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.
(Includes some handy checklists to work through)
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 and 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’.
- The What
Write down a short paragraph, setting out ‘What We Are’
(i.e. what does your startup do? Is it a product, or a service? What is it looking to change or effect? What market are you moving into?)
- The Who
Write down a short paragraph, setting out ‘Who We Are’
(i.e. who are you, and your team? Why you? What has inspired this startup journey?)
- The Talk
Combine and edit ‘The What’ and ‘The Who’ together to form a short 30 second elevator pitch.
The idea behind this is you can describe (and sell) your startup in a quick snippet, at a moments notice. The more clear and concise, the better. Imagine Dragon’s Den, or Shark Tank. Sell your shit well.
- The Motto
Write a motto / strap line, that encompasses the ‘What We Are’ and the ‘Who We Are’ .
Keep it short and sweet, and if you can work a rhyme or ring into it you are on to a winner. Be sure to highlight a key benefit of your idea, or a key belief / value.
Most importantly, be honest! Do not over promise if you cannot deliver. This will just expose you further down the line.
If you need help with idea generation, check out this article on two amazing ways, the 100 Idea Method and the 6 Thinking Hats Method.
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.
- The ‘Why We Are’
i.e. why are starting your startup? What are your beliefs, or ethos? What are the fundamental differences you believe you can make?
- The ‘How We Are’
i.e. how are you and the team going to work? What structures will you follow? Will it be an emphasis on independent or team work? What regulations will be in place to ensure harmony and the safety of yourself and others What policies will be in place should things go wrong?
The answers to these two points will form the core values i.e. the rights and wrongs of working in your startup.
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.
- Check for similar services / products in the market. Note there price ranges and selling strategies. Pay close attention to what they offer.
- Take note of all the companies who provide a similar service / product to you (if there are any). Is the competition in this market high or low?
- Start to narrow down to a group of users who will buy / use your service / product. Focus on things like gender, age, location, job, income, situation, environment, retail habits etc.
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.
“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
- Start with a brainstorm and build a mood board to keep the design focused on the goal, and the audience.
- Consider your tone
- Think about your visual language
- Make it clean and considered. Less is more!
- Make it something that can become identifiable (famous example is Apple)
- Make it eye catching
- Make it unique (try not to copy. You will always get busted eventually, look at AirBnb’s questionable new logo.)
- Keep it simple
- Convey your message!
5. Marketing and Social Media
Marketing is so vital it is hard to describe. It will basically make or break your startup.
If you can make yourself seen and heard over the crowd, you have a great chance of getting your work out there.
First things first, social media.
This one shouldn’t be too difficult to nail down, as there are probably very few platforms and channels that wouldn’t be suitable for you.
Breathes a sigh of relief.
- Sign up for your startup’s social media accounts. Start with Facebook and Instagram, and go from there. You could set up a Twitter feed, Tumblr account, Vimeo account, You- tube channel, LinkedIn profile, Pinterest page… Just make sure your target audience is active on the platforms you choose.
- Add all the relevant details. Photos are a must. Make the bio snappy and eye catching.
- Follow similar accounts, and follow relevant people and businesses from your local area.
- Start posting. Try to make the posts personal, and human. Highlight the process behind what you do, and allow potential customers and clients to see the real you.
- Avoid spamming!
Next is your startup’s website (should you want / need one).
Don’t build a shit one. Please, its the age of technology, and those websites that used to pass off 5–10 years ago ain’t cutting it now.
See the website as an extension of your startups brand and portfolio, and aim for a very high quality outcome.
- Sign up for your website name (i.e. startupnewbie.com)
- Install Wordpress or similar. Or use SquareSpace to make the job easier!
- Work on the looks and aesthetics. Makes sure fonts are readable. Make sure images load. Get your logo and brand on show.
- Get it running smoothly behind the scenes. Fast page load times is vital, especially on google search listings. Compress images before uploading on websites like http://compress- jpeg.com/
- Work on the SEO. On Wordpress, plugins like Yoast SEO are a great tool to use. (see next page)
- And for the love of god, make it mobile friendly. This really matters!
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 (premises / rent, utilities, any other monthly bills etc.)
- Add up wages per month
- Add expenses and business purchases (trips away, new tools or software etc.)
- Add in everything else of relevance.
See that number, that looks frighteningly high? Thats your rough bottom line. If you multiply it by 12 you will get your yearly bottom line, and probably have a heart attack.
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.
It is time to look within. This one will require a bit of honesty.
You cannot do everything yourself. There is so much to learn, so much to stay on top of, eventually you will need either more bodies, or more expertise.
So in a lot of cases, you have to expand, and add people around you who can provide the missing links.
- Look at yourself (and other members if you have them). Are relevant and important skills missing in your startup? Write down what each member’s role and ‘job’ is, and what they bring to the team.
- Does your team cover every required aspect of your idea and process? What is missing?
- Can the missing skills be taught to existing members (or yourself)? Training could be an initially expense cost, but could bring long term benefit.
- If a new team member is required, can you afford to do so? (Check rough bottom line against projected income)
A lot of this depends on your startup’s area of work.
If you are going to become a writer / blogger, and work on your personal brand, you can manage on your own. You can just seek help, advice of those who have done it before, when you need it.
If you are starting a company that does tech based projects, you will find it difficult to work on the projects as well as market, promote, manage, meet clients, deal with emails etc on your own.
And it is nice to have tea break with somebody aside yourself!
8. Set Some Goals.
This one is important, because this provides the direction and destination for your startup, both short term and long term.
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.
But in order to make these reachable, lets break them down into smaller, achievable goals.
I call these Progress Points.
Answer These Questions
- What is one of your startup’s long term goals?
- What monthly progress point could you get done to work towards this yearly goal?
- What weekly progress points could you work on to reach your monthly goals?
- What daily progress points could you get done to help you reach your weekly goals?
All of a sudden, shit is getting done! And now momentum is building. Momentum, is the key to success.
If you are unsure of what goals you should set in the early days, here is a few examples…
- Set up the Legal Entity of your business
- Set up your business bank account
- Set some sales targets, even if this is just getting the first sale
- Set up the startup’s website.
- Finish the first prototype of a project.
- Getting the first 100 subscribers to the app.
- Earn a mention on a blog, or website, or magazine
- Create and expand a professional network
- Hire key members of staff
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.