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Keep your Start-Up Alive

Keep your Start-Up Aliveimage
Date Posted : 02/11/2015

Preparation can be the best defence.  Having an idea of a product or business is the easy bit, but if you can come to terms and understand potential hurdles and are ready to tackle them as they come then you are well set to give it a good shot. There will still be issues that you couldn't foresee still but thats part of the fun.

Not every company faces the exact same problems, and it depends on the industry that your business operates in. There is no prescriptive method that suits every situation and every business and as with your solutions, they should be tailored to suit your business and the industry. (That being so, the points raised in this article are not prescribed for any particular business or industry. so feel free to pick what you think if any suits your business.)

1. Unable to create buzz in the market

Starting out small is not easy, especially with big companies that have been so successful in the market for years. Honestly, it may become quite discouraging at times. But there is always room for a new player in the market, don't be scared of the big boys. Marketing budgets do not need to be as big as what the market giants are spending, but starting out small is better than not starting at all. Reach out to clients/customers, post advertisements on a variety of social media platforms, which are mostly free and easy to use. No matter how small or how new your start-up is, it is not impossible to gain the interest of potential clients. Perception is key. Regardless of size if you can create buzz you will grow your customer base.

2. A co-founder/employee isn’t delivering

It’s frustrating when someone isn’t contributing or potentially holding the business back for whatever reason. He or she could’ve been around since the beginning, and helped build that product/service but you can ill afford to allow your heart to rule your head. The old fashioned saying of 'business is business' has to take effect. You definitely don’t want this problem to continue in the long term, so do not be afraid to be honest and have a chat and see what’s up. Most of the time, the issue behind a lack of performance can be sorted with a conversation. Be honest and understanding when it comes to trying to thrash out a resolve, but don't lose site on what is right for the business, its too early for passengers. Having someone who is under-performing may lead to conflict in the office. Don't be scared to make big decisions - after all your business may depend on it, if there is no resolve look to remove the person asap.

3. Team not getting along

As mentioned previously, the presence of a 'slacker' in the office or member of staff who is like poison and is way to regular in spreading bad morale has no place in any business, never mind a start up. This is no good for energy levels and can be detrimental to the team. If you have a slacker, then others may feel unfairly treated and having to pick up the slack, but not getting any credit for it. It’s important to address any of these conflicts and iron out those issues. It may be gruelling, but it would definitely be worth your time. Team bonding can be as simple as sharing a meal. Making sure the team gets along and is willing to help each other keeps your business in a happy place, especially in the long term. Your early team, if they are happy, will be your managers and leaders of the company’s future. Invest time in getting it right first, and obviously people may have a bad day, but continuation of bad morale when you are small can kill you. You need everyone to feel passionate about the end goal, if they are not address it early to learn why.

4. Not meeting targets

This could be really discouraging for everyone – when everyone has been working their hardest but not getting the results they expected. Whether business is not doing well because of a downturn in the market, bad luck or any other reason then the team needs to be able to bounce back and start on the next project quickly. For Sales, it could be difficult to understand a market. My opinion for a start up would be not to set targets internally initially. Have your road map of where you would like to be by a certain time decided at management level, but don't be too hard on yourself if at first you are not where you want to be. Its good to remain positive and focused on targets, but if you allow them to take over while you are young, you may reflect focus away from the bigger picture.

Eventually from your experience you will realise that sometimes you cannot prevent certain situations, and over time, the more preparation that has gone into a certain project will undoubtedly help you on the delivery side. Try not to over-commit, leaving yourself a risk of under-delivery. This in time will catch up and could ruin your good name. Make sure you have tangible results to build on rather than to start off with unrealistic targets.

5. Start Lean and grow organically

For start-ups, as mentioned it wise to address issues with employees who are not doing their fair share. At this early stage of your business it is important to ensure that those employed are pulling their own weight, are happy to support each other, and are good at what they do so that you can run a small and manageable team that produces quality results. From the outset, let creativity shine. You (and your partners) are only a select few who can give ideas if you don't let the others in. Promote open discussion about ways to improve your business, product and/or service. You may find that you can create a superb working environment this way as people feel part of it.  Try to pass on ownership of a task or project, make people feel responsible for certain tasks. I am not saying leave it all to them, but I am saying if you set a task leave them to it. Remember, you want staff to feel as passionately about a product or business as you do.  You won't get this if they feel they have no influence over what they are doing.

In terms of growth, you should have decided internally what are your triggers to hire. Over time it will become apparent when you need extra staff. You may find in the first year your business is 1-5 staff, and you may never feel you are growing, however after year 2 you may have trebled or even more in size. Its just how it happens. This said ensure you are doing at the correct times that fit your business. Don't over stretch yourself and follow your gut, its normally a good indicator.

6. Be Transparent 

Its tough entering into a market with existing giant companies with years of experience and excellence on their belt. Generally you will find them to try and keep you down, it may be too easy for them to do so. Examples could be ''they are too small'', ''they don't have the support'', ''how are they funded?'' etc etc, any ways to try and divert interest from your company. Believe me, this will happen. Therefore, just be honest and open. If you are pitching to a potential user of your service or product its highly likely they have done their research. If they didn't like what they have seen initially you wouldn't be there at this point. Clearly there will be extra criteria that you as a start up may need to deliver on. If so, be realistic with what you are able to deliver. Fake it till you make it on this occasion won't work. You want to gain the trust of your audience, and not be “all-talk-no-show”. It is not wise to over-commit in light of an influx of business. Customers/clients might feel cheated if promised something that your business is unable to actually deliver and you can risk it all if you decide to drop everything just to get a signed contract. You are better to lose a deal with face than to win it and risk a high chance of non delivery and are better to have a selection of clients all getting an impeccable service rather than 1000s who are not fully happy.

This is the same with staff. Cashflow, projects, roadmaps and general running of the business are all constantly moving parts in the early stages of a start up. Don't try to cover up information from the team. Remember, its likely that they are equally taking a risk in a start-up working for your business. Obviously there are times when it’s not possible to reveal everything that happens, but these early members are your company's future, bring them in early and they will appreciate it long term.

7. Don't be afraid to ask for help

It’s daunting starting a new business, and you can't expect to be Steve Jobs over night. Nobody expects a business to act like a well established multi-national corporation in the first few years. It takes time, patience and money. If any of these are missing from your road map, it’s unlikely you will succeed. Regarding money, don't be afraid to give up part of your business for capital to help get off the ground if you need it. This could mean the difference between success and failure. There is no point hanging on to equity in a business that is worthless - if you need money seek it. However, when choosing an investor, ensure you do your own research on who he or she is, as they will be representing your business, regardless of how small their stake may be. Look to find investments that may not just benefit your business from a monetary purpose. You should try to bring in someone with expertise in your market, who may be able to act as a door opener. Remember, once they are invested, they have much more interest to do so. You will know when its time to stop looking for investment. This is when you have sufficient funds obviously, but also when you have multiple interest in investors looking for a quick stake. If this is the case, you've started to be a success.

Gaining momentum will be a challenge for most start-up businesses. Persevere, be patient and work smart. Be frugal but not stingy, think and plan ahead with a well-thought out road map of where you’d like your business to be in a certain time. Set-backs are inevitable in every business no matter how mature a business may be, but for start-ups everything seems bigger than it really is. Stay calm, and remain positive. Your energy is ultimately what is rubbed off on clients and staff.

Try to prepare, but if not, adapt to learning along the way, there will be lots you don't know. Don’t hesitate to seek for help whenever necessary. Have like-minded positive people around you. Don't over commit and most importantly be honest and realistic.

Article from LinkedIn.

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