As many as 80% of SMEs fail within five years of setting out. Most times this is caused by the founder of the start-up, not the team or the business idea.
You are the driver of your own start-up, to make it successful and standing you have to make sure you out some things in place with yourself.
- Stop making hopeful assumptions.
If you are not brutally honest with yourself, you can’t make informed decisions that will truly improve your company. You will hide behind excuses and spin stories to yourself explaining away why you have to keep doing the rest of the things on the list. You can’t believe all the stories you tell. You need a healthy dose of scepticism (not the same as self-doubt or lack of self-belief) to make real forward progress.
- Time management.
As a startup founder, you have no business doing some things that you can always delegate. If you try to do everything, you will end up doing nothing. Surround yourself with smart people and delegate to the right team. There are only a few things you should not delegate in the early stages of a business like customer engagements, raising capital and finding product-market fit.
- Stop working yourself to death.
As the founder, you often feel like the world is on your shoulders and you have to be working 100 hour weeks to set an example for your employees. Startups are a marathon, not a race. The average successful exit takes 7-10 years. If you don’t take time for yourself and take care of yourself, nobody else will. Relax, take breaks, take walks, take days off, get massages, pamper yourself. You can’t take care of others if you do not take care of yourself first.
- 100% focus.
On the other hand, I have tried countless times to build a startup idea as side projects, and it doesn’t work. I am not saying that it is impossible to start a startup on the side. I am saying that to make a real play at doing something investable, you are going to have to make the leap and do it full time sooner than you will feel comfortable doing so. It always works this way. Nobody will invest in you if this is not what you do all the time, no matter how good the idea is.
- Face the problem and find a solution
Founders often highlight what looks good and hide what looks bad. This is fake traction. Like: “All of my users love my product!” Sounds great, but if you only have 12 users, your sample size is two orders of magnitude too small. If you find 1000 people who can’t stop talking about your product, you are on to something big. Or another is “I have 300 people on my waiting list to buy my product!” Awesome, how many of them are willing to pay you for it up front? None? Haven’t even asked yet?
- Stop counting your eggs before they hatch.
An investor who expressed interest in investing but hasn’t called back in a few weeks isn’t money in the bank. A potential customer who says he may pay if your product did such-and-such is not money in the bank. What will he pay for today?
- Stop trying to serve two kinds of customers.
You can’t do two things great. You don’t have the time, money, or resources to figure out the product-market fit for more than one product doing one thing. It is always so enticing to try to follow new opportunities that come up, but don’t fool yourself. You can’t be great executing two go-to-market strategies at once. The split focus will mean you will be at best mediocre, but probably terrible at both. If you really think the new opportunity is better, pivot the company and go all in.
8. Stop avoiding your customers.
How long has it been since you last talked with a customer? On the phone or in person? Not to sell them stuff but to listen and build your relationship with them. A founder, and especially a CEO, has no excuse not to be in continuous communication with customers. Don’t have customers yet? Call your prospects.
Are there additional habits or tips that you experienced or learnt and think it’s worth sharing? Drop a comment below