Want to create a start-up? Here's what to avoid
When you start a business from the ground up, invariably you will make mistakes. It’s a rite of passage that is just part of the process. I know I’ve made plenty of them. But they’re worth making so long as you learn from them. Here are some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made, and what I’ve learned:
Going after external investment
Write your own checks as long as you can to pay your expenses. Don’t seek to raise capital until it’s absolutely necessary. The best way to fund your business is by bootstrapping and scaling up the business as your customer base scales. You should focus first on building the product and then on being able to generate revenue from your product before you resort to raising outside funds, especially with the technology available today. Bet on yourself despite negativity by naysayers.
When I started BizLand, things were going well—until the dot-com bubble burst. Fueled by external capital, we had scaled the business too quickly without a sustainable business model. We learned the hard way that not focusing on top-line and bottom-line growth can have dire consequences. It took us the next 15 years to scale the business much more manageably. We still make mistakes, but learn continually from them.
Remember that as an entrepreneur, you are learning on the job. You have to make peace with the fact that there are a lot of things you don’t know. I’ve had to make investments, sacrifices, and tough decisions. But not always being right has helped me become more aware and more disciplined.
Whether you decide to actively build it or not, your company will have a culture. And if you are not actively working to create one, it may not be the culture you want. If you focus solely on building your business and product in the beginning and neglect shaping the culture of your company, it will form without you. Avoid this scenario by taking a more thoughtful approach.
We’ve acquired many companies throughout the years—each with a distinct culture. As Endurance has evolved, we’ve realized the importance of creating a united set of values and guiding principles that inform how we operate.
When you define what’s important to your company and internalize those values, it will greatly help to onboard and attract employees as you grow and achieve a larger scale. Also avoid the opposite mistake of solely focusing on culture and not on business metrics. That is a sure-fire recipe to not have a business long term.
Stalling on making decisions
Time is money when it comes to business. Don’t wait to make important decisions or allow outside forces to put pressure on you. Use the knowledge and data that you have at the time and then choose a direction. If you are wrong and you know you are wrong, don’t wait. Be humble, admit your mistake, and course correct. It’s better to always be moving yourself and your business forward in the long term—even if you have to take a couple of steps back in the short term.
I have waited too long to hire the right talent, which forced me to later move forward with candidates who weren’t as skilled. I have missed many growth opportunities by waiting too long to invest in certain areas of my business. As a leader, your job is to make decisions. But it’s important to leave your baggage behind when you realize you have made a mistake—and adjust quickly. You need to trust your instincts and consider timing, but don’t be hindered by doubt.
Don’t ignore the importance of constant innovation in your company. If you embed innovation in your business, you’ll stay ahead of the curve. You want to make sure that you are constantly redefining how things are done and lead the charge instead of waiting for external factors to affect how your business operates.
Innovation takes many forms. It’s not just in the product or customer service. It can be how you get scale or how you decide to deploy dollars toward future growth. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can dictate which dimension you want to innovate.
SOURCE: World Economic Forum