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15 Things Startup Founders Must Master

You don't always get a second chance to make it right.
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We all know the dire statistics on startup failure. A group of successful YEC founders share the things you absolutely need to get right--things that many overlook,especially in the earliest stages of their business--if you really want to take your idea to the next level.

1. Financing and Will Power

Staying focused on your goals and paying close attention to your finances is vital to any startup, especially in the early stages. Don't let yourself get distracted or easily discouraged. When you are having a hard time remaining motivated, remember why you started in the first place. -Ashley Mady, Brandberry

2. Operational Cost Awareness

The longer your early-stage startup has to operate, the greater the chance it can succeed. But if you are unaware of your operational costs you may never make it past that early stage due to lack of funds. You may need to take a large investment on a down round and lose equity if you are not paying attention to the burn rate of your company. -Phil Chen, Systems Watch

3. Adaptability

Your own beliefs on where the company should go can stand in between you and success. You've got to adapt and respond to changes in the business environment. Many founders get wrapped up in one belief or way of doing business, even when potential customers aren't responding to that. It's why so many startups go the way of the dinosaurs. Adapt and respond or go extinct. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, "It's not the strongest or fastest but the one who adapts that wins." -Joshua Lee, MySearchNetwork / Mega Media Buzz

4. Ability to Scale

Scaling up revenue becomes more difficult with every dollar. The biggest differentiator between those companies that succeed and those that don't is the ability to continue to scale after all the low-hanging fruit has been picked. -Josh Weiss, Bluegala

5. Listening Ability

An entrepreneur's ability to listen is directly correlated to their success in business. If an entrepreneur cannot listen to early adopters, advisors or mentors they will soon find themselves in a hobby instead of a business. Being able to take feedback, critiques and view points and convert them into improvements in the business is essential to taking astartup from an idea to an actual business. -Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

6. Focus

The hardest thing for any entrepreneur to do is stay focused on their vision. If you built a startup, chances are you are excited and motivated by new, creative ideas. This can distract you and take you off course. All entrepreneurs need to have a plan in place and stay true to it to achieve success. -Ben Rubenstein, Yodle

7. Fear

When entrepreneurs evaluate the potential trajectory of their company, the ultimate exit strategy is often one of these three things: go IPO; get acquired; or go bankrupt. Because they are scared of the possibility of going bankrupt, many work with that thought in the back of their mind, which will ultimately lead to the collapse of the company. The best chance for success is the simple decision to put your head down and focus on building a business. The end game will eventually arrive. -Tom Alexander, PK4 Media

8. Metrics

Entrepreneurs often don't focus on the right metrics that are going help their succeed in the long run. Think things like lifetime value of a customer/user, churn rate, CAC and how that changes as a startup grows. -Sujan Patel, When I Work

9. Initiative

Modern leaders must be aggressive self-starters who don't look for handouts or rescues. We are all adults here and we all should be able to make decisions that fall under our expertise. We should all fail, because when you fail you don't learn. Everyone is encouraged to fail and to lose money in my company. When my children make a mistake, they learn lessons from both the consequence and the mistake. -Scott Petinga, The Scott Petinga Group

10. Customer Acquisition and Retention

Getting and keeping customers ensures that you've established a working business model and process that works. Getting to this point is the hardest part, but after you've gotten there, you've likely found a scalable business. To get there, focus on solving a pain point for the customers, removing objections from using your product or service and creating a great experience. -Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

11. Execution

Early-stage startups tend to have many great ideas and that is why they are in a startup position. To be successful, they need to be able to execute their ideas and turn them into fully finished products/services. It's not always easy getting to that point, but that's what differentiates those who succeed. -Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

12. Operational Efficiency

Lack of focus and operational efficiency are the biggest differentiators between startups and success. It is very easy for entrepreneurs to go down multiple paths or other verticals based on small "a-ha moments," but startups need to first refine what they know best and what is working before even attempting to expand the branches of their model. -Wilson Owens, Royalty Exchange

13. People

The old saying that you are only as strong as your weakest link is true.It's critical that your first hires be talented individuals who share your passion for the product and your passion for the process. The step from early-stage to big success is driven by those who can execute your vision and work relentlessly to achieve company goals. -Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies, Inc.

14. Tenacity

Building a business is challenging, for sure. At some point, it's common for an entrepreneur to want to throw up his hands and give up. But it takes time and persistence to find the one thing your business is good at, the set of marketing channels that'll help you scale, and the customer demographic that'll wholeheartedly love you. Startups succeed when they fight through failure until they figure out how to be successful. -Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

15. Time

It always comes down to time. How long you can stretch your money, an investor's money, how long product rollout takes, how long hiring takes--everything revolves around time and how much of it someone is willing to give you. -Sam Bahreini, VoloForce

Last updated: Aug 6, 2014




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