I’ll fast forward here as you may already be at the stage where you have an idea, business plan and may have already started to execute. I have found the following 5 things have helped with success in certain areas of my startup businesses and are often overlooked (and in my case overlooked a few times..eekk!). The next 5 bits are what get my creative juices flowing:
‘What does this mean? Do you need a partner? How much should they invest? Are they going to help your business?’. Unfortunately startups have once crucial flaw on the road to changing the world and creating a business that can change people’s lives — money! They need it sooner rather than later and due to the competitive nature of the startup world, the sooner you have some cash flow, the sooner you can make your startup dream a reality and beat your co-working space neighbour to the market (funny, not funny).
In a perfect world your startup team includes the ideas, hype person, the tech guru and the person that knows everyone who’s anyone specific to your market to get your business out there. Oh yeah, and maybe an angel investor that is just happy to see you pursue your dreams. If you don’t have this, you may need to go and scout out for external investment. It’s a minefield out there and the thought of giving away equity can be hard to swallow after all the hard work of initial set up and of course, your idea.
1. Look for what you actually need to function financially, don’t ask for more than you absolutely need so as to keep your equity giveaway at a lower point
2. Find an investor that can actually participate in the growth of your business – technology, marketing, accounting, law, etc
3. Do they like your business? Sounds weird but it actually matters that they like what you do and what you stand for. They have to believe in it as much as you do
4. Find a contract lawyer. Might cost you a bit but it’s worth having someone who can draw up and guide you around the best partnership (can’t afford a lawyer? Join a networking group and they can help point you in the right direction for advice)
5. Last but not least, 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing and the startup world moves so quickly that your business may be something totally different a couple of years after you launch it OR it may not even be something people need anymore
Growth – is faster better?
Sad to say I learnt this one the hard way. In one of my startup businesses (gosh, I sound like I need to go to SA – Startup Anonymous), we grew so quickly that it ultimately hurt our business. Our goal was to be a niche startup that worked with a few select locations in the cities we were in. We did this at the start and it helped that we were a team of two with fairly limited funding (insert, self funded here), but once we had investment we got our business to a size in 6 months that should’ve taken us 2 years or more. What did this mean?:
1. We didn’t support the partnerships we developed initially like we did when we first started
2. We spread our support, funding, members too thin across all our partners
3. We went from being a great additional source of revenue for our partners to one that didn’t mean as much to their bottom line
4. Opened up opportunities for our competitors to come in pick up where we were lacking
Again, I emphasise the word addictive, because the thrill of growing and succeeding is strong, but slow, controlled growth, with a focus on your mission and vision (yeah, write one), always is a sure fire way to ensure some longevity in your business. I guess it’s ultimately up to you whether you’re in it for a good time or a long time.
Building a Team
I have always loved having startup partners. To me it’s like seeing the world and having someone to share it with. To me there is nothing better than throwing around ideas, solving problems and celebrating your success with a partner or partners. I have never worried about who’s idea was what and whether it should be an even split or not. If you want a partner to share the growth and success as well as the failures, make it an even split. All in means ALL IN.
1. Partners who are the opposite of you in skill set, means you already have a semi functioning business
2. You don’t need two hype people and two tech people, but if one of you is great at tech and behind the scenes, get someone who knows their way around corporate business. It also means there is less friction when it comes to completing tasks
3. Don’t forget you will always be your own boss in a startup that is yours (until you feel like you’re ready to take on a boss..not a bad thing as you grow), and that means the buck stops with you. If the work doesn’t get done, there isn’t anyone there to tell you off, but there also isn’t anyone there to help complete the task
4. You and your partners need to be task oriented, have a high attention to detail, not be afraid of working long hours (especially at the start) and not EVER having to worry about whether your partner is holding up their end of the bargain
5. No one should have to play the office manager, it’s not fun
People buy people, not products. I stand very firm on this point, relationships are key when building a startup. You need people to believe in you, support you and ultimately buy-in to your business. All my mentors have this in common and I believe are successful because of this. They care about the people they do business with and because of this, only enter in to these relationships because they know that their business is believed in by both parties.
Having said that, this area can get a little grey when you find yourself give give giving and not always getting back much in return. If you provide too much support, or guidance and ‘do it for them’, you can find yourself in a situations where a slight pull back can be seen as you ‘caring less’ or ‘not working as hard’. This can especially be the case if you grow and have multiple partners expecting a lot from you.
1. To set realistic expectations from you and the business by your partners
2. Don’t feel like every meeting needs to be face to face (but don’t discount that initial face to face meeting as a great way to engage and get the buy in you need)
3. Don’t bash yourself against a brick wall. If a business won’t help itself, don’t feel like you should do their job for them. Circle back later on
4. You can lead a horse to water….you know the rest, if a business or parter wants your help but refuse to do the follow through you have to let that relationship go. This works along the same lines as a product you are selling. Be agile, change tack, TALK to your customers all the time, don’t be afraid to admit defeat in some areas and just get back on that horse (you know, the one you left at the water)
Busting a Nut! Why burnout happens to the best of us
Hello world, I have a problem, I love being busy.
Now I’m not just talking a little bit busy but flat chat, doing a million things, 20 programs open on my laptop, multitasking a phone call with an email and a meeting, running home to breastfeed, dashing back for a meeting, riding on my bike to the meeting for incidental exercise, holding 4 events in one week, but crazy, only one speed busy and guess what, I love it.
Are we the generation of burnout, breakdown nutters or is there a method to our madness. Wish I knew, but this I do, I need to slow down more often. Having a baby this last year has been a pretty great thing for slowing down and when I am with my son, I don’t actually want to be doing anything else, so that makes it a bit easier. When he is in daycare or with my mum, watch out though, I am in turbo mode. I am ok with it and because of this I get things done and I have great relationships and people know I will work hard for our joint purpose but I also know I get burnt out. How am I working on this:
1. No phone after 7pm – I’m getting there, just in case anyone sees me on my phone
2. No work on the weekend
3. Phone meetings – this is a new thing for me and I like it
4. Does your brand align with mine? If not, then it’s a no
5. Am I helping you more than me? Sometimes this is ok of course, but I’m guessing the person on the other end of the table (phone), is thinking the same thing
6. Hire more staff or do less, simple but effective
7. Outsource. There are so many tools in our sharing economy so get to delegating NOW
8. Exercise. I mean it, this has been the number one way I have kept my sanity and been able to keep up. The mental and physical conditioning supports a fast paced lifestyle
9. Sleep. No less than 7 hours. Can’t get that in? Meditation. 20 minutes of Meditation a day is equivalent to 2 hours of extra sleep a day. I do it and I can attest to that.
10. Oh yeah and watch that alcohol intake.
This past 18 months has been my biggest learning curve to date. It would be remiss of me to not talk about life as a working mum and juggling all that entails an 11 month old gorgeous little human who relies on me to help him grow, learn about the world and become an amazing human. Am I busy, yep, was I busy before a baby….haha, but life is all about perspective and my current one includes my son, my husband, my new role as a Marketing Manager for a new startup, cooking, washing, cleaning (repeat) and finding time to get my butt on a yoga mat and laugh as much as possible while I do it all.
Life is quick gang and as my yoga teacher said, you can choose to be a jet skier on top of the waves, zipping along seeing bits of it or a deep sea diver under the water, diving deeper and deeper in to life. I choose both, at the same time, in the Caribbean with a cool crew of people along for the ride.