Starting a business inevitably requires completing a seemingly endless list of tasks that need to get done, like, yesterday. But does everything really have to happen right away? The short answer is no.
Cut yourself some slack and understand that not all startup tasks are created equal. That said, here are a half dozen items to give high priority.
1. Raise “extra” funding. Money helps to grease wheels, smooth bumps, and solve problems along the road to success. So, raise more startup capital than you think you need, as in 50 percent more than your budgeted minimum. This will help you cover any expenses you’ve inadvertently overlooked or underestimated, which might otherwise impede the progress of your new business.
2. Spend carefully. Review every expense before you pay for it. Look for opportunities to conserve cash at every turn: by bartering with suppliers, by offering equity to key employees, by doing work in-house instead of farming it out, and so on. If you have employees, remember that no one else has your level of motivation to keep expenses down, so think long and hard before you give anyone else access to your bank account.
3. Revisit your strategy regularly. Military strategists understand that “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” Many entrepreneurs, however, have yet to learn that “no startup business plan can be implemented without evolutionary changes.” Revisit, rethink, and revise your strategy monthly to make sure your early estimates, assumptions, and ideas still ring true. Reconsider everything from your target market and competitive environment to your product’s or service’s appeal and your ability to deliver what you’ve promised.
4. Build up your intellectual property. Every item your startup can trademark, register, copyright, or patent can become a valuable asset later on. For example, your company’s name, web domain, and operating procedures could all turn out to be valuable, even if the company itself fails. So could your products, services, equipment, and processes. Make it a point to protect your intellectual property rights from Day One; waiting may prove costly if someone gets to the registry office ahead of you.
5. Start selling when you start building. Rather than try to perfect your product or service before going to market, strive to have customers ready and waiting on the day you launch. This approach not only eliminates the downtime between developing and selling your offering, but also improves the chances you’ll create something the market is eager to buy.
6. Get all of the advice you can. It’s common for entrepreneurs to rely on only themselves, but that’s not a winning strategy. “Entrepreneurs tend to refuse advice and assistance, right up until the moment they go out of business,” is how Elizabeth Martin, former marketing vice president for the American Management Association, frequently characterizes the problem. There is simply no substitute for knowledge gained through experience. Assemble a group of trustworthy advisers and mentors who will share their expertise with you.
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