If you want to grow your startup from mere idea to entrepreneurial success, it helps to take a hint (or three).
5 min read
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You may have a great startup idea, but don’t quit your day job just yet. Entrepreneurs launch startups every day, and some of them go on to reach amazing heights. Still, the idea itself is just the beginning of a long and arduous road.
The path to startup stardom is beset with challenges, and they just keep coming. Money is a big issue for most founders — you’ll obviously need capital to allow for product development, market testing, key hires and countless other costs. You’ll also have to learn how to effectively manage your time, and if you achieve success, you’ll be managing your employees’ time as well. Scaling your business isn’t going to be easy, and keeping up with competitors will probably keep you up more than a few nights.
These challenges aren’t meant to dissuade you from achieving your goals. Instead, recognize the difficulties ahead and realize that you’ll need a clear strategy to overcome them. Take these three hints to give your startup a stronger chance of succeeding.
1. Hint: Only plan for the next three years.
It can be tempting to plan your startup’s future all the way to its successful sale to a larger competitor years down the road, at which point you sail off into the sunset on your new yacht. Circumstances change quickly, and there’s really no point in planning further out than the next three years.
When developing your three-year plan, however, start at the end. Where do you want to be in three years? Maybe you’re aiming for a certain amount of revenue, or you want products on shelves in a certain number of retail stores. No matter what industry your startup is in, envision what place it will occupy after three years. Make sure what you have in mind is a good balance of ambitious and achievable.
Next, plan how you’re going to get to that destination. For example, you might divide your revenue goal by how much you generate per product sold. Once you have your roadmap, divide it into 90-day increments, which will serve as small stepping stones that each get you closer to your three-year goal.
2. Hint: Your startup’s dream location might be closer than you think.
Before you look for a workspace in Silicon Valley, consider what your startup will require to thrive in a certain location. Make a list, including elements you might need such as a steady pipeline of talented employees, an emerging startup ecosystem for collaboration, access to venture capital or inexpensive warehouse space to store products. Chances are strong that you can get most of the essential items without moving across the country — or around the world.
When visiting Auckland, New Zealand, last year to work with startup founders seeking funding, Pat Riley, CEO of GAN, says, “I was taken aback by how few of them had heard about ICE Angels or Lightning Lab, two amazing groups that are fueling the next wave of startups in the country.” He cautions overeager entrepreneurs against a hasty move. Instead, look carefully for resources in your current area: You might be surprised by what emerges.
3. Hint: There’s such a thing as spending too much time at work.
There’s no doubt that getting a startup off the ground takes time and dedication, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of everything else in your life. At a certain point, spending more time on your startup ceases to improve your chances of success, and committing excessive time to your startup might actually hinder it.
Entrepreneurial burnout is a real thing. In fact, the American Institute of Stress estimates that burnout costs the U.S. $ 300 billion each year. Avoid it by scheduling your time carefully — making time for work, family, relaxation and sleep. Achieve balance on paper, and all that’s left to do is stick as closely to your schedule as possible.
To combat burnout, Sarah Chrisp, founder of Wholesale Ted, says she did three things: “First, I made my goals and expectations more realistic. Then I set a sustainable daily workload. Finally, I take time each day to reflect on how proud I am for what I’ve achieved, rather than focus on what I haven’t.” Also, when work demands increase, resist the temptation to sacrifice sleep. Research shows that fatigue impairs decision-making and performance at work, and chronic fatigue can even contribute to mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD.
Launching a startup is an exciting undertaking, but it’s not something to rush into. Create a plan of attack, decide where you want your startup to live and then execute your plan without letting your startup consume your every waking hour. If you can do that, you’ll be well along the rewarding (and potentially lucrative) path to startup success.