The Startup Series Part – 2 – Measures To Ensure Success

In the first part of this series, I discussed the essential things that you need to know before starting up a business. In this part, I will discuss the essential measures that you will need to take to ensure that you succeed in your efforts to build the startup.

The following are the most prominent measures that you will have to take in order to set yourself up for success.

Reducing the risks associated with a failure

The first and foremost rule to being an entrepreneur these days is that you must take calculated risks. The idea that entrepreneurs take risks courageously and fearlessly against pretty difficult odds is a myth. Entrepreneur of that kind is rather an exception than a rule. So, the first thing you need to ask as an entrepreneur is this – “If I take this initiative and it fails, will I still be in business?” and the second question you should ask is “If a damage happens, how can I minimize the effects?”.

As a startup entrepreneur, you gotta be on your feet thinking about the different measures you are taking to improve your business. Most people take risks based on calculation. When calculation doesn’t help, most people take risks based on intuition. As a thumb rule, let me tell you something.

“Don’t do something just because your intuition asks you to.

At the same time,

Don’t do something only if your intuition asks you not to.”

For things that you are going to do and the risks that you want to take, it’s better to rely on your logic and calculation rather than intuition. When you are someone working on this startup business as a side project outside of your day job, you have to be very cautious and calculative before taking risks. If you search for it in the right place, you will always find a way to test the validity of your business idea before you can take it up full time.

Two things you need to do in order to minimize the potential risks with respect to your business are as follows:

  1. Interact with your customers as much as you can and get to know more about their experience with respect to your business, their opinions, suggestions, and try to implement the ones that are feasible.
  2. Keep your day job and you will prevent yourself from putting pressure on your business to grow fast. It has to take its time and things have to happen consistently and not necessarily fast.

Don’t get ahead of yourselves

When you start the business and take one step after the other, it is often easier to focus so much on the futuristic vision that you might let yourselves get too much ahead. Let’s just say you start a media/news publishing website inspired by Viral Nova. Viral Nova got popular because of the flash headlines on Business Insider and few other blogs that reported the site making revenue of $800,000/month within just over a year. You look at such articles and inspired by them, you start a website and you mimic every aspect, and make some aspects better than Viral Nova kind of sites. Ultimately, when you look at other businesses that have succeeded, you only look at the net result of their progress and not at the granular efforts that were put in towards becoming the success that they are now. They took one step after the other to get where they are from where they were.

So, while you aim to get where you wanna go, while you have that vision inside your head, don’t rush the process and want everything happen all at the same time.

“The path to success involves staying a little ahead of the competition

but close enough that customers can understand your

product and incorporate it into their lives and businesses.”

So, stay with your competition, a little bit ahead, but don’t get too ahead that your customers can’t use your product or understand your product. Your innovations should not demand too much of change from the customers. If it does, they will migrate to a product of a competition they find comfort in using because they don’t have to change much. For instance, Apple has Mac Osx now, the Yosemite version. Suddenly, in the next version of Macbook, if it were to release a holographic display with a haptic feedback touch-based keyboard with a completely different, advanced Artificially Intelligent OS like the one in the movie ‘HER’, do you think that the customers will stick with Apple? Probably some will. But, most of the customers are gonna migrate to some other competitor, probably windows, or they are gonna have a hard time figuring out the new OS which is too advanced that the customers have to change a lot. You get the point right?

Making the commitment to consistent improvements

There’s a Japanese term called as “Kaizen”. It means constant and consistent improvement. Your business is new and so are you. So, what do you do from the beginning? You commit to constant and consistent improvement of your business, every single day. You also got to make sure that these improvements and innovations are low-cost ones. Why am I saying this? Because, during the initial stage of your business, when you are running it as a part time thing outside of your day job, you have to make sure that you are not risking it all. Outsourcing many activities required for the business is one way to ensure low-cost alternatives are exploited to the optimum. This will help your business so much in a way that you will be able to save the extra money you would have spent and you’ll be able to invest that in your business later when it’s required.

Most businesses set out with an initial product offering, target audience, customer base, etc. But most of them end up expanding their product range or serving something totally different over a period of time. Who knew that a company that set out to provide e-commerce online shopping service would offer a cloud-based storage as a service later in their timeline? So, as a new venture, as an entrepreneur, you gotta set up your business in such a way that you anticipate these changes and additions in your business’ future and do what you need to do in order to make it possible. Even in the business that you are starting now, you may expect a particular set of people to be the customer base but you may be totally wrong about your expectation. That is why you have to be ready to find out that you were wrong initially and make corrections in your calculations on the go.

Making regular innovations in whatever you do

The single most important rule for your business to thrive as a startup and for you to succeed as an entrepreneur is that you need to continuously innovate. You can’t afford to just stick with one single product and say that everything is done and dusted. You have to keep making improvements in your product offerings on a daily basis and you have to have a clear vision of when and where you are going to offer your product next.

In this fast paced era, you can’t afford to have all your eggs in a single basket. You need to spread out, and as a startup entrepreneur, you need to do it consistently. The time interval between two product updates or offerings doesn’t matter as long as you provide value additions to your products in further releases or if you offer a product more valuable than the previous one.

Now, continuous & consistent product releases one after the other and continuous innovation may sound costly, but it really is not if you master the art of testing your new products. There are many different ways in which you can test your idea or a product before it goes live. For ex: one of the do-it-alone entrepreneurs that I know used to test if people want to buy his product by offering them on eBay first. If the product listing on eBay gets sold out, then he produces more of the product and offers them in the market. If the product doesn’t sell on eBay, he would know that he has a loser and he’ll drop the product. You can come up with one such low-cost testing technique if you know where to look and where your customers are.

As a rule of thumb, develop a quick and low-cost process to find out what your potential customers will want to buy and what they will be ready to buy. This way, you will waste much less money, you will have much more freedom to create what you want and test it without losing much, and you waste very little time on unsuccessful initiatives.

Make your business scalable

If your business has the ability such that you can grow it without hiring more employees and without adding any complexity, you have a winner. Otherwise, you will have to set up a system for your business which will give your business the ability to scale. Remember, your business will grow only when you work ON your business and not IN your business.

Have an experimental mindset

Whenever you create a business that succeeds, you are not going to be the only person in that business anymore. You probably already have competition and even if you don’t, people will figure your business out and come up with something better than what you offer. You are no longer competing within your city, your place or your country. Sometimes, your competition is in another country and sometimes it’s in another continent. If you have done something to succeed, people who observe what you have done can always find a way to reverse engineer your business and get to know what you have done, so that they can do it better.

What this means to your business is that you can’t stay stagnant. If you are still doing things the way you did a few months ago, if you are still operating the way you did a few months back, you are setting yourself up for failure. At any given point in time, you need to keep coming up with product improvements and you need to keep testing what works and what doesn’t. Spend at least one to two hours every day administering new experiments, tests, etc. That’s the only way you can ensure that your business stays ahead of competition and ahead of time in the market.

This experimental mindset depends on how much you can go out of your comfort zone to try new things and how much you are ready to eventually expand your comfort zone. Whatever experiments you do out of your comfort zone, whatever new ideas you help innovate and create, eventually will pay off whether it’s a success or not.

FORGET Work-Life Balance

When you start up a business you will have to let go of the term “work-life balance” and you will have to start embracing your business and integrating it into your life. Yes, you will have to take time and take care of your physical, mental and emotional health. But you can’t think of life as half work and half ‘outside-of-work’ kind of activities put together.

You also can’t afford to think of creating a business where you will have to work in business to be in business. That is, if you are going to think of business ideas in terms of your time for compensation in terms of money or anything else, you are not going to be able to scale it. You have to think of business ideas that will keep working on their own once you do the initial work and set them up. That’s the kind of business that you should set up in the first place.

For ex: if you are a graphic designer, you won’t make money until you design something for someone. When you do, you earn and when you don’t, you don’t earn anything.

At the same time, if you are a blogger, it will still be generating revenue long after you have set up your blog and written articles.

So, you need to think of your business and your ideas in terms of scalability and expandability. If an idea can’t be scaled, don’t pursue it, at least during the initial stages of your business.

Stay Updated On Technologies

In this new age of technology, so many startups crop up every single day. The internet has made it possible for everyone to utilize its power and create something.

Bill Gates, when asked about the future of businesses, he said, “If your business is not on the web, you will go out of business.”

Many startups these days are either internet based or they use internet services and communication capabilities in order to carry out their functionalities effectively. This is mainly done to make a better usage of time and eventually leverage the time based resources.

With the e-commerce and shopping experience popularized online, many product manufacturers and service providers are finding a way to offer their product/service online too. This creates an increased efficiency and a huge customer base. For businesses that aren’t limited by demographic, internet is a huge profitable resource as it helps the business connect to customers from all over the world.

As new technologies keep coming up, people are finding ways to make hard things easier and easy things much easier. What was hard three years back isn’t that hard anymore. Three to four years back, the high end Android RAM storage was 1GB. Now, it’s almost close to 4 to 8GB in RAM. The games once very difficult to play on Android because of processor issues and speed related issues are now so fluid and so fast. What was difficult yesterday isn’t difficult anymore today. The same way, what’s difficult today may not be difficult anymore tomorrow. So, if you don’t update yourself and your business based on the new technologies that offer much better and much more efficient usage of your time and money, you are going to be left behind. If you take that effort, you will see yourself setting up the business for a long time to stay.

Have An Action Oriented Attitude, Start With Small Steps

Everything said here can’t be incorporated and implemented in a jiffy. You have to take one step at a time and make it consistent. So many people have business ideas. Very few take an effort to get started. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single small step, taken in the right direction.

You might have seen some of your friends, colleagues, family relatives talk about starting a business. They have ideas, some probably good. But they see the business effort as an all or nothing initiative. On the other hand, people who do start implementing their ideas even while they hold a day job, start small. They start off with some small and crucial steps and slowly improve the rhythm. This one step they start off with leads to the other and that leads to some more, it goes on like a chain.

So, instead of viewing your business as an all or nothing initiative, view it as a step by step effort. All you need to do is take a single step every day and create consistency and discipline in whatever you do. That’s all it takes in order for you to succeed slowly but surely.

Use the Ready, Fire, Aim philosophy. Don’t wait for the ready and steady in order to GO. Launch yourself into action. Ready and fire. If your aim was wrong, you can adjust the aim after you fire. You can afford to, in the initial stages. That’s how you must view the efforts put into your startup as.

Every Problem Has A Solution. Be Determined To Find A Way

Determination is the key to any success. More often than not, startups fail because the people working on it are not determined enough to break through the initial barriers they face. When you give shape to an idea of yours, you are essentially creating something. Creation is never easy. There are struggles involved. But if you are determined to do it, if you will to accomplish it, nothing and no one can stop you.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to break new ground. A lot of people are going to say it’s not possible. You can’t accept that too easily. A good entrepreneur is going to find a way.

Trying your hardest or doing your best is just not an option when it comes to creating a business from scratch. You must be determined enough to find a way to succeed. There is no other alternative. So, when you are getting into the business, you have to get to business to stay in business.

Tenacity is a necessity.

Have you ever seen a highly successful company with people who are burned out, dispassionate, uninterested? You would have never seen such a company. That is because, to create a highly successful enterprise and a highly successful business, you need to be passionate about what you are doing and what you are working towards. Only when the people involved in an effort are passionate enough can the efforts bear fruits. Passion is an important part of being determined enough. Without passion, you can’t be determined for a long time. You don’t have to be passionate about the business aspect of it (although you can be). However, you need to be passionate about what your business stands for.

 

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