Do you find yourself daydreaming about running your own company — solving problems and helping people while making a ton of money? Evan Spiegel, the Founder of SnapChat, made more than $800 million by taking his company public earlier this month.
With news stories like that, it’s hard to feel satisfied sitting behind a desk – whether at school or in someone else’s office.
If you’re ready to step out on your own and build your own business, you’ll need a few startup ingredients, especially for a successful launch.
#1. A Web Platform that Gives You Full Control
The most important one is a strong website. Virtually everyone has access to the internet. If your startup doesn’t exist online, it might as well be invisible. And not all websites are created equal.
If you have design and coding skills, you can create an incredible website using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress. And, most importantly, an easy-to-edit CMS will allow you to appropriately configure the things that allow your startup to be found when people search for your product or service on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
You, or someone you trust deeply, needs to have full access and control over your site. A tweak or improvement to your site can generate thousands of new opportunities to connect with clients that need your solution.
If you have to reach out to an outside contractor to make tiny changes, you’ll have to wait longer and spend more to keep up with the competition online.
Here are the important ingredients for a compelling website:-
- Use free, proven platforms (like WordPress) to keep operating costs low.
- Ensure that your team has the ability to quickly make changes.
- Invest in quality business logos and digital branding that make a memorable, positive impression.
- Regularly update your site with new and engaging information.
#2. Personal Experience with the Problem You’re Solving
A website can be a cost-effective way to reach your target market, but you need more than a flashy site to earn market-share. You have to live and breathe in the same world where your customers reside.
My first start-up was a recruiting company. I was fresh out of college and I had almost no experience searching for a job, or filtering resumes to find a great candidate. I understood the theoretical challenges that the industry faced, and I thought my platform could help, but I didn’t have the personal experience to guide our efforts.
The most successful companies I’ve consulted for or helped launch solved problems that the Founders had extensive experience with. I would avoid jumping blindly into a market. Instead, focus on the world around you and find inspiration based on the frustrations you personally experience.
Here are some tips for finding your “problem”:-
- Pay attention to the things that cost you time and cause aggravation in your daily life.
- Grow your network – You’ll find opportunities to connect the dots and solve real problems.
- Study the problem – including the failed solutions that other entrepreneurs have already attempted.
#3. Access to Sufficient Operating Capital
Successful start-ups ensure they have the resources necessary to succeed prior to launch. There’s a reason that platforms like Kickstarter have become so popular. If, as an entrepreneur, you can launch a business that has verifiable market traction and sufficient capital on day one, you’re way ahead of the game.
Capital requirements will vary greatly from startup to startup. Marketing and operational costs are very different for a local landscaping startup, versus a national furniture company. Successful Founders take the time to forecast their financial needs and fill in the gaps in funding prior to launch.
Some suggestions for accessing startup capital:-
- Take the time to craft a compelling business plan that confidently presents the opportunity to investors.
- Find ways to show real traction – hugely important for gaining investor confidence.
- Showcase unique, personal experience. Most investors invest in the Founder first.
#4. A Passion for Your Day-to-Day Operations
“… the ones that didn’t love it quit, because they’re sane. Who would want to put up with this stuff if you don’t love it?” — Steve Jobs
Take a moment to let this quote sink in. If you’re considering launching a business, you better LOVE what it is you’re going to do. I would argue the same is true, to a lesser extent, in your corporate career. But the minute you transition from employee to Founder, your life becomes incredibly chaotic, stressful and demanding.
Why? Because you’ve left the infrastructure of the corporate world behind. You’re on your own. Even if you have a team of co-founders, you’ve lost an HR department, recruiters, office administrators, vendor relationships, a customer service department and a proven sales team.
Before I launched my first business, I found myself cursing the bureaucracy of the corporate world. I still see inefficiency, but I better understand its purpose. Having teams of people dedicated to each aspect of a business allows for individual employees to focus on one thing at a time.
As an entrepreneur and an innovator, your job is to handle EVERYTHING. Nothing is too small or too large to cross your desk. Working 16 hours days, 7 days a week in order to move the business forward, while keeping up with the daily administration of your startup is extremely draining – both mentally and physically.
As the late, great Steve Jobs said, if you don’t love it, you’re gonna quit.
Here are some tips for identifying your passion:-
- Analyze how you spend your day. What do you find yourself investing the most time and energy into? What are the things that you find stimulating and restoring?
- My favorite question for this: “If you were financially independent how would you spend your time?” The answer could lead you to a profitable career or startup path.
- Look to the example of others that have turned their passion into profit.
#5. The Ability to Manage Yourself
If you’ve identified your passion, crafted a strategy to raise necessary capital and can rely on your personal experience in the industry you’re looking to disrupt, there’s one last thing that is critical for entrepreneurial success.
You have to be able to manage yourself. As an entrepreneur, you are your own daily task master. You have many people relying on you to deliver on your promises. And those people won’t be standing next to you on a daily basis. Instead, they’ll be focusing on the things in their life that demand their attention.
As a corporate soldier, your boss provided immediate, real-time feedback on your performance. The market will provide you with feedback, but it will be more delayed. And, it may be difficult to understand the cause of the feedback you’re receiving.
Do you have a driving passion for what you’re building? Can you manage your own time and deliver on your promises? How will you channel your energy towards something productive? These are questions that have to be answered before you launch. If you fail to manage yourself, you’ll fail to achieve the results you and your company are promising the investors and risk-takers that join you on your journey.
These are tools I use to manage my time:-
- Toggl is an excellent app for tracking time and measuring personal productivity.
- Google’s Keep is a helpful note-taking and to-do list app.
- Basecamp helps me manage my team-wide objectives; helping me focus on the things that move the entire team forward – avoiding project delays.
Entrepreneurship is about becoming almost completely self-reliant, while managing the world around you in a profitable way. If you can get the basics right, from the start, you can set yourself up for success. Even with everything in place on paper, there’s still a significant amount of risk. But, if you’re up for the challenge, I can promise you that there are few things more personally fulfilling than entrepreneurial success.