It goes without saying that as the founder of an early-stage startup, you'll wear many hats. While it can make you feel scattered and overwhelmed at times, truly knowing each and every area of your business increases your chances of future success.
Here is the problem: there are only so many hours in a day. With hundreds of details competing for a founder's attention, it can be a challenge to determine where to focus your energy.
Here are six critical success factors for early stage startups:
1. Your Founders
Founder in-fighting can kill a startup before it ever has a chance to succeed. Squash the potential for this to happen from day one by choosing the right people and planning to succeed together.
It doesn't matter how many founders a business has, there is never a time when it makes sense to forgo the creation of a business plan.
Each founder should be involved from day one, ensuring that he or she is comfortable with every aspect of the business plan, including the direction the company is moving.
2. Your Growth Strategy
A well-fed business is one that will continue to grow. A business that is starved will die out, some more quickly than others.
Early in my business career, I was enamored with the sole proprietorship model. In short, my company was my personal bank.
The money may have been rolling in, but I wasn't feeding my business the way I should have been. I soon found that paying myself a lower salary and reinvesting in my business was the best way to accelerate growth.
Yes, this was a difficult decision to make. It took some time to get used to the change, but from a growth perspective it was the best thing I could have done.
3. Your Product
Just because your product is perfect in your mind doesn't mean others will feel the same way. If you are too eager to launch, too eager to get your product in the news, it could bite you in the back soon enough.
Have you heard of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, who took 11 years to develop a revolutionary blood-testing technology? Most founders would have jumped at the opportunity to push a product as soon as possible. Holmes took the opposite approach, perfecting her product while shutting out the prying eyes of the media (and her competitors) before spreading the word.
4. Your Attitude
You and you alone are in control of your attitude. If you have a bad attitude, it's on you.
There will be times when you doubt your approach. There will be times when you are unsure of which steps to take next.
Keep your doubts to yourself and forge ahead. With a positive outlook, the sky is the limit. With a negative outlook, you are holding yourself, as well as your business, back from reaching your goals.
5. Your Funding Strategy
When the time comes to raise money for your startup:
- Get to know potential funders before you ask for money,
- And build relationships with those who show interest.
There are thousands upon thousands of venture capitalists and angel investors out there, some of whom are a better fit than others for your startup. Get to know who's who to save time on your pitches and increase the likelihood of quickly finding the right funders.