5 things you MUST know before launching your new start-up

5 Lessons I Learned in my First Year as an Entrepreneur, © Ross Markey 2017

Any schmuck can come up with an idea.

True entrepreneurs turn those ideas into action. It takes 24/7 dedication, long hours, sleepless nights, and above all a ruthless passion and motivation to be the best and conquer the world.

It does’t matter how smart you are, or how fancy of a business school you attended. The winner of this game will be the one willing to put in the most work. Period.

So, how can you get a leg up on the competition? Follow these five lessons I learned from my first year as being an entrepreneur. Yes, my start-up failed. The next one might too. But, 100% of the start-ups you don’t launch will fail. So get comfortable with failure right now.

Use these 5 tips to help you achieve more with less, and faster.

1. F**ck the Business Plan

This one is counter-intuitive for you business school folk out there. But really, it is a complete waste of time for 99% of start-ups.

Why? Because we’re not in the 1960s anymore. Your external environment will change on a day-to-day basis. By the time you finish writing your business plan, it’s not relevant anymore. The market has changed, someone else took your idea, there is no demand, etc.

In today’s digital world, business is too fast-paced to waste time at a desk writing a piece of shit business plan.

Get off your ass, and go talk to people. Engage with your customers, make a minimum viable product, and see what people think. This leads me to #2…

P.S. There are times when a business plan is necessary, for example in the case of a very high-tech start-up that will require millions in investments to get off the ground. But I wouldn’t so much as characterize these as start-ups, but more so as large-scale joint ventures.

2. Get Feedback!!!!

This is one of the most crucial things you can do to get your new idea off the ground, and shockingly it is almost always overlooked. Too often people will come up with a great idea, for example a new app (how original). They’ll spend the next six months designing what they think is the perfect app. (Strive for progress, not perfection).

The PROBLEM: They haven’t even talked to a potential customer yet! And NO, I don’t mean your buddies at the bar. It’s like when someone has a new baby, and they say to all their friends, “Oh look at my baby! Isn’t she the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen?!?!”

And her friends respond reluctantly “YESSS”, as you see their eyes roll into the back of their heads. The point: you need to get real, honest feedback from potential customers. And this is not as hard as it may seem.

Can you build a basically functioning version of your product? Great! Do that in a few weeks, then go out and see what people think. Is your idea too complex? Build a fake version and use that.

For example: you have an idea for a new online service, but the website is not yet built. You could run Facebook ads for the service, and link to a simple landing page you already set up. So 1) you see if there is actually a demand for what you would create, and 2) you can ask directly to people arriving on this page what features they would like to see, etc.

Check out the method of Pretotyping by Alberto Savoia (Google). It outlines how you can “fake it til you make it” with user testing, prototypes, minimum viable products, etc.

The reason for this is people get too attached to their baby, and sometimes all it takes is five minutes with an objective outsider to say, “Dude, your baby is ugly. I’m sorry.”

It may hurt, but it will save you a lot of time and energy designing useless features. Instead, see what people like, what they don’t like, what they would like to see improved, etc. Sometimes you might even discover an entirely new use for your app (or other product) in the process.

3. Set ONE Realistic Goal

This is a principle that was engraved on my mindset from working as a Growth Hacker here in Rotterdam, NL.

You’re ambitious, you’ve got a great idea, and you’re ready to conquer the world! So exciting, but so disastrous.

I get it. I’ve done it. The problem a lot of new start-ups face is that they’re so focused on so many things, that nothing actually gets accomplished.

You focus on building all these great, extra features, when the core features aren’t even ready. Or you try to conquer multiple markets simultaneously, before even conquering your home market.

My point is that it is disastrous to have so many goals. For example, if you have one main goal, and your co-founder has another, then you’re going in different directions! Does that make sense?

If you have multiple goals, then your maximum effort any singular goal will receive is only a fraction of what you’re capable of. And do you want to give anything less that 100%?! HELL NO!

Facebook adopted this in the early days. Their one goal: grow faster than the day before. Every single department was focused on this one goal, and now they’re sponsoring Presidential debates.

Also, make sure these goals are realistic. It’s demoralizing to not reach your goals, so start small and dream big. As you reach the small goals, you and your team will naturally progress toward bigger and more challenging goals, but they will still be realistic.

So, set only ONE goal that you and your entire team can focus on. And make sure that they are realistic and achievable, and those small wins will lead to big wins down the road. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is what I’m working on going directly toward achieving our goal?” If no, then stop it immediately!

4. Get an amazing Co-founder!

9 out of 10 start-ups fail. Without a co-founder, it is closer to 99%.

Having an amazing co-founder to lean on in hard times will make all the difference. It also allows you to share what will be an incredible work-load.

But most importantly, it will help drive your motivation and will to push on even in the most bleak of times. If you’re alone, you will fail. It’s that simple. Look at all the big success stories of the 21st century. Apple, Google, AirBnB, WhatsApp, Uber, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. Each of them had at least two co-founders from the start.

Don’t just choose your best friend either. I’ve heard countless stories from friends and colleagues about a new business idea they launched, only to find out that their partner was a lazy fuck.

This is even worse than having no co-founder, because it leaves you expecting help which will never come. Which sucks.

This happened to me personally. My co-founder was my best friend (still is). But we work differently. He’s 100% creative and wondering, and I’m more operational and execution.

Of course you need both edges of the sword, but idea generation took 10 minutes for him, and executing took 10 hours for me. So it left me expecting his help with execution, when I should I have seen earlier that wasn’t his strong-suit, and that I would inevitably have to execute everything on my own. If I would have known it earlier, it would have changed a lot of how I organized the business.

So, 1) Get a co-founder. 2) Make sure he’s not a lazy fuck. 3) Go kick ass together!

5. It’s All About the TEAM!

Your new start-up is your baby. Don’t let anyone near your baby unless you’re 100% sure they are a perfect fit. You wouldn’t let someone just off the streets come babysit, right? Well, I hope not…

The biggest lesson I learned in that first year of my start-up was this. It doesn’t matter how overflowing with work you are, how overwhelmed you and your co-founder may be….no matter how desperate, DO NOT bring someone in unless they are a perfect fit.

When considering someone for a position, ask yourself if you would hire him or her if you weren’t stressed out and overworked. Stress can be kind of like being drunk; it can make you delusional to the reality staring you in the eyes, and lead you to make bad choices in the heat of the moment.

Before shit hits the fan and you’re pulling your hair out, sit down with your co-founder and come up with a strict list of selection criteria of what you’re looking for in new team members, and don’t accept anyone who isn’t 100% perfect. Seriously. 99% isn’t enough.

Do this on day one. That way when things get busy, you won’t waver on these criteria.

Because down the road, someone who isn’t the perfect fit for your team will eventually become a hand-grenade, and that is the worst thing for your business while it is going through it’s early on growth stages. You’ll have enough to worry about at that time.

Summary

  1. Burn your business plan (and textbook for that matter), get off your ass, and go create your business.
  2. Don’t sit around building the business idea. Make a prototype (MVP), get out, and get feedback from your potential customers. Check out Pretotyping.
  3. Set only ONE main, realistic goal. Direct all company efforts toward this. If what you’re doing at any moment doesn’t contribute to this ONE goal, stop it immediately.
  4. Get an awesome, motivated co-founder. Without it, you will fail. And make sure he/she is as motivated and determined as you.
  5. Safeguard your team at all costs. Create strict guidelines for what type of employees you’re looking for on DAY ONE, and follow them to the letter.

BONUS: Be ruthlessly passionate about what you’re doing. This will give you a huge advantage over the competition, and will make work feel like fun. If you don’t truly love what you’re doing in your start-up, those 18 hour days will knock you into the dirt before you can yell “FIRE!”.

Enjoy! Leave comments if you agree or disagree…I’d love to hear your opinion.

Facebook.com/RossMarkey