Want to maximize your chances of building your scrappy startup into a successful enterprise? Make sure you've got these give essential elements in place before you launch.
1. A realistic personal budget.
When you start your own business you have to pay just about everyone else before you pay yourself. If your business doesn't pay its bills your business ceases to exist. It could be up to two years before you see your first paycheck.
That means you need to shave your personal budget down to the bare minimum you need in order to survive. Pay off debt. Downsize your living space. Go car-free if you live in a space with public transportation. Do whatever it takes to need as little as possible to survive.
2. Money in the bank.
Make sure you can survive on this reduced budget for at least six months, if not longer. Those who have a spouse to support them or who can work a day job as they build their business may be able to skip this step. Most of us do not have the former, and can't really give the business our full attention when distracted by the latter.
3. A marketing plan.
Most startups launch even though they have no earthly idea how they are going to get their products or services out there. As a result, they spend a lot of time spinning their wheels.
Note that you will need a marketing budget. It doesn't have to be a large marketing budget at first, but it has to be bigger than "zero" if you really want to get the kind of attention that will grow your company quickly.
4. A sales strategy.
Once people know who you are and what you're doing you're going to have to figure out how to close deals. A company that isn't making sales is a company that isn't going to be around for very long. Work on putting your sales infrastructure in place: sales scripts, sales contracts, proposals, and whatever else you're going to need to get products into the hands of people who will pay for them.
You will have to work harder than you've ever worked in order to make your business succeed. Seven-day weeks and 12-hour days are not at all uncommon. Don't try to launch if you're simultaneously struggling with chronic illness, battling major family issues, or if you're simply not that interested in working that hard. Make sure you're in it for the long haul and that you've got the energy to put in the necessary work before you begin.
Yes, you're going to have to do things that make you uncomfortable (like sales and marketing), and you're going to have to make sacrifices--like working 12-hour days on a ramen noodle diet. However, if you do these things you might just be bringing down millions of dollars in two to five years. Then, the effort that you put into starting your business off on the right foot will all be worthwhile.