In the startup world, there’s only one speedometer. It’s usually in your head and it always reads, not moving fast enough.
For those about to launch a startup though (would-be entrepreneurs) their own challenge is they are stuck in the dreaded “in-between”.
“In between” refers to the point between A and B. Point A being that brilliant idea in the mind of the entrepreneur while B is that subsequent, hoped-for state where the business is secure, established and making money.
Being “in between” is tough. It’s like being stuck in limbo.
And so, moving out of limbo is perhaps the most important task for such people. That is, how can you take that idea in your head to market as soon as possible? Figuring it out is good preparation for the startup universe. Because like we all know, in the startup world, delays kill. Speed saves.
You fail fast and learn as much as you can from each experience, using it to inform the next experiment.
So here are ten tips on how you can launch your startup faster.
1. Just start
It’s more important to start than to start right. Think about it. If you don’t start your business, literally nothing will happen. Whatever it is that’s keeping you from launching is the very thing you either need to ignore or tackle head-on. So . . .
- Write the first line of code.
- Register the domain.
- Sketch the product.
- Design the prototype.
There is nothing standing in the way of starting your business except yourself. Do the first thing that needs to be done.
2. Sell anything
There are some entrepreneurs who know exactly what they want to sell. There are other entrepreneurs who have no idea what they’re going to sell. They just want to sell something. Here’s the advice: Sell anything.
Here’s a poorly kept secret that people still manage to forget. Many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs aren’t selling anything new. They are selling it different or better:
- Konga and Jumia sell everyday consumer goods online
- Pass.ng is basically a teched-up tutorial lesson
- Cafe Neo sells coffee.
Entrepreneurs aren’t always innovators. You can take someone else’s product and sell it. Richard Branson, after all, launched Virgin Airlines in desperation.
He was headed to the Virgin Islands for an, um, romantic interlude. But his flight got canceled. So, he chartered a private flight, despite his lack of money to pay for it. Here’s how he described what happened next:
I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29” on it and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.
Get the idea? Go ahead and sell something. Anything.
3. Get capable people to work for you
When you start a business, you will most definitely not have all the answers. For example, you’ll need to get incorporated?
To get these answers, ask a competent attorney. The attorney will provide advice but then what? Ask the attorney to do it for you. Instantly, you will have gained an expert who is implementing his/her own advice for your money.
Payment? You can reward the attorney with stocks or deferred payment.
When an issue arises, and you don’t have the answer, find someone who does. Then, when this expert gives you advice — whether business best practice, manufacturing locations, logo design, accounting, whatever — ask that person to do it.
Your business needs more help, knowledge and professional skills than you have time for. Get people to work for you.
4. Hire remote workers
If you want to find the best and most affordable talent, you may not find it next door. Be willing to hire remote workers to get some work done.
Gone are the days when colleagues would meet at the office and have meetings around tables. Today, with the myriad of tech that allow us communicate and work with anyone, it’s not the most effective way of doing things.
It’s also easier and faster to hire remotely. It’s easy to look up each person’s profile online and explore their past achievements or what they’re working on now—and experienced remote workers will usually have detailed websites and portfolios.
When compared to in-house workers, they also tend to be happier in their work, which translates into better results.
5. Hire contract workers
Becoming an employer carries with it a lot of baggage. It may, in fact, form such a barrier that it slows down the progress of your startup. Besides, few people will be willing to take the plunge to become the employee of a tenuous startup.
Instead of hiring employees, hire on a contract basis. There are several major advantages to using independent contractors rather than employees, with financial savings topping the list.
When you hire an employee, you will have to pay a number of expenses that you don’t have to pay for ICs, including employer-provided benefits, office space, and equipment.
You will also have to make required payments and contributions on behalf of your employees, including payments into an insurance and pension fund. With contract workers, all that is out of the equation.
You also have staffing flexibility. Working with contract staff allows employers greater leeway in hiring and letting go of workers, which can be especially advantageous for startups with fluctuating workloads.
You can hire a contract worker for a specific task or project, knowing that the worker will be gone when the job is finished. You won’t have to face the trauma, expense, and potential legal trouble that can accompany firings and layoffs.
You may also enjoy greater efficiency when you use them. Because most contractors bring specialized expertise to the job, they are usually productive immediately, eliminating the time and cost of training.
The point is, you need to find a way to get the talent to provide their services. Don’t let the specific arrangement get in the way of getting stuff done.
6. Get a cofounder
For some people, starting a business takes more than just hard work and passion. It takes the inspiration and skills of a cofounder.
VCs are more likely to invest in a startup that has a founding team, not a founding individual. Even having three cofounders isn’t too many, assuming you have a clear decision-making hierarchy.
You can’t clone yourself – sorry. But even if you could, why would you want to do that? Picking a cofounder is an opportunity to find a partner who can provide the skills you lack, and take you further than you ever expected you’d go.
It makes things that are nearly impossible for a one person show — like calling in sick or going on a vacation — much more plausible. And it makes the best days even better, because there is someone celebrating every victory with you.
It also helps you make better decisions since “two heads are better than one”. Two smart people bringing different perspectives and experiences will make better decisions than a lone ranger.
7. Work with someone who pushes you to the extreme.
One of the reasons Steve Jobs was able to grow Apple into one of the world’s most innovative and valuable brands was because he pushed people. Here’s how he described his management approach.
My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects. And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.
From accounts of those who knew him, Jobs could be aggressive and unkind, but he could also draw out from people better than they thought their best could ever be.
You can find the same qualities in a cofounder, a partner, a friend, a mentor or an employee. More importantly, you can provide the same level of expectation for your own team members. As Jobs said, “By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.”
8. Don’t focus on money
Creative Bloq has this gem of advice regarding startups: “Don’t necessarily worry about where an income will come from. A good product/service will always find a way to make money.”
This is true. A myopic focus on money can pull your business off track. Whether it’s funding, capital, business loans or the perfect pricing model, back off and let things evolve.
Growth doesn’t equal funding. Growth means hacking, selling and doing things other than asking for money.
9. Spend time and money on marketing
You can have the greatest product ever, but if no one knows about you, chances of success are zero – Steve Fanale, founder of AppVillage.
Marketing is one of the best things that you can do for your business. When you market your product or service, you are getting it in front of the people who will actually buy it. Marketing is not a waste of time. It’s one of the best early investments that you can make in your business.
Tech startups tend to forget about the importance of selling and marketing and focus too much on the product.
It is vital to have key members of your team who are tech-savvy people; but without team members who understand sales and marketing, traction and business success may become difficult to achieve.
Marketing is often left as an afterthought for start-ups, playing second fiddle to product development. There tends to be a “build it and they will come” attitude and it’s just not smart business.
You should understand exactly how you’ll be attracting and engaging your target market from Day 1, not after the perfect product is built.
10. Talk to your potential customers
A startup does not exist in the entrepreneur’s mind alone. A startup exists in the landscape of customers and potential customers.
If there will be people buying or using your product, you need to learn all you can about these people.
Talk to them. Your business will live or die based on their receptivity to the product or service. Talking to them gives you your first soft validation for your product. If they can’t respond well to the idea of your product, you may need to rethink your strategy or business altogether.
The sooner you learn about your customers, the faster you’ll be able to pivot and serve them better.
Starting fast doesn’t mean that you should force scaling. Scaling is something that happens carefully, in a measured cadence.
Starting fast means that you leverage all possible resources to focus on one thing — getting started. Getting started is the main thing. Once your business is up and running, then you can start iterating and promoting.
Without starting, there’s nothing.