The first 8 things you must conquer in a startup.

There are countless things to get done in a startup. The ‘to-do-list’ is an enormous one. But some are far more important than others. Lets start with the ones you should take on first, in the hope of laying some solid foundations for your startup to work on.

1. Know, and understand, your idea / vision.

Sounds obvious. You cannot have a startup company without an idea.

Thanks for the advice, dude.

However, you would be surprised how many startups believe they have an idea or company vision, but find it hard to clearly define. The founder/founders may have trouble explaining it to others, or each founder may describe it differently when asked. This is confusing. It will send mixed messages to potential investors or clients, and this will reflect badly. You need to know the basics. Think of it as the two headings ‘what we are’ and the ‘who we are’. This vision has to be set in stone, and known and understood by everyone on board. Nail the 30 second elevator pitches. Know the company motto, or strap line. Have that shit on speed dial, and make sure the rest of the team do to.

2. Set out your startup’s values.

Similar to above, you need to set out values. This is more of the ‘why we are’ and the ‘how we are’ stuff. Within this you need to set some core values, which will help you, and other founders or employees, understand the wrongs and rights of working in the startup. Adobe, for example, sets it’s values as Genuine, Exceptional, Innovative, Involved. This will be hugely important if you consider expanding your team, or the company and the vision itself. It will keep everyone in check, and pushing in the same direction.

3. Know, and understand, who your target audience is.

You’ve got your great idea. You have set out your vision and your values. Next problem. Who are you going to sell this to?

You need to know your target market. In fact, you need to know if there is a target market for your idea at all. (If there isn’t, consider revising point #1 again…) Do some research. Are there similar products/services out there? Is the competition high or low? Are you entering a new market place, and aiming to be the brand leader? Narrow down to a group of users, and gather some data about them. (Gender, Age, Location, Job, Income, Situation, Environment, Retail Habits etc). This, is your target audience, and this is who you need to sell your startup to.

4. Work on your branding.

Once the company vision is understood, and your target market is identified, you now need a platform to help potential clients and customers reach you, and want you.

Enter your branding.

Your brand will help you target, gain work, beat competitors and sell. The brand has to relate to your vision and your values. This will help reach the audience you need to make your startup a success. Consider your tone. Think about your visual language. Make it clean and concise. Make it something that will become identifiable. Make it eye catching. Make it beautiful. Keep it simple.

“Determine who you are and what your brand is, and what you’re not. The rest of it is just a lot of noise.” — Geoffrey Zakarian

5. Decide on what platforms to market on.

This one shouldn’t be too difficult to nail down, as there are probably very few platforms that won’t be suitable.

You should be active on social media, regardless of how monotonous and painful it can be (as described here). Get your startup’s social media accounts signed up, with all the relevant details added, and start building a following. Don’t spam your feeds with advertising and content pushing – remember to show the personal and human side of your startup and it’s work.

Do you want to market through a website too? Don’t build a shit one. Too many fail to see the website as an extension of your startup, as part of the brand and portfolio. Take some time and lots of effort on this one. Work on the looks. Get it running smoothly. Take some time to work on your SEO. And for the love of god, try to make it make it mobile friendly — this really matters these days!

There are many other avenues to market through, so take your time to decide what is best for your startup, and your target audience.

6. Do some maths.

Calculating figures of any form is a chore. Maths is horrible (and hard). And then there is the spreadsheets…

Unfortunately, it is essential. Tackle this early on to determine a rough ‘bottom line’. You can use this as an indicator for what your startup needs to earn to survive. It dangerous to remain blind to this. Add up your overheads. Add in projected wage costs. Add in expenses or purchases. Add in everything. Absolutely everything. See that number, that looks frighteningly high? Thats your rough bottom line. I know, it hurts to look at. That becomes the target, and the challenge becomes earning it, every, single, month.

7. Evaluate and highlight what areas you are short on.

This one requires a little honesty. No matter if you think you can handle everything yourself, or within your wee team, you may be short. And thats ok. You could be lacking in general manpower. It could also be something more specific. Is there a vital skillset missing within the team? If so it is decision time. Is somebody taking on that job, and taking the time to learn the skill, or do you need to hire? Having calculated your bottom line, can you afford this? Is it a risk worth taking, perhaps in the short term, for long term gains? If it is, get these guys on board, before the workload becomes too heavy. If it isn’t, throw yourself in the deep end and take on the challenge of learning a new role.

8. Set some goals.

This one is important. You have to take baby steps in startup. Try not to aim for the top of the ladder before you have stepped on it. To prevent this, set some early goals. It could be some sales targets, or maybe it is just getting the first sale. Maybe it is getting a website created. Getting the first prototype designed. Convincing the first 100 users to sign up to the app or website. Whatever goals you set, try to keep them realistic, and reachable. It can be all too easy to shoot high — “lets make £1,000,000 this month!” — but these goals will remain unachieved and this can cause moral to drop. You can always aim big, but but aim to get big in small, manageable steps.

Tackle these 8 steps and your well on the way to creating a solid foundation for your startup to build and grow upon. Congratulations, and welcome aboard. It is one hell of a ride.

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