With startups popping all over the Indian economy every other person wants to quit working and start their own business. Though the idea and execution of launching a startup is not impossible, it isn’t easy either. If there is one thing consistent in starting a startup it’s the fact that nothing is consistent.
If you are planning to walk this path of entrepreneurship there are a lot of things you need to contend with. It isn’t an easy path but you know what they say – Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.
Regardless of how you describe success, there are a great number of characteristics that are common amongst entrepreneurs. Below is a list of a few things that are fundamental in launching your own startup. Even if you miss out on a few, or feel that you don’t possess them, there’s no need to fret. Most of these can be learned with practice and a positive winning attitude, all you need to do is set goals and apply yourself through strategic planning, to reach said goals.
Do What You Love
From a basic career advice to an advice for beginning a startup, it is necessary to be in love with what you are doing. Getting into a field just because it’s the “in-thing” is the worst thing you can do. What you get out of a business in terms of personal satisfaction, financial gain, enjoyment, etc will be a sum of what you put into your business. So if you don’t enjoy what you do, chances are that it will be reflected in the success of your business – or subsequently the lack of success.
Everything Is Planned
Planning every aspect of your startup is perhaps the most obvious must. Business planning requires you to analyze each and every situation, research and compile data, and finally reach conclusions and make decisions based on your research. Another purpose of having a proper plan is that it can be used by you to measure your success.
No matter what your goals or intentions are (you could be trying to get rid of world hunger for free), fact remains that cash flow is the life blood of an organization. Unless you have a source for unlimited money (mismanaging that would be bad too though, not to mention irresponsible), you need to have a good head for finances and budgeting. Though it isn’t exactly a requirement that anyone wishing to start a startup must be a financial whiz, so if you aren’t that amazing with the numbers, make sure you hire someone who is. You need the cash to buy inventory, pay for services, promote and market your startup, repair and replace tools and of course also pay yourself so you can continue to work. Therefore, all startups need a wise money manager to handle all the budgeting and ensure that the cash keeps flowing and the bills get paid.
It’s all about the Consumer
You need to make sure you have amazing products or services, you need to deliberate about the prices you charge for your goods and services, you also need to have a good knowledge about your competitors and how to compete with them, but all these come second. Your number one priority has always got to be your consumers and customers. After all, no matter how amazing your products are, or how good you deal with your competition, or how great your prices are, your customers are the deciding force that will decide if your business goes boom or your business goes bust. So it is pertinent that whatever you do in your startup is always customer-oriented. This includes your policies, warranties, payment options, operating hours and of course your advertising campaigns and website. It is also important to recognize your key target group and identify who they are inside and out. Only then can you work towards giving them what they want.
Knowing your customer’s woes
Need a competitive edge over the larger competitors? Make sure you offer your customers personalized attention. We have all been the customers for some business or another and call it high-tech backlash or whatever, but customers are really tired of hearing “Please hold on while I retrieve your information, if you could just provide me your [some number or code]”, or of entering a dozen digits to finally get to the right department only to then end up with voice mail and promises of a call back which more often than not get lost in the masses.
But the good part of this is that as an owner of a startup, you can yourself answer calls, get to know your customers and provide them with the king of personalized service that will definitely win over repeat business for you. After all it is a researched fact that most business (around 80%) comes from repeat customers. Hence, apart from trying to woo new customers, it is equally, if not more, important to provide satisfaction to your regular customers. Who doesn’t love a bit of personalized attention, especially in today’s high-tech world?
Make technology your friend not master
True enough we just said that technology makes business a tad impersonal, but that in no way means that you should shun technology all together. Avoid getting completely caught up in the high tech net, but learn how to use it to your advantage. One of the most amazing aspects of the internet is that it levels the playing field. Even a two-person team operating from a café (or basement if that’s what you prefer) has a very real chance of having a superior website to a large multi-national, and no one will know the difference. Keep up with technology wherever it suits your needs and remember that the best technology is that which helps you move forward, not that which impresses your neighbor.
”When the snows fall and the wind blows, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives” – Eddard Stark (Game of Thrones)
That sounds a little macabre, but you get the point. No one can build a successful business all alone. It’s a task for a team that is united by a common purpose and passion. The most important of your team members will be your customers and others may be family members, friends, associates, employees, business alliances, even sub-contractors, but what is important is that they must all be as committed as you to the business and its success.
Invest in yourself
You are your company’s first and one of the important assets. Top entrepreneurs mostly buy and read a lot of business and marketing publications. This isn’t because they want to show off, or because it’s some sort of secret entrepreneur code to recognize their peers. Actually it’s a way to strive for continuous improvement. It is a fact that we never stop learning and there is so much knowledge yet to be devoured. Identifying this fact, a successful entrepreneur is always in the pursuit of knowledge, to improve their understanding of business and marketing functions and skills.
Networking is also an important practice. Meeting other businessmen and attending various seminars and workshops, enables you to learn more about other’s success mantras. Though it is important to remember that someone else’s modus operandi is not something you can copy and paste into your work ethics but it is still insightful to know what worked for others and what didn’t
Don’t juggle too many swords
When you start a startup you are protective of it and it becomes like your baby. This makes it hard for you to let go. It is generally difficult for most business owners not to take a hands-on approach for everything. It’s a normal feeling – you try to do as much as possible, tackle as many tasks as you can. The ability to multi-task is a trait to have, and is actually a quality shared by a number of successful entrepreneurs. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Once in a while, you should take a step back and delegate. Surely you know what tasks you are best at, pay attention to those and delegate the rest to your team. Trust them to do what they do best.
Build your reputation
The company reputation is a good forte for your startup. A good reputation is the most tangible and marketable asset you can have and the best part is you cannot buy a good reputation (take that large business competitors). A good reputation is built. It is based on your customer experience and how you honor your commitments and promises.
Consistency in what you offer is a key factor. You need to be prepared to come through with the same level of service (and/or products) for clients on a regular basis. If you fail to do so then your customers have no reason to trust you, and without trust your reputation will suffer. Remember – bad news travels like wildfire and good news travels slow. Reputation once lost will take a long long time to earn back.
There are a lot more things that you should keep in mind before you plunge into the ever-growing startup world, but these are a few of the most important ones. Share with us what other skills you think are paramount in a startup.