Success For Start-Ups
Are You Committed To Success Or Scared Of Failure? - Success For Start-Ups
“Are You More Committed To Success Or Scared Of Failure” is an existential question considered by most people when deciding to take the plunge and go out on their own. This article explores how to bring success for start-ups.
Here’s what several “Wannabe Entrepreneurs” in a focus group said goes through their minds when considering starting a business.
- Will my spouse or significant other be supportive, infuriated, or afraid?
- Do I have all the skills required to launch a start-up?
- Is my concept marketable…and how do I do it?
- How will this decision impact my family’s standard of living?
- What if I fail?
Let’s dig deeper into these real-world concerns.
Will My Spouse Be Supportive?
This question was the second-most stated by our focus group, appearing on 83% of the questionnaires.
I met my future wife in college. We had dreams and aspirations like any couple starting out. I was a freelance copywriter and teacher when we married; she worked for the federal government. As I neared my 30’s, I knew I wanted more…more challenge, more independence, and – yes – more money. I co-founded a (very) small side business and worked it for two years before selling out to a partner. All well and good. But I wanted to do it again and my loving wife, being very security oriented, was having a hard time dealing with the risk and uncertainty. It almost broke us up.
The hard truth is, if your spouse or significant other is not supportive nor aware of the risks involved, it will put a strain on your relationship which will, undoubtedly add a pile of unwanted, counter-productive stress to the entrepreneur.
Do I Have ALL The Skills To Bring Success For Start-Ups?
It has been joked that entrepreneurs are all multi-headed beings because they need multiple heads to wear all their hats.
The vast majority of start-up businesses involve one or two people, but the skills required to bring success for start-ups are many.
Here’s just a sampling of critically needed skills that came out of our focus group discussions.
- Must be an EXPERT in your business – whether it’s dog grooming, art gallery, restaurant, or even copywriting – you must be the expert your customer will rely on.
- FINANCIAL MANAGER and Bookkeeper – if you get sloppy with your money and accounting, there’s little hope that your start-up can grow to be a real, and profitable, business.
- At the very least, you must be familiar with MARKETING and ADVERTISING – whether traditional (TV, Radio, Print, Billboards, Direct Response) or digital (social media, websites, on-line advertising, Google searches) – it requires at least some knowledge to know when Ad Reps or online digital service companies, actually know what they’re doing is in your best interest – not just theirs.
- You must be a MASTER MESSAGER – you need to be able to take what’s in your head and in your heart and turn that into an effective marketing message customers and prospects can understand, relate to, believe, and act on. In other words, you must know quite a bit about the essence of marketing – copywriting. (Also see my article “The Secrets of the World’s Best Copywriters”.)
- CUSTOMER SERVICE Specialist – a small business often lives and dies with customer service – and it all comes from the top. (Want a great start? Read Raving Fans, by Ken Blanchard. A quick, fun, and memorable read.
- Though you’re probably not a lawyer, you have to wear the LEGAL hat occasionally (copyrights, trademarks, business structure, protecting work published on internet, etc.)
One lady in our focus group said running her own business was like a single mom taking care of sextuplets. Hmm.
Is My Concept Marketable?
If your answer to this question is, “Yes, I think so. I wrote a detailed marketing plan and pro forma showing how we’ll capture market share”, you’re going “all in” without looking at your hole cards.
There are ways of ascertaining the viability of your product or service before you dive into the pool.
- How many of your product or you have you sold pre-launch?
- Commission a real-world consumer preference study conducted by an outside expert.
- Put together a Board of Advisors you can trust but not control. Treat them to breakfast a few times, talk to them about your concept and plans, share all your data with them, and ask them to find the lumps of coal, or the diamonds in your logic. Then…follow their advice.
- After you’ve gotten enough feedback and perhaps revised your plans, find competent experts in Finance (a CPA or Accountant) Marketing (a master copywriter and strategist) and, if you’re planning to use the internet for your website, landing pages, emails, and advertising, find an expert Digital consultant.
- Beware though, many “digital people” tend to call themselves experts until they’ve had enough time to prove themselves wrong. Remember you want a consultation only…do not pay for any actual work at this point.
I went through five digital guys and gals in 18 months and found none of them was near as good as they advertised; the sixth time was the charm.
How will this decision impact my family’s standard of living?
Even with the support of your spouse or partner, you should make it a point to determine how your business may affect their lives.
- Will there be enough money to run the household even if you no longer earn at the same income as before?
- Will the you have to limit your time in the home taking care of household responsibilities, being with the children, or having quality time with your partner, given than business start-ups often take wa-a-a-y more time than anticipated.
- Do you have a “Rainy Day Fund” to fall back on if there’s a problem or unexpected expense? You should put aside at least 6 months’ expenses.
- Are the financial projections reasonable? Most of the plans I read should cut income expectations by 65% and triple expenses.
- What if the business needs an infusion of cash to keep going? Where will that come from and how much will be available?
Think about it; most successful small biz start-ups do all these things and more.
What If I Fail?
It often comes down to this question according to eleven of the twelve focus group participants.
Please don’t take this as a personal affront. I’m not trying to jinx you, wish you ill, or throw cold water on your hot idea. Rather, I want you to see the whole picture, warts and all. Consider it your “What If” strategy. What determines your “stop loss” line? Is it money, time, sales, profit margins…or all of the above? I council most start-ups (two years or less in business) to be brutally realistic with themselves and to put their ego in a lockbox for the time being. When I was starting my first full-time business, I sat down with my wife and went over just this scenario. We set a timeline of 5 years and a stop loss of $80,000. Thankfully, I never got near the stop loss, but the business took over 6 years to pay me back and afford me a nice salary.
I don’t think I’d have had success for start-ups in this if my wife and I didn’t have this CTJ meeting and understood as many of the potential pitfalls as we could.
So Now What?
Now, friends and readers, you start to gather your data and make plans (not pipe dreams).
Now too, I remind you thousands of well-thought-out businesses with realistic plans and expectations flourish every day and millionaires are created by dint of their own brain and perseverance. I love the life I have with my own business. I love entrepreneurs. I rather have a beverage with them than with any politician, movie star, or athlete in the world – with the exception of Tiger Woods.
Look up. Be optimistic. Be realistic. And bring success to your start-up..
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