According to your LinkedIn network and tech companies like Facebook, Netflix and Slack, starting a business is all fun and games. You secure some funding (or dig deep into your bank account) and rent a trendy brick-walled office, and suddenly, it’s Netflix Fridays and unlimited vacation days for everyone.
But the reality of startup life is far more difficult to sustain than the average person thinks. It takes hard work and long hours just to begin, and achieving and maintaining any level of serious success isn’t always guaranteed.
A business — especially a young one — can’t run on dreams (or even funding) alone. It needs a unique kind of fuel to give it stamina for long-term achievement and profitability. Fortunately, this nourishing formula is neither expensive nor elusive; it’s a careful balance of personal investment, results, and reputation.
The Ultimate Startup Fuel
Experience and venture funding might be enough to get you through the first few months of a new startup; however, prolonged success relies on a unique combination of the following soft assets: personal investment, results, and reputation.
The right combination of these three factors gives your startup a strong foundation. If you’re deficient in any of these areas, your company might not be fully prepared for success in the long term. Here are some steps you can take to maximize your chances:
- Go all in. Personal investment is more than a savings account. It represents a deeper comprehensive commitment you make to your work. A lot of conventional advice encourages entrepreneurs to try out ideas part-time, but that kind of safety net can hinder real success. True innovation happens when your priorities (and your responsibilities) are clear and you’re entirely devoted to eliminating every obstacle to success.
The first thing you need to do to position your business for success is make sure you’re completely dedicated to the project. Are you giving this venture all of your time and attention (i.e., your full personal investment)? Do you bring a high level of energy to each problem that arises? If you can’t answer these questions affirmatively, you’ll want to reevaluate your priorities.
- Do it yourself. Before you expand your team, DIY as much as you can. If you’re bootstrapping your company, you need to embody a lot of the skills that will eventually go to your employees when the business is more established.
For example, you might not be able to build the technology yourself, but you can certainly come up with a wireframe of how the technology will work. Many tech founders, includingAmazon’s Jeff Bezos, started with what they knew and learned the other side later.
- Grow your reputation.If you have a reputation within your field, maintain it — it’s going to play a big part in your company’s funding, initial results, and hiring. If you aren’t well-known in your industry, your reputation becomes how well you’re presenting your concept to the world. In fact, while Starbucks opening branches in Italy may sound like an unnecessary move, there are already predictions that it will do well because of its reputation for being a comfortable and neutral space.
Focus on growing your reputation to recruit skilled, well-regarded individuals who can help your startup pursue bigger and better opportunities.
- Focus on results.Personal investment and reputation are important, but tangible results are the cornerstone of startup success. If you can reliably demonstrate results, you’re going to build a strong reputation and inspire personal investment from both you and your team.
There are plenty of examples of businesses with great reputations that raised a lot of money and recruited a great team but still failed because they didn’t get results. Of the three types of startup fuel, solid results lead to the other two almost every single time.
You can’t achieve success if you don’t know what success looks like. Define success for your company and how much time it’s going to need to achieve it. Your startup’s initial version of success may be money — or it may not. Often, a goal for your product or service can be a good yardstick to begin with. It’s only important that it be a concrete metric you can point to after a certain amount of time has passed.
If you want to instill a sense of stamina and longevity into your business, work on building this combination of personal investment, results, and responsibility. You’ll soon see that this strong foundation can help you achieve more than you ever thought possible — and it will look great on your next LinkedIn update.
Image Credit :CC by Peat Bakke