By Rob Young
Head of Digital & Moo.com.UK
It will come as no surprise to learn that the majority of startups fail. But thanks to research by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, we can at least put a number to the failure rate – 75 percent – and hopefully avoid becoming part of it. With three quarters of venture-funded startups failing to succeed, how can you make sure that your new business won’t be one of them?
Here are the first 12 of 25 tips to help you land in the lucky 25 percent. The rest of the tips will be in next week’s Business Report.
- KNOW YOUR PURPOSE
What need does your startup address? Why will people care? If you can answer these two major questions you’re already well on your way to success.
- DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE
If your heart isn’t in it, the temptation to bail during difficult times will be high. If you’re able to do something that you love, you’ll have much more motivation to keep persevering. Startups require more than a 40 hour work week—make sure this is something you’re willing to do around the clock!
- BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Self-doubt can be crippling, so it’s important that you believe in yourself. If you know that you’re putting 100 percent into making your business a success, you’ll find that self-confidence often follows.
- SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE
While you don’t want to surround yourself with “yes” men, it’s also important that you don’t have to constantly contend with people putting you and your business down. Don’t waste your time or energy on the defense.
- LEARN FROM CRITICISM
Relentless negativity is of no use to you, but thoughtful criticism can be very valuable. Any opportunity to improve an aspect of your business should be warmly welcomed.
- CHALLENGE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Learn to spot when helpful advice is merely a suggestion to conform to the popular paradigm of the times.
- KEEP LEARNING
Think you know it all? Think again. There’s always more to learn, so be wary of becoming too complacent. Everything you learn is an opportunity to improve your business. That goes for mistakes as well – all startups will suffer from mistakes, but the entrepreneurs that learn from them are likely to be in the successful 25 percent.
- PICK A GOOD NAME
“Good” can be a subjective qualifier, so you should try making your decision based on what your target audience would enjoy.
- SERVE YOUR CUSTOMER, NOT YOURSELF
While you should rightfully feel ownership of your startup, remember that ultimately it’s there to serve your customer and not you – vanity projects won’t last long. Keep the customer in mind with every decision you make, and you’ll build a product or service they can get excited about.
- FIND OUT WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT
Blindly assuming you know what your customers want could prove costly. Fortunately, researching it first doesn’t have to be expensive – you can search forums, ask questions on social media, or spend some money on surveying opinions (and save yourself a pricey mistake!)
- RAISE THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CAPITAL
While you need enough money to give your startup every chance of success, bear in mind that having too much can make you lazy and all too willing to part with your cash. Of course, you may want the option to access emergency funds – you’ll just have to make sure you can stick to a strict budget and define what exactly an emergency is.
- PLAN THOROUGHLY
A business plan is much more than a necessary evil to help you get funding – it can act as a guide and keep you focused on the task at hand. It’s easy to get caught up in the minute details and lose sight of the big picture.
An archive of SBDC Business Reports can be found at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/archived-items. Small Business Development Center assistance is for anyone interested in beginning, improving, or expanding a small business. The SBDC specializes in individual counseling while offering services in a confidential environment. These services are offered at no cost. Call (575) 527-7676 for an appointment with a business advisor, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. More information may be found at www.nmsbdc.com/lascruces/index.html.
The Gardner Learning Center is one of four satellite campuses for Western New Mexico University. Since 1994, we have provided undergraduate college classes to Sierra County. Our mission is to offer affordable access to education with an appreciation for the multicultural, multilingual nature of our population. We have a commitment to the professional growth of our students, staff and community with an eye toward the future needs of the people of southwestern New Mexico. Call (575) 894-9050 or go to www.wnmu.edu/ExtUniv/glc/index.shtml for more information.