Big dreams rarely turn into big dollar. This fact deters many would-be entrepreneurs from pursuing their ambitions. The process of founding and growing a startup can seem insurmountable at first: how on earth does one person’s bedroom business become a Revolut, or an Uber?
You can start by breaking down core elements of the journey. Here are 10 key factors that will take you from floundering founder to unicorn jockey.
A startup needs to solve a problem, or solve a problem better than any current product. It also needs to be your passion. An idea alone can’t fuel your business: you need the kind of ‘eureka’ moment that inspires you to commit all your time and energy for the following few years.
Listen to them. Give them what they want. They’re always right! Initially, your personal network and would-be customers can give your idea validation. Feedback is crucial in shaping your product into something that people need and setting a price that people will pay. Once you’ve launched, create lasting relationships with your customers. This is an easy way to set your small business apart from larger competitors. Reward loyalty and provide first-rate service. The raving fan’s word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool.
Take the time to research your competitors and their product offerings with great care. Understand your USP – what sets you apart? Understand their strategy – how do they develop, market and sell their offering? Customers, business partners and potential investors will always need to know why your company will offer them the greatest value. You can also learn from more established competitors. Endeavour to be a good sport. You never know when a rival could become a collaborator.
Allow it to evolve, expand or specialise. Don’t get too attached to your first brilliant idea. Take constructive criticism on board and make changes where they will benefit the business. Your greatest asset is a development team or manufacturer who can sift through feedback, and spin the most practical advice into an update that better serves the customer. Trial and error is an irritating but necessary part of refining a product that sells.
Consider using a global platform to support rapid growth. If your product can be sold online and shipped anywhere, get it on Amazon. If your service is in demand worldwide, advertise on Upwork to build initial momentum. Beyond enabling growth, this will allow you to discover who your best customers are, so you can later concentrate on targeting the most lucrative demographic segment of the market.
Raising investment is a full-time role in itself. It takes hundreds of calls, meetings, pitches and heads banged on desks (no, really) to find a willing investor. It might take thousands to find the right investor. Make the most of your personal network, polish your pitch and learn how to charm anyone. But don’t take a deal unless it’s right for you. There should be no price on your integrity.
The sustainable growth of your company depends on making the right hires. A focus on people and culture is important from the moment your business expands from ‘one’ to ‘more’. When bringing people on board at an early stage, remember that an open mind is as valuable as talent. Look for flexibility and energy.
Leveraging strategic business partnerships is a proven method of attaining growth at speed. Partners can introduce you to a large number of potential customers in an instant, or share essential insider knowledge of your industry. Look for companies that are complementary to your own and be sure to let them know how your business could add value to theirs, too.
You’ll need to spread awareness and build trust in your product. One way to do this is to position yourself as a thought leader within your field. Publish regularly on LinkedIn, launch a company blog, engage with your audience in a way that conveys expertise and authority within your chosen field. Webinars are a particularly good way to reach a wide audience quickly and captivate them with your unique insights.
The sooner startup founders can make peace with the fact that success requires hard graft, the sooner they can get on track to success. Obstacles are part of every worthwhile journey, and satisfaction is multiplied when challenges are difficult to overcome. Surround yourself with supportive people. Seize the opportunity to learn what motivates you in stressful situations.
And if you’re in doubt – we believe in you, too!
About the author
Lydia Woodward is the Head of Content at YourParkingSpace.
She loves reading, writing, swimming, technology and marketing.