About three months ago, an entrepreneur of CoFoundersLab, presented an invitation to other founders to share the best advice they got from their fellow startup founders in one or two words.
338 comments later, it might seem that “startup fundraising, team and commitment” are among the overriding points on the list; however, there were additional contributions that were worth surfacing.
With that being said, below is a summary of all the points into an organized “checklist” entrepreneur can consult with in no particular order.
1) Stay focused and start small. Focus on creating a single item on a small scale, create all the associated moving parts, then combine them and master the process.
2) Stay knowledgeable and continue your personal growth. Recommended books include: “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell; “Good to Great” by James Collins; “Laws of Success in 16 Lessons” and “Think & Grow Rich” both by Napoleon Hill. Never stop evolving. If you have not done so head over to Amazon and buy my book The Art of Startup Fundraising here.
3) You only have one shot at this; start over-delivering. Have a game plan, be open to objections, anticipate setbacks and research your competition. Get a business coach, especially if it is your first business – a good business mentor will help you save time and money.
4) Develop, grow and maintain your business network. It is your first source for talent and clients. Have a clear and focused message of what you do for your network and prospects. As easy as it sounds, most people could not describe their business in the initial stages. Attempts to share your message and “spread the word” can be very strenuous if no one understands what it is.
5) Have a vision and build a precise plan for actually making money. It no longer matters how many users you count, it matters how much hard cash your users generate. Structure your business to get paid in advance for products or services. This will keep your cash flow positive from the start, #working capital#. If possible, don’t get below 6 months of runway in the bank. Be ready to support yourself without any substantial income for a long time. Make sure you have enough funds to employ people as the need arises.
Businesses run into problems because they don’t have the right people in the right seats. Too often, entrepreneurs want to keep the labour cost as low as possible and end up trying to do too much on their own. Free yourself from those areas in which you lack the skills and focus on what you know and are best at.
6) It is impossible to do everything by yourself. You need the best team in place to weather the most definite obstacles you will encounter. Or, as one of the thread contributors put it: “mix an ordered bureaucrat, a crazy scientist and a good businessman/woman and find a good manager to make them communicate”. Get the right people on board, and keep the wrong people off. Hold regular meetings to explore the needs of your team. Your best assets are the people with whom you work.
7) Find a mentor for advice and accountability. As an entrepreneur, you will receive plenty of advice from plenty of people. It is your responsibility to cultivate all this advice and these ideas to make the right decisions. No one knows your business better than you.
8) Find a good accountant who can explain how different business structures work (C corp, S corp, LLC, etc) and get the right structures in place from the beginning to save on taxes.
9) Go to where the market is. ”Build it and they will come” is a blueprint for failure and it no longer applies to startups. Create a lean delivery framework that will deliver to the market as quickly as possible. Test the market demand as early and as often as possible. Get outside and talk to customers. If you’re not quick to act on demand, you will miss opportunities.
10) Choose your partners and investors wisely. There are a number of bad partners and investors out there. Trust your instincts – they will serve you well as an entrepreneur. Listen (sounds simple enough, yet it is one of the most overlooked areas) to your customers to effectively anticipate their needs, and leverage your biggest critics to develop an excellent product/service.
11) Do what you absolutely love, but don’t fall in love with an idea – try to stay as objective as possible and address your weaknesses. Keep your thought process clear and know when to say ‘no’.
12) Think twice before starting a romantic relationship with a co-worker. If things work out – that’s marvellous; but what if they don’t? Can you afford the risk of losing someone valuable to your company and to your heart? All of your energy should go into figuring out your business; personal matters like romantic relationships whether you like it or not, end up taking a backseat.
13) Keep yourself healthy. Long hours, numerous meetings, travelling constantly, extreme levels of stress, and eating on the run all add up to an overworked and over-exhausted mind. In order to stay sharp to make the right decisions and lead your business, you must stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Ideally, you need to find a way to incorporate health & fitness into your life as much as possible.