, and plan for growth. But wait, there’s more!
Get loud and stay loud:
Blogging, social media, email outreach, however it is you plan to reach out to your customers, keep it consistent. Fun fact: 84% of marketing specialists agree that six hours of social media activity per week is beneficial to a business’s online traffic. Get on it and stay on it, it’s a free and easy way to talk to, well, anyone.
Be unabashedly human:
The days of speaking to recordings and waiting four days for a customer service response email are over. Should your web and mobile platforms be user friendly? Yes. Are people still going to get confused and need help? Definitely yes. The ideal response time is limited and people are impatient. Be vigilant and cordial with your customer service. Have multiple forms of it! Answers questions on Twitter, take polls on Facebook, respond to emails within 24 hours, develop a live chat feature, have real humans on the other end of a phone! There are tons of ways to do this, but we guarantee users are much more likely to get down with your product if the people behind it are friendly and real.
Don’t get cozy:
Challenge your business plan, be adaptable, and be prepared to evolve. The rate at which industry fluxes is mind blowing. If your business gets complacent, it’ll get swallowed whole before you can blink. Stay up to date on everything and always keep innovating. Experiment. Fail. Learn. Break stuff (within reason). Flex your startup’s muscles. Work hard, but rest. Burnout isn’t going to help either, so find balance and stay alert.
Your new business will undoubtedly face an unpredictable mix of summits, stretches, and valleys. Now you’ve got a few tools to help you notice the valleys before you come to them, some to keep the summits high, and the stretches easy to traverse.