Venturing out on your own to follow your dreams is daunting, and some say that owning a startup is like having a child: you’re likely to make a few mistakes and have a lot of sleepless nights. The trick is learning to ride the storm – and even learning to love it. While there’s unfortunately no silver bullet when it comes to ensuring that both you and your startup survive, there are definitely ways to ensure you get onto the right track. Here are some of our top start-up survival tips.
It’s not always possible (or wise) to do things by yourself, which is why finding the right people to collaborate with is crucial. This could mean choosing the right businesses to partner with, hiring suitable employees or picking the right co-founder. The reality is that doing it with the help of other trustworthy, skilled and capable people is a lot easier than doing it alone.
There’s one thing you can be sure about with a startup: things will go wrong. But instead of letting those moments derail you, learn from them. Understand that not everything will be perfect all the time. Accept the lessons with grace, gain wisdom from them, and move forward. At the end of the day, it’s all up to how you allow bumps in the road to affect you.
Make sure you know exactly who it is that you are targeting. What do they do? How old are they? What are their biggest challenges and how can you help them to resolve those challenges? Learn more than just your customers’ demographics; understand how they operate. The better you know your customers, the better you can provide products or services that appeal to them.
If you draw out your launch too long, it means that people can’t use your services and your business can’t take off – you’re just prolonging the entire process. And if your business is a niche, you risk someone else beating you to it. Don’t stay in a state of inertia; a good idea is only really good if it’s accessible.
It’s all too easy to get stuck on a ‘great’ idea and just focus on that idea, developing it in any way you can. But it’s important to let it evolve as you go if that’s what’s necessary for it to be truly successful. If MySpace had evolved with the times and the interests of its customer base, Facebook might not have made them completely redundant. Be open to learning how best to reach your customer, and to the fact that it might mean changing your idea entirely.
Surviving a start-up means more than having the business know-how to do so. True success comes from knowing how to manage your personal life while your startup grows.
Part and parcel of a startup is the long hours you will need to put in to keep it going. The only way to really deal with that is to understand and accept it. Twelve to fourteen hours a day, working over weekends and on public holidays ... that’s the reality of a startup owner’s life. The sooner you come to terms with it, the better.
Finding a work-life balance is definitely much easier said than done, but it’s crucial to at least work towards this balance. Ask yourself what is important to you, and then find ways to free up time for those things. Whether it’s finding time to read or cook or to spend more time with the family, figure out how you can fit that into your day. For example, can you work flexible hours so you can arrive at the office earlier and leave earlier to make it home for dinner with the family? Or could you carve out some time before bed to read? Perhaps you could work from home one day a week and Skype or FaceTime into meetings instead. Whatever you do, make it a habit to find time to strike the balance between work and play.
As a startup owner, much of your waking hours are going to be spent working, and if no one in your inner circle has ever had a startup of their own, they might find it very hard to understand. This is why some expectation management might be necessary from the get-go. Let them know which hours are good to contact you and on which platform (WhatsApp, phone call, Skype etc.). However, as already mentioned, it is important that you do what you can to make sure you spend time with loved ones when possible.
Start-up owners generally find it difficult to take a proper break. The lines between weekends and weekdays seem to blur as do the working hours. That’s why you need to allow yourself to take breaks once in a while. Take a break from the laptop, find an outlet for your stress and frustrations (such as going to the gym or meditating) and give yourself a chance to unwind. It’s always easier to tackle a problem with a fresh perspective than to slave away at something when you have nothing left to give.
Times will get tough and there will be moments where you will want to give up. But it’s important to keep going. When you feel despondent, revisit your goals and refocus your sights. The minute you admit defeat, everything you have worked for up until that point will have been pointless.
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