Maybe it’s just my perspective or my circle of influence, but it seems like everyone is trying to be an entrepreneur. I think it has a lot to do with the economic condition. Lots of folks are unemployed or underemployed (incidentally not necessarily the best conditions for a startup), which is certainly forcing the condition.
That being the case, I want to lend a hand.
I’ve been through the highs and lows of multiple startups and Kaleidico itself is a bootstrapped startup. That’s earned me a few battle scars and made me privy to a couple of secrets of upping your odds.
Techniques that will help you to survive.
Tinker. Hack. Create. Make.
- Tinker – Nothing creates cultivates innovation like a healthy curiosity. I urge you to spend a bit of every day seeking. Make a habit of discovering, thinking about, and tinkering with new ideas. It’ll give you a valuable creative bank from which to pull.
- Hack – Make quick prototypes. Try some of those new ideas you run into and see if you can create something new and valuable. Don’t spend a lot of money or going into full-scale production. Just hack the idea into a usable alpha and see what people think. Here is one we did at Kaleidico: Find Influence. It cost us a couple of hours and $750 to hack it together. What do you think? Is there something valuable there? We’re still trying to figure that out.
- Create – Don’t get lost in the ideation phase. Always be creating, innovating, and iterating what you deliver to the market. It makes you smarter and gets your customers eagerly anticipating what you have coming. Think Apple.
- Make – Only makers survive. The work needs doing because customers don’t pay for creativity, they pay for value. One of the most frequent mistakes of startups is that they never ship. They keep creating and hacking and never send it out the door for acceptance or rejection–mostly out of fear. Even worse some ship, but because of their lack of confidence in the first iteration, and fail to promote it.
If I were to pick only one secret to startup success it would be to survive. Do whatever you can to survive. Successful companies learn what it take to survive. Successful companies figure out what it takes to get that next round of funding or generate a little profit. Successful companies pivot, and pivot, and pivot until they get in the zone and leap forward.
Learn what to do with success. It will happen.
The product or service gets traction. Your income turns from negative to positive. Momentum starts to shove you forward.
What do you do?
This is where a lot of entrepreneurs start to freak out. The company begins to get bigger than you. You can no longer touch and see everything. Your job begins to change from coder or maker to leader and visionary. You have to start trusting others.
Here’s my tips for thriving:
- Find the very best people – This is critical because you have to trust and depend on these people to become and reinforce the brand promise that makes success. They have to love your company the way you do. They have to crave innovation the way you do. They have to buy into the vision as if it were their own.
- Cultivate and defend the culture – Every startup has a culture. If you succeed, it will have been what got you there. As you grow, there’s opportunity for cancers to be seeded and fester inside. Place a premium on your culture and consistently reinforce what is and is not part of your core values. This will make it incredibly hard for destructive attitudes and actions to reshape you.
- Give back generously – For me, one of the greatest joys of success is giving freely. Being in a place to offer hope or seed someone else’s dream is a powerful inspiration for you, your team, and the company. It helps you grow, keeps your heart and mind pure, and can be the best part of your legacy.
- Learn to love your customers – It’s hard. I won’t ignore the obvious challenges. When people pay you for something the expectations rise and perspectives change. If you let it, this can sour you. Don’t let it. Love your customers unconditionally, like a parent to a child, and apply consistency to your interactions. Consistency breeds respect. Always deliver excellence. Regularly reinforce your unique value proposition. Then, like parents and their children, even when things get rocky and you have to dish tough love, it’ll be okay.
- Start looking for the next thing – Always be looking at the horizon. What’s new? What’s buzzing? What’s changing? How do you catch the next wave? Never stand still and let the crashing waves beat you down like a rock. Be the surfer and keep working to be on top of every good wave.
Thriving is fun. Don’t get hung up in weeds. Cast the vision and trust the team to work for each others success.
Feel free to jump in on the conversation in the comments. Every journey is a little different? What is your experience?
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