Problems & Pitfalls — from WORDS & DEFINITIONS?!?
“Startup?” — “Entrepreneur?” — “Best Practices?” … ???
The World-Famous “Startup” vs. “Water” Analogy:
We have SO MANY words for “water” — depending on type, form, etc.
Yes, technically, (on a molecular level? chemical composition?) it might all be the same (2 parts hydrogen? 1 part oxygen?), but, for real-world application…
- wouldn’t it make things DIFFICULT if I said “The server asked if we wanted water, water, or water. I chose water, but Katie chose water and my high-maintenance friend Winston said he only drinks water”…?
- wouldn’t it be DUMB to try to drink an iceberg or a glass of steam or the morning dew…?
- and wouldn’t it actually be DANGEROUS to dive head-first into a puddle or a frozen lake or a bathtub…?
[Editor’s Note: OK, enough of the analogies; get to the point!]
So, WHY Do We Use Just ONE (1) All-Inclusive Term: STARTUP?!
QUIZ: Which of the following do YOU consider to be a “Startup”?
- STARTUP A — a pair of bootstrapping co-founders, hustling and grinding, working from coffee shops or co-working spaces on their pre-revenue, pre-funding MVP…
- STARTUP B — a 30-employee B2B SaaS company, 7-figure annual recurring revenue, currently raising a Series B round of 8-figure funding, at a 9-figure valuation, with aspirations of being a Billion-Dollar Unicorn!?
So, which of those are Startups? (A? B? Both?)
Regardless of your answer, hopefully we can all agree that “A” and “B” are VERY different from one another! But, herein lies the rub… [Editor’s Note: I’ve just always wanted to write that phrase for some reason…]
The problem is that Entrepreneurs from Startups like “A” are reading the same blogs, listening to the same podcasts, and attending the same “Lunch & Learns” that are intended for Entrepreneurs from Startups like “B”… and ALL “Entrepreneurs” are constantly hearing all the same “Startup Lessons” and “Best Practices”…
- “Best Practices” — Definition: “commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective.”
Ok, pretty straight-forward. BUT… it can be Dumb, Dangerous, Detrimental, Destructive, Disastrous, Devastating… (#AlliterationAddiction) to follow ANY “advice for entrepreneurs” or “best practices for startups” when ignoring type, size, stage, etc. Because there are very few (if any!) pieces of entrepreneurial advice or “Best Practices” that will apply to BOTH “Startup A” AND “Startup B” in the example above!
P.S. In regard to the problem of not focusing on the right advice or best practices or priorities for YOUR type/size/stage of startup (and what’s most important for YOU at that time), I’ve personally observed multiple startups fail / shut down BEFORE they even really finished/launched their core product and gave it a real shot… HOWEVER, they DID have awesome logos and business cards and tshirts and hats and stickers and a really cool office with cool decorations on the walls and a cool company culture — and had spent LITERALLY HUNDREDS OF HOURS creating content for YouTube and Facebook and Instagram and SnapChat and Blogs and… (Because there is a lot of talk out there about how important that stuff is “for startups”)…
If any of them happen to read this, I’m not trying to be a dick and call them out — and I have significantly more columns written calling MYSELF out for MY MANY MISTAKES as an entrepreneur — rather, I want to bring it up, point it out, and try to help others from falling into the same trap in the future. Because it’s a COMMON problem/pitfall that A LOT of startups/entrepreneurs fall victim to!
You’re constantly hearing about the importance of this or that or brand personality or company culture or content creation or social media engagement or… WHATEVER!
And, yes, those things may be beneficial, or even important — at a certain point, for certain size/stage startups. If you had unlimited resources (time, money, personnel), then, yes, those things (and many others) should be on your To Do list, you might even hire a specific person for some (or each!) of those things!
But when you’re just 1 or 2 Co-Founders, pre-launch/pre-revenue/pre-everything, try not to lose sight of what the top few things should be on your priority list (Product? Sales?). Just because other stuff might be more fun or easier to get done so you can check something off a To Do List, don’t let yourself get tricked into thinking you’re making more (meaningful!) progress than you are.
20 THINGS (tasks/projects) from the middle or bottom of your “Top 50 Priorities” List likely won’t be as beneficial 2 THINGS (launch product? get customers?) from the TOP of your list.
P.S. Some common mistakes — that will sound obvious, but are more common than you’d think:
- Focusing on marketing (specifically social media) — before you have a product to market…?
- Focusing on creating content to engage your customers — before you have customers to engage… and before you have any plan to acquire those customers?!
- Focusing on company culture — before you actually have a real company…?
I am NOT saying that all those things aren’t good, great, or even important… they just shouldn’t be your priority YET, at the stage where you currently are (pre-revenue, pre-funding, pre-product…)
My favorite example of confusion that can arise when (blindly?) following “Startup Advice” and “Best Practices” involves these two thought-leaders — BOTH super-smart, super-successful, and have a ton of wisdom to share! But, wait…
Successful Entrepreneurs are often characterized as “Risk-Takers” — But, wait…
The 99% of UNsuccessful Entrepreneurs Were Risk-Takers Too, Right?? (full column)
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