Starting a new business is rife with challenges, but there are a handful of things you can do to tip the scales in your favor. That's according to Jon Beekman, CEO of Man Crates, a Redwood City, California-based company that delivers jerky-, sports- and outdoor-related gifts to guys and grew five times year over year over the last holiday period. Here's his advice on how to make a startup prosper.
1. Make Monday your favorite day.
Getting any business off the ground is going to involve plenty of unglamorous work, so it helps if you're passionate about whatever you're doing. "It's important that you find something that you really love to do, so that Monday is your favorite day of the week," he says. "If you're going to spend half your waking hours or more working on a startup, you should be excited to go to work in the morning."
2. Build for yourself.
You can spend infinite time and resources testing the market to tweak your offering, but a cleaner, faster path is to sell things you would buy yourself. "For Man Crates, we could have gone in a thousand different directions," Beekman says. He decided, however, to offer gifts he would like to receive himself. "Other people are likely going to want to buy the same stuff, rather than try to design your startup by committee."
3. Exude enthusiasm in all that you do.
Whether customers, employees, or investors, plenty of people will be judging your new company and offering reasons why it won't work. Your positivity and passion have to be strong enough to turn around any negativity. "I think the hardest thing in the world is to build something new and then put it out and allow it to be judged by the people around you," he says. "As entrepreneurs, we always have to be selling."
4. Move quickly.
Man Crates is Beekman's second startup, and he learned the first time around that it's easy to spend too much time on administrative tasks such as setting up an office and getting payroll in place when really the only thing that matters is figuring out product-market fit. "None of that stuff matters if you don't have something that people want to buy," he says. "Move quickly and focus on product-market fit early on, to the exclusion of almost everything else."
5. Focus on customer delight.
Who or what is your competition? How can you deliver a better, more emotional connection with your customers? Beekman says in business school he learned about how Intuit co-founder Scott Cook realized the company's competition wasn't other accounting startups, but the pen and paper, which most people were still using in the '80s to do taxes. It's the same thing in the business of gifts, which many consumers approach with dread. "We're basically competing against customer apathy, and if we can delight those customers, we're going to have them for life," he says.
6. Have some fun.
Cultivate the kind of work environment in which your employees are happy and motivated to do good work. At Man Crates, Beekman integrates fun into the company's culture through happy hours, fun outings, or quirky events such as blindfolded hot sauce taste testing. "People talk about the Sunday test, like would I want to come in to the office on Sunday to work with my co-workers? If the office environment is fun and engaging, then people will say 'yes' to that question," he says. "That's how you build a really solid team."