10 ways NOT to fail as a startup

- Entrepreneurial Skills

by Louise Brace

There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to take control of your career. Taking the leap from employee to business owner is one of the best decisions you’ll make, but as tempting as it most certainly is, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

When you do decide to go it alone, you’ll also need to be prepared for unorthodox working hours, missing out on family time and juggling various projects, tasks and clients. Juggling is an essential skill for startups and entrepreneurs.

Why does anyone decide to go it alone in business?

Freedom, more time with family, more money? When you start out, these are probably the three qualities in life, you’ll miss out on. Gone will be the days when you can leave work at 5pm, have the weekends for family activities, go on your annual holiday without thinking about work, even have an annual holiday!

The start-up period for any new business or entrepreneur, is one of the most difficult periods of your life and you have to be made of stern stuff to get through it. Figures in the UK show that nearly 50% of startups fail in the first couple of years and the failure rate is higher still in the US, where 8 out of 10 startups crash and burn in the first 18 months. Ouch!

What does it take?

You don’t have to have a degree to learn Entrepreneurship. In fact a degree doesn’t guarantee you anything these days. Entrepreneurship can be taught to most people with average academic abilities. Right now there is a lot of enterprising talent out there.

If you’re one of those enterprising future stars and believe failure isn’t an option, here’s what you need to do:

1. Be qualified

It’s the easy option. Jump on the bandwagon of a trending business model and hope to make a killing. Unless you have the money to invest in someone that knows what they’re doing, you’ll most likely fail. You need to be qualified at what you do and most importantly, you need to love what you do!

2. Be unique

Most entrepreneurs will fail with several startup ideas, before they find the one. And it’s OK to fail. But you can decrease the chances of failing, by finding a unique idea that will stand out in the market. Sound easy? It’s not.

Yet innovation is the key to success, if you don’t want to be scraping around for business along with your competitors.

3. Do your research

One of the biggest issues of failing startups (apart from lack of investment) is the lack of research. The R&D stage of any startup is crucial. You might want to leap straight in, but you’ll be leaping into a black hole. If you don’t have more knowledge than the next person, success won’t be easy.

Define an in-depth business plan that you can refer back to through the first years of trading. Even if it gets modified along the way, you need that seed and stability to develop your business model in the early stages.

4. Have a funding plan

Running out of cash is the primary reason why startups fail. But if cash is your only problem (and in most cases it’s not), there are plenty of routes to get funding for your business. If you need investment, you’ll need that winning business plan. Then research investment options that suit your business model.

5. Be prepared for hard work

Peter Drucker, business legend, once said, “Successful entrepreneurs do not wait until “the Muse kisses them” and gives them a bright idea; they go to work.” When you own your own business, there’s no one there to hold your hand, you just have to get on with it. And you’ll make sacrifices along the way. Always keep in mind your goal and it will help you get through.

6. Develop methods that improve your productivity

The smarter you work, the more efficient you’ll become. Essential when every minute you work, is geared towards being successful and profitable.

No one is going to pay your salary at the end of the month for opening Facebook 20 times a day. Try out different methods that improve your productivity and keep you concentrated on developing a successful business.

7. Be in touch with your customer

Market-research and customer dialogue is a major factor in the success of your business. Who you talk to and how you talk to them is crucial. I have always been a major advocate for the importance of customer dialogue, but when I set up my business, all of sudden, I didn’t seem to have any time to stay in touch. Big mistake. We live in a virtual bubble, in which most of our communication is done via social networks. When you run a business, you need to pop that bubble. Get out there, talk to your clients. Know your clients.

8. Measure success and failure

Be constantly measuring your journey. This will help you identify what has worked and what has failed. What to scrap and what to continue developing. And never hold on to ideas or methods that don’t work. It will only end in tears. Talking of which…

9. Expect tears along the way

Creating a startup is a roller coaster ride. One you want to stay on if possible. Along the way, expect tears of joy and frustration. It’s all part of the journey.

10. Remember it’s OK to fail.

Just don’t give up.

Now when your hard work turns into your first million profit and you can proudly say, “Hell, I succeeded!” We’ll salute you!

p.s. We’ll also salute you, if you tried and failed. It’s the NOT trying, that’s NOT OK 🙂

Photo: Unsplash

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